Education in the age of AI

Art by Samantha Riegl

Frans Joakim Titulaer

In 2014, Sherry Turkle’s book The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit had its thirtieth anniversary. With a certain affinity with Orwell’s novel, 1984, Turkle describes her work as the psychoanalysis of human-computer interaction. It can be fascinating for us millennials to think about how those big chunky pieces of plastic, glass, and metal that were computers back in the early 1980s could have such an impact on their perceptions of themselves. The computers were second selves, meaning they reflected ‘our’ sentience, cognition and decision-making in ways that made us question ourselves like we questioned our independence in relation to our mother when we were infants? The whole idea is creepy because it makes sense! Who are we without these devices? No one it seems.

Therefore keeping a record of your digital persona becomes a way of existing in the world. Let’s face it. We are not all that independent at the time we leave the safekeeping of our childhood home. And, in a world in which we are all cradled within an education system that supposedly does not prepare us for the real world, it is good to know that there are systems that will continue to mother us well into the future. The ideal is a system that knows what you do not know. Not simply an artificial sentient thing that knows a whole lot. No, a thing that knows what you don’t know in such a way that it will notify you about it. A future in which decision makers and workers alike are told what they need to do to learn to act like responsible adults.

This could be described as intelligence augmentation (IA). The idea of IA was born at about the same time as the idea of artificial intelligence (AI). Although it hasn’t yet become a common term the IA:AI nexus holds the promise of succeeding our simplified discussions around the future of AI, simply because generalized AI is still a long way off. The fact is that a chess-champion with an AI system will beat a lone AI system almost every time. This seriously alters the imaginary of the personal AI assistant associated with so many of the smart devices coming on to the marked these days. Not only because it could mother us, but because of how it promises us new independence.

Soon our learning biology will be specified within (something like) ‘learning record stores’, that will offer service-providers the opportunity to adapt their products to ‘someone like’ you. The service provider could be a public institution offering courses or MOOCs(?), but the interesting thing is that it will make you mobile. Mobile across institutions, but also across your lifespan. ‘Lifelong learning’ is therefore not just jargon, it is a technical requirement.

When one is to be hired, employers are going to want to know what you know beyond your current ideas of yourself. Being put on a task could mean that education will be part of the work, and your boss will not necessarily be the one to decide its form or content because it is the job itself. If a team of firemen move out, a system should alarm them if they are lacking competence or experience that might have proved necessary for such a task in the past. And if you failed algebra at the 8th grade, causing you to struggle with learning higher order maths, private educational institutions like BI are going to try to cater to that need.

“The ideal is a system that knows what you do not know.”

What most of us haven’t picked up is that the real challenges and opportunities lies within the Internet of Things (IoT). Not because most of us haven’t heard about talking fridges, but because the idea is a fairly useless sci-fi fantasy from the time our parents were born. It think that it is within this context that we have to understand the work that has gone into constructing Knowledge Object Repositories available to different forms of education technology for the past two decades.

To the digital citizen therefore education in the 4th industrial revolution – or in the web 4.0 if you like – will harbour the promise of access across invisible boundaries. A lot is at stake if we hope to make ‘knowledge’ in the age of AI open and free. Within a few years there will more devices connected to the internet than there are neurons in the human brain, and a large portion of these will come from Industrial IoT (IIoT), or what is becoming known as the Industrial Internet. It will surely not dampen the pressure on knowledge capitalization, and we have to think about what role education 4.0 institutions will have in the future, and what role research and education institutions should have in our Big Data societies today.