Digital Education
Graham Brown-Martin

Certainly, Hancock’s remarks are symptomatic and the notion that teachers should “take a backseat in the imparting of knowledge” is very worrying.

However, it is an indicator of what is at stake.

The safe decades of the microcomputer followed by ICT seem to be over. In one of your other posts ( you talk about how Google et al are really just data siphons.

We ain’t seen nothing yet!

Perhaps talking about AI is a red herring because today we know how much can be done with relatively simple statistical models rather than programmed models of thought and reasoning. E.g., Google Translate does not work by knowing anything about language — it does not posses linguistic knowledge — it is just a huge collection of cases that can be interrogated for their similarity to the present case inserted into a text box on a web page.

Much of so-called machine learning is like this, just statistics in fancy costumes. It’s impressive for all that but littel to do with ‘learning’, ‘intelligence’ or ‘knowledge’.

You raise the question who owns the data that makes the adverts that make the millions that make the billions that make the driverless cars , the returnable rockets, etc. ? (

I’m with Jaron Lanier (‘Who Owns the Future’) when he says, basically ,that Google should be paying us for the data we give it and from which it generates its silly billions of dollars. Somehow all that data and the revenue it generates ends up belonging to Google.

How is that?

An interesting historical background to this is the imaginative and imaginary work done by Ted Nelson (he who coined the word “hypertext”). In his conception of an Internet, two way linking would allow nano-payments to be made for every use of someone else’s data. (I guess this is an example of an alternative history, a what-might-have-been thought experiment)

Instead, today, we have a structurally simpler kind of Internet — which Ted loathes with a passion — but which fails at this basic level of control over the fruits (i.e. the earnings) of your creative and intellectual labour.

Of course, Ted Nelson’s vision never materialised so his ideas remain, at the moment, a thought experiment, alternative history, a what-might-have-been. But would it be like if every teacher and every pupil got a nano-payment for their use of the network?

What price might we put on personal bits? And I wonder how we could get our hands on the revenue? How must our taxation law or contract law change change in order to make this happen?

Perhaps every individual on the planet could earn a few dollars a year just from the fact that they ‘donate’ their personal data to these corporations, merely by being connected to the network. And some could earn a lot more. If take account of the fact that for the great majority of the world’s population $1 a day is the income point which starts to make a difference then it begins to be significant (As an example note that Facebook, through its Internet.Com initiative, is not offering revenue to its users, only philosophy and public-spiritedness, neither of which can be eaten).

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