This article, with a Phoenix, Arizona dateline sums up much of the issue we have with technology, robotics and automation.
As I teach students about the pioneers of tech, from Edison to Jobs, from Babbage to Berners-Lee, I have to temper it with discussion on what computers in general (and algorithms / automation in particular) are doing for us. Or will do for them when they enter the workforce.
The article states that Some economists have concluded that “the use of robots explains the decline in the share of national income going into workers’ paychecks over the last three decades.”
In a state where autonomous cars are quite common –at least the Waymo variety being test-driven in the Chandler & Mesa area, algorithms and jobs are on top of our minds!
What might you get if you affix an android head onto a metal and plastic life-size body? More than a bobble-head, for sure. especially if there’s a whole bunch of robotics, plus artificial intelligence under the hood.
The android known as Sophia debuted at the Future Investment Initiative, an event with speakers as varied as Richard Branson, to Nicolas Sarkozy, to Maria Bartiromo. Indeed Sophia made recent headlines because Saudi Arabia granted it ‘citizenship’ – whatever that means. Let that sink in for a moment – giving civic status to a machine.
Hansen Robotics, the workshop where Sophia was built has several models. A bald-headed Han, a 17 inch tall boy robot called Zeno, and a full-sized animatronic, Albert Einstein. These bots use facial tracking, natural language processing, and their creators plan on developing Emotional Intelligence for Einstein.
Robotics is a double-edged sword. I cover robotics, help train students, and often talk of being alert to where all this could be headed. Governments, labs, schools, policy-makers and ethicists should be joining the debate. (Recall Elon Musk and others sounded a warning that AI could threaten human civilization.) It shouldn’t be a conversation dominated by those in technology alone.
I’ve got this poster in my class that says “Technology won’t replace teachers. But teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who do not.”
It raises a few of eyebrows.
So I was intrigued by a story in Education Week last month about how ‘intelligent tutors’ could upend Teachers’ jobs. The story cites an EdTech professor at the Harvard’s Grad School of Education. Christopher Dede says, “AI changes teaching, yes, but more important than that, AI changes the goals and purposes of teaching.” Besides the reference to Artificial Intelligence are references to a ‘Tutor Machine,’ cognitive tutoring, and ‘Intelligent Tutoring Systems’ or ITS.
I’m not surprised this discussion is veering into the AI realm. It’s not just about data, but about knowing when to intervene. It will nudge teaching away from the ‘factory’ model and into a consultative approach.
The old guard armed with rubrics and lecture notes will cry foul. The robots are not going to walk into our classrooms anytime soon. But technologies could emerge to phase out robotic teaching methods.