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Posts Tagged ‘emotion

A recent tweet from Malala Yousafzai gave me pause to reflect.

Here is a challenge: Ask any one in a local school how students are prepared to deal with misinformation and disinformation. You might be told that there are “cyber wellness” programmes or that information literacy is built into curricula.

But this is the rub. Misinformation and disinformation are not just cognitive challenges. They are emotional ones too. The video in the tweet highlights how they might very well be emotional challenges first.

The programmes and curricula might try to prepare the head. But how do they attempt to prepare the heart?


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Can artificial intelligence (AI) emote or create art?

Perhaps the question is unfair. After all, some people we know might have trouble expressing their emotions or making basic shapes.

So it makes sense to see what something fuzzy like emotions might consist of. The components include the meaning of words, memory of events, and the expression of words. If that is the case, modern chat bots fit this basic bill.

On a higher plane are avatars like SimSensei that monitor human facial expressions and respond accordingly. Apparently it has been used in a comparative study for people suffering from PTSD. That study found that patients preferred the avatar because it was perceived to be less judgmental.

And then there are the robot companions that are still on the creepy side of the uncanny valley. These artificial flesh and no blood human analogues look and operate like flexible and more intelligent mannequins, but it is early days yet on this front.

As for whether AI can create art, consider Benjamin, an AI that writes screenplays. According to an AI expert, Pedro Domingos, art and creativity for an AI is easier than problem solving. AI can already create art that moves people and music that is indistinguishable from that of human composers.

The video does not say this, but such powerful AI are not commonplace yet. We still have AI that struggles to make sense of human fuzziness.

The third and last part of the video seemed like an odd inclusion — robot race car drivers. Two competing teams tested their robo-cars’ abilities to overtake another car. This was a test of strategic decision making and a proxy for aggression and competitiveness.

Like the previous videos in the series, this one did not conclude with firm answers but with questions instead. Will AI ever have the will to win, the depth or create, the empathy to connect on a deep human level? If humans are perpetuated biological algorithms, might AI evolve to emulate humans? Will they be more like us or not?

What would prompt Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, to weigh in on Pepsi? It was an advertisement so ill-conceived and reviled that the company had to withdraw it [NYT] [Wired].

Stephen Colbert gave this withering but humorous critique of the ad (click here for the segment).
 

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It would be easy to accuse Colbert of being mean because he was making fun of the company in the name of entertainment. However, such critiques are deeper and more important than we might think.
 

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Vox unpacked what Colbert and others do: They inform in an easy to digest manner and they leverage on not being neutral.

While proper news channels might try to report just the black or white facts, we recognise today that most issues are subjective and nuanced greys.

Satirists use fun and laughter, and in doing so, disarm their audiences and combine emotion with logic. They inform and educate in ways that not many teachers have been taught or believe in.

They embrace subjectivity and make a stand. They combine creativity with critical thought. They call bullshit when they see it.

The best defense against bullshit is vigilance. So if you smell something, say something. -- Jon Stewart.

Ask any well-read person to predict the future of education and they might a) say they have no answer, b) suggest some rough ideas, or c) warn of impending doom. If they do this, they are looking toward the future aimlessly, wishfully, or fearfully.

An alternative strategy is to look forward by focusing on what you can do now.


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In his TED talk, Joi Ito, head of the MIT Media Lab, suggested we be “now-ists” by:

  • Not asking for permission first
  • Relying on the power of pull (finding what/who you need when you need it)
  • Learning constantly and rapidly
  • Knowing which direction (not necessarily which destination) to head for

What does this have to do with predicting the future of education? Not much. But it has everything to do with shaping it.

Changing education is sometimes about moving when you are not quite sure or ready. It is less about having a concrete or traditionally laid-out plan. It is more about having a direction or vision.

For example, visions or directions in assessment might include “not paper”, not just high stakes examinations, or personal portfolios linked to identity. No one, especially vendors, can say they are ready to roll out systemic changes like these.

Instead of large ocean liners of change, change agents are already smaller, agile boats heading in the same general direction. They also learn to operate their boats differently from large ships.

Progressive change agents learn to leverage on these properties:

  1. Personal relevance
  2. Emotional ties, and
  3. Common causes.

Consider the example of the teacher who started the #iwishmyteacherknew trend. Concerned for her students, she asked them to share something she might not know about them.

The answers were very revealing and moving. They ranged from kids not having pencils at home to do homework, coming from broken families, and not having friends to play with.

The responses locally, in the traditional broadcast media, and on social media were disproportionate to the initial effort. Classmates of a girl who had no friends at the playground rallied around her saying “we’ve got your back”. News sites and broadcast media spread the word [example]. The hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew trended on Twitter and is still active with examples from all over the world.

One teacher’s effort went viral because of personal relevance, emotional ties, and a common cause. But viruses come and go. This effort persists because other caring teachers can relate to it (personal relevance), are moved by it (emotional), and share the same vision (common cause).

The same could be said for Ito’s mission to measure the nuclear fallout in 2011 in Japan because of his concern for his family. He reached out online and found like-minded folk and collaborators.

Ito did not wait for a system to be invented. The #iwishmyteacherknew teacher did not ask for permission to collect data on her students. They did not wait for a better future to come; they made it happen.

If you want to spark and sustain a worthwhile future in education, your effort must connect: It must be personal, emotional, and a shared vision.


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