Don't Fear the Singularity, Embrace the Multiplicity

westworld
HBO's Westworld, which both creates fear of singularity and points to some multiplicity

Have you heard Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk raising concerns about AI and the singularity? These are fears that others have voiced for many decades and that have filled science-fiction stories for even longer. Singularity is the term given to that point when machines will surpass us.

That point will arrive, though no predictions have so far been correct on when it will occur. A more reasonable approach seem to me to be what some have called the "multiplicity."  That is a way of viewing what is coming as a time of humans working more closely with machines rather than humans versus the machines.

An article in Wired quotes C Berkeley roboticist Ken Goldberg as saying that the multiplicity is "something that's happening right now, and it's the idea of humans and machines working together.” 

I know all the automotive buzz is about driverless cars, but today in my car algorithms are guiding me to my destination, reminding me to stay in my lane, gently applying the brakes and steering when I am less attentive than I should be. My new car seems to be constantly flashing and beeping about something. I fear that the more it does, the more it distracts me from driving. Okay, maybe not that bad.

It is one thing to put your learning into the virtual hands of algorithms, but I am already entrusting a bit of my life protection in the car to them.

The multiplicity concept is not that new. A talk at Davos in 2015 points out that though there are now over a million robots working in factories around the world, we still don’t have them in our homes.

Hans Moravec pointed out 3 decades ago that “Tasks that are hard for humans, like precision spot welding, are easy for robots, while tasks that are easy for humans, like clearing the dinner table, are very hard for robots.”

The hospital robot that delivers drugs and linens to nurses and the ones in warehouses rolling 24/7 through the aisles scanning inventory or puling out items for orders hasn't necessarily surpassed humans in intelligence. But it is willing to work all day and night without breaks or pay. Do all robots replace humans? Much research says no, that they are more likely to enhance human workers or change what humans will do. 

But the fear of the singularity remains.

Amazon's fulfillment centers use around 100,000 robots to bring products to people who are still better at packing them for shipping. Those clever robots still have trouble with simple human tasks like picking up things with their end effectors (hands).

The word multiplicity actually makes me think of a comedy film with Michael Keaton. In that Multiplicity, an overly busy human is able to clone himself multiple times in order to get done all the things he wants to do and still have time to live a life with his family.  

An update of that 1996 film would probably change cloning to robots. 

And that has really been the ultimate goal with AI and robots - to empower humans, not replace them. But the job-killing robot scenario is a tough one to dispel and you can find examples of jobs that disappear because of automation. San Francisco is supposedly considering a tax on robots that replace human workers.

Long before robots, automation threatened and replaced some human labor. The transition to common robot and AI use in our lives will likely be more gradual.

Yes, Westworld is scary, both in how the robots interact with humans, and in how the humans treat the robots.

When the singularity does arrive, make sure you know how to power down that robot.

 


Going Horizontal

vertical horizontalIn microeconomics and management, going vertical or vertical integration occurs when the supply chain of a company is owned by that company. For example, if a car manufacturer also produces its own steel, tires and batteries.

This is in contrast with horizontal integration, wherein a company produces several items which are related to one another.

Higher education has been a vertical enterprise for centuries. We keep knowledge creation, teaching, testing, and credentialing all under one company/college banner.

These are terms from economics and business. Are they applicable to discussions about education?

Horizontal integration often occurs in the business world by internal expansion, acquisition or merger. Of course, that might happen in education too, but there are also signs that it is happening in other ways.

When MOOCs were the big news five years ago, some people saw this as a shift from a vertically integrated model to a horizontally integrated one by decoupling teaching and learning from the campus testing and credentialing.

In looking for further examples of vertical and horizontal integration in education, the examples I found were mostly in medical education. 

"Vertical and horizontal integration of knowledge and skills - a working model" (Snyman WD, Kroon J.) looks at an integrated outcomes-based curriculum for dentistry at the University of Pretoria in 1997.

In "Horizontal and vertical integration of academic disciplines in the medical school curriculum (Vidic B, Weitlauf HM) looks at pedagogical shifts caused by the rapid expansion of new scientific information and the introduction of new technology in operative and diagnostic medicine.

In more general terms, assessment alignment is often the reason for both horizontal and vertical alignment in education. Alignment is typically understood as the agreement between a set of content standards and an assessment used to measure those standards. By establishing content standards, stakeholders in an education system determine what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level.

Probably, it is best when education goes both vertically and horizontally. 

Horizontal information exchange can be teachers sharing methodology, students sharing information, students helping each other learn.

When a curriculum is truly vertically aligned or vertically coherent, what students learn in one lesson, course, or grade level prepares them for the next lesson, course, or grade level. I know teaching is supposed to be structured and logically sequenced so that learning progressively prepares them for more challenging, higher-level work. I saw that structured sequencing more in my K-12 teaching than I do in higher education which is more siloed. 

Let's work on going more horizontal, higher ed.

