EXPLO AI: Creating educators for our AI children
It is the year 2056.
40 years ago, EXPLO broke through what education looked like by starting EXPLO Studio, a skunkworks-esque start-up within a company that revolutionized teachings within a classroom. With these methods, educators became revered for their abilities to teach 10 year olds extraordinary concepts. Understanding computational biology, grasping the works of James Joyce, and creating artificial intelligence (AI) became expected, and was the norm, of any 10 year old in 2056. In fact, the average age for college acceptance dropped from 18 to 13 years, leading to freshman curricula at Universities to include "Puberty 101" and "Preparing for your Quinceañera" in the first semester.
It seems fitting that forty years after EXPLO’s founding, EXPLO Studio revolutionized classroom structure, and now, forty years after that, Moira Kelly has tasked Marina Vanegas-Artiles with Directing EXPLO AI, an initiative to teach a new type of student in our world: Artificial Intelligence. In 2056, most households have adopted an AI machine, but rather than completing simple tasks like reminding us of our schedules or turning off the thermostat like these systems did in 2017, these AI machines have become integral to our families, and parents want the best education for their AI children. That's where EXPLO AI comes in: creating educators to teach AI.
This a typical EXPLO classroom for AI students. AI children attend school via virtual private networks (VPN). Marina, pictured above, is about to start her first lesson, leveraging EXPLO’s expertise in design thinking, exploration, and kinesthetic learning. So, in this new scenario, Marina tackled a couple questions, including:
What does "hands-on" learning look like when you teach artificial intelligence? How do you teach critical making to an AI that is just a computer tower, and has no hands? What does design thinking look like? We value critical making, post-its, playing, hands-on, tinkering, in order to learn. How does AI, without any extremities, leverage what we are trying to make the new (better, best) way of teaching?
One simple solution would be to add robotic extremities controlled by AI, right? In this case, would you mimic human arms and legs? Would you mimic a different animal? Would arms be modular, or have a specific task? Would there be an extremity dedicated to only playing with a fidget toy?
Eventually, AI children will become AI educators, teaching students (both AI and human) in classrooms. EXPLO must train a new type of educator. How do you teach artificial intelligence to be a good teacher? How do you ensure the thoughts that they use to teach other AI are appropriate?
In my most recent listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson's podcast StarTalk, he spoke on the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. You should listen to the podcast (linked on the side). I won't summarize, but it's a great listen if you are interested in the Drake equation, why humans should listen first, a discussion on "intelligence," and the probability of us communication with aliens if we can't even communicate with dolphins. As for my opinion on the topic, it can be summed up with Arthur C. Clarke's response to being asked if he believed we are alone in the universe: "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying."
But the most exciting part, or at least what interested me the most (enough to write about it), was the conversation of intelligence. Inherent to being able to communicate with another life in the Universe is the expectation of a certain level of ability to create technology to communicate. That doesn't necessarily mean we are searching for intelligent life; rather we are searching for communicable life. If there is a planet full of dolphins, then there is very little doubt that intelligent life exists. However, dolphins would lack the ability to create the technology to create a device that can communicate, and thus we would never find them in our search.
An almost existential level thought came up. It was the thought of artificial intelligence on another planet. Imagine a scenario where human-like life built artificial intelligence, but was wiped away by a famine, yet the artificial intelligence they had created continued on through generations, creating more artificial intelligence (life?), that for some reason decided to communicate with the Universe and found us. Would this scenario be considered us finding communicable life? Or just really smart communicable devices?
This put me in a state in which I grabbed an iced spanish latte (they add condensed milk for those interested), put on my hipster beanie, and found a window to look through, and just sipped and thought (this practice usually works well with another ponderer, so if you are so inclined to look through a window and philosophize with me, let me know. I’ll bring the coffee). These kinds of exercises are fun, especially because you have so much freedom in creativity since what you ponder will likely not happen in your lifetime. However, recent comments have made it seem that humans may be obsolete by 2050 due to artificial intelligence (see this and this). Whether that is a prediction or a goal (or both!), I don't know, but I do expect to be alive then.
And just like that, suddenly, I imagined us, Earth, being the imaginary planet in my artificial-intelligence-communicating-after-life-is-gone scenario, and us wiping ourselves out, only to have our artificial intelligence machines communicate for us. What feels real, is that some time in the near future, I will have to interact with an artificial intelligence machine. (perhaps this artificial intelligence with ponder with me!)
So, how would that work with my style of work and style of learning and teaching? I follow the mantras (fads?) of design thinking, hands-on learning, kinesthetic learning, critical making, tinkering, etc. So, here is my question.
40 years from now, when artificial intelligence becomes the norm. how would you teach them? If there is any group of people that would be able to figure this out, it would be EXPLO. So, EXPLO. Tell me. How do you leverage your 40 years of hands-on learning and teaching when AI has no hands?