This was originally written during the spring of 2017.
I’ve been working on a few projects which leverage concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning to teach people more effectively.
While working on these projects, I started to classify the type of pedagogy I was developing as “synthetic human learning”; meaning that the learning was not inspired or provoked by something natural: a human would be suggested to engage in my projects with the assurance that the project would teach them a subject in the most optimal manner possible, as the project was designed and built to do so. In turn, this made me wonder what inspires truly unprovoked organic learning.
As children, we’ve all probably done something that warranted some form of reprimand or discomfort that we interpreted as an undesirable outcome and hence changed our behavior in an effort to not repeat such actions. Touching the hot stove, drinking expired milk, not studying enough for that big exam, having one drink too many, forgetting to pay your taxes — could be examples of actions that instill a deviation or change in a human’s behavior, whereas receiving high marks on exams, getting a raise, or spending a vacation with friends or family could instill the need to repeat the behaviors which resulted in the received positive outcome.
I believe curiosity is the primary catalyst for truly organic human learning.
Consider university, one of the first times that young people have to discover their own passions and drives. I argue that the young people who choose their path of study (or studies), organizations, and past-times based on what they were curious about to be significantly more successful and happy on average compared to the students who chose based on other metrics, suggestions, or what a computer system suggested they pursue. The same could be said with regard to the professional world, the arts, and other general communities of interest.
I also believe that there is no substitute for human interaction when it comes to learning. My reasoning is simple; if one learns well enough, one can teach another.
To teach is to learn twice. I believe this works for human to human interactions, and computer to computer interactions, but not in a mixed manner of human to computer or computer to human. My reasoning here is simple too, a computer has no way of truly interpreting why a human is struggling to learn a concept or skill, and a human has no way of truly knowing why a computer is sharing certain information with them in order to teach them a concept or skill.
I’d like to tie this reasoning to passion, the secondary catalyst for human learning. A student can embody the passion a professor, teacher, or instructor has for their subject. So where a computer cannot be passionate, a human recieves a synthetic representation of information synthesis which they interpret as a student and instructor relationship — and while this physically may result in real learning and information synthesis, it’s not truly organic.
To summarize my feelings here, I believe that people should invest in technology to automate and improve the standard and status-quo of the greater education system, however I don’t believe that the people of the greater education system are replaceable by an application.