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Posts Tagged ‘robot

Here is one reality bite: People will prefer to be entertained than to be educated because the latter takes openness and effort. So even if you can be educated while being entertained, some folk will spurn the opportunity to learn something new.

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Take this podcast episode from Conan O’Brien Needs A Friend as an example. I chuckled with every joke. But I also groaned when the hosts preferred to stick with schtick and fiction instead of learning from an expert.

The expert was a fan of the podcast who also happened to be a robotics expert. He showcased his robot named CUTIE, enjoyed the banter, and contributed to the laughter. But when he tried to point out misconceptions about robots, his hosts repeated Hollywood tropes, e.g., robots would kill all humans.

I recall fighting a similar battle when I offered a Masters level course on advanced technologies in education. Some participants were misled by movies and television so much that reality bytes on artificial intelligence and robotics seemed like lies to them.

I acknowledge that the podcast is about entertaining listeners with nonsense. It is not an educational podcast about science or technology, so it has a right to focus on being funny. 

But it also illustrates what a non-informed entity does, i.e., frame another’s expertise or knowledge through its own biased lens. While this gets the laughs, it also perpetuates stereotypes and ignorance.

Learning starts with being uncomfortable about your current state. It continues with the willingness to change. Learning becomes more likely if there is effort to make that change. In educational psychology, we might refer to these processes as cognitive dissonance and internalisation. 

One difference between teaching children and teaching adults is that the latter group has more experiences. These can sometimes hold adults back. None of those adults will learn anything if they are not challenged about something they believe or think they already know.

Pedagogically speaking, we might refer to this strategy as creating cognitive dissonance. This battle for headspace can start with an educator providing an external stimulus to learn. But the rest of the battle is internal. Students can reject something new, fit it into existing thought structures or schema (assimilation), or change those schema (accommodation).

Students learn when they assimilate or accommodate new information. The reality bite: Their experiences can make them reject it.


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As I watched this video, I could hear the fear mongers and armchair experts talk about AI taking over, making reference to the fictional Skynet, or how the video foretells of robots dancing on our graves.

All this is projection without fact. Movies are not the same as critical research or reflective practice. Conjecture should not be placed at the same level as scientific advancement or nuanced policies of use.

Fiction and fantasy have their purposes, e.g., entertainment, making critical statements. But these are the easy and attention-grabbing headlines that should not be confused with the hard and mundane work of scientific endeavour.

Any projection, whether informed or not, is subject to how myopic we are. We might look back with rose-tinted glasses, but we can barely look forward beyond our noses.

For some perspective, I offer this tweet from Pessimists Archive. Technology is not all gloom and doom. It enabled many of us to continue schooling, work, and life despite the pandemic. It is already doing much good, but that does not sell the news.

Technology has the potential to do harm even when it is designed to do good. But that is not because of technology; it is because of the short-sighted and imperfect human user. If we take that perspective, we might be more mindful about how we invent and use technologies.

This Reddit thread was one response to the Boston Dynamics robot dog making its rounds in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio park. It was there to monitor social distancing and to remind park users to do the same.

The title of the thread — Dystopian robot terrifies park goers in Bishan Park — reveals a state of mind that I call dy-stupid-ian.

I have said this in edtech classes I facilitate and I will say it again: If your only reference for artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics is the Terminator franchise, then your perspective is neither informed nor nuanced.

The entertainment industry likes to paint a dystopian picture of what AI and robots will do. There is even a Black Mirror episode (Metalhead) that featured similar looking dogs. Somehow fear and worry embedded in fantasy are entertaining.

An education about AI and robotics is more mundane and requires hard work. But most of us need not be programmers and engineers to gain some basic literacy in those fields. For that, I recommend two excellent sources.


Video playlist


Video playlist

At the very least, the videos are a good way to spend time during a COVID-19 lock down.

A tweet reminded me about the current discourse on how robots are going to take our jobs.

In schooling and education, one side of the debate looks like this:

And the other side looks like this:

My response looks like this:

This is not to say that any job with repetition is ripe for a robot takeover. Instead the point is that dexterity, artistry, and entertainment are difficult for a robot to emulate.

Teaching is neat. Learning is messy.

Another human trait in the classroom is empathy for the learners. It is understanding deeply why teaching is neat while learning is messy. It is educating in ways that focus on the learner and learning, not the teacher and teaching.

I have probably said this so often that I sound like a robot. Just as robotic are statements made by others before me. For example: Anyone and any job that can be replaced with a robot should be.

So ask yourself: What value do you bring to the table? How dextrous and empathetic are you as an educator?

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