Event-Based Internet

Event-based Internet is going to be something you will hear more about this year. Though I had heard the term used, the first real application of it that I experienced was a game. But don't think this is all about fun and games. Look online and you will find examples of event-based Internet biosurveillance and event-based Internet robot teleoperation systems and other very sophisticated uses, especially connected to the Internet of Things (IoT).

HQWhat did more than a million people do this past Sunday night at 9pm ET? They tuned in on their mobile devices to HQ Trivia, a game show, on their phones.  

For a few generations that have become used to time-shifting their viewing, this real-time game is a switch. 

The HQ app has had early issues in scaling to the big numbers with game delays, video lag and times when the game just had to be rebooted. But it already has at least one imitator called "The Q" which looks almost identical in design, and imitation is supposed to be a form of flattery.

This 12-question trivia quiz has money prizes. Usually, the prize is $2000, but sometimes it jumps to $10 or $20K. But since there are multiple survivors of the 12 questions that win, the prizes are often less than $25 each.

Still, I see the show's potential (Is it actually a "show?") Business model? Sponsors, commercial breaks, sponsors and product placement in the questions, answers and banter in-between questions.

The bigger trend here is that this is a return to TV "appointment viewing."  Advertisers like that and it only really occurs these days with sports, some news and award shows. (HQ pulled in its first audience of more than a million Sunday during the Golden Globe Awards, so...) 

And is there some education connection in all this?  Event-based Internet, like its TV equivalent, is engaging. Could it bring back "The Disconnected" learner?  

I found a NASA report on "Lessons Learned from Real-Time, Event-Based Internet Science Communications."  This report is focused on sharing science activities in real-time in order to involve and engage students and the public about science.

Event-based distributed systems are being used in areas such as enterprise management, information dissemination, finance,
environmental monitoring and geo-spatial systems.

Education has been "event-based" for hundreds of years. But learners have been time-shifting learning via distance education and especially via online learning for only a few decades. Event-based learning sounds a bit like hybrid or blended learning. But one difference is that learners are probably not going to tune in and be engaged with just a live lecture. Will it take a real event and maybe even gamification to get live learning? 

In all my years teaching online, I have never been able to have all of a course's student attend a "live" session either because of time zone differences, work schedules or perhaps content that just wasn't compelling enough.

What will "Event-based Learning" look like?

The Trends at the NJEDge Conference 2018

There are so many posts I have the past few weeks about trend for education and technology, but one way of seeing what trends may emerge this year is by looking at the tracks, presentations and keynote speakers at EdTech conferences. 

logoI'll be moderating a track next week at NJEdge.Net's Annual Conference: NJEdgeCon2018 "DIGITAL LEADERSHIP & ENTERPRISE TRANSFORMATION" January 11 & 12, 2018 in New Jersey.  My track is, naturally, Education and Technology which has presentations on best practices, innovations and the effectiveness associated with current LMS and online learning tools, effective infrastructure, resources, sustainability models and integrated assessment tools.

But if you look at the other tracks offered, you can see that INFORMATION Technology outweighs instructional technology here. Other tracks at the conference are Big Data & Analytics, Networking & Data Security, Customer Support & Service Excellence,  Aligning Business & Technology Strategies. and Transformation Products & Services.

Amber Mac (as in MacArthur) will talk about adaptation and the accelerating pace of corporate culture in the digital economy.

I have followed her career for a decade from her early tech TV and podcast venture to her current consulting business. She helps companies adapt to, anticipate, and capitalize on lightning-quick changes—from leadership to social media to the Internet of Things, from marketing to customer service to digital parenting and beyond. It’s not about innovation, she says; it’s about adaptation.

When it comes to teachers and technologies, the battle cry of Virginia Tech professor John Boyer is embrace, not replace. In his talk, he presents his view that the best teachers will embrace technologies that help them better communicate with students, but do not fear because those technologies will never replace human to human interaction. But blending the best communicators with the best technology has to offer will produce some amazing and unpredictable opportunities!


Wayne Brown, CEO and Founder of Center for Higher Ed CIO Studies (CHECS), will talk in his session on longitudinal higher education CIO research and the importance of technology leaders aligning technology innovations and initiatives with the needs of the higher education institution. His two-part survey methodology enables him to compare and contrast multiple perspectives about higher education technology leaders. The results provide essential information regarding the experiences and background an individual should possess to serve as a higher education CIO. In collaboration with NJEdge, Wayne will collect data from NJEdge higher education CIOs and will compare the national results with those of the NJ CIOs.

Timothy Renick (a man of many titles: Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success, Vice Provost, and Professor of Religious Studies at Georgia State University) is talking about "Using Data and Analytics to Eliminate Achievement Gaps."  The student-centered and analytics-informed programs at GSU has raised graduation rates by 22% and closed all achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity, and income-level. It now awards more bachelor’s degrees to African Americans than any other college or university in the nation. Through a discussion of innovations ranging from chatbots and predictive analytics to meta-majors and completion grants, the session covers lessons learned from Georgia State’s transformation and outlines several practical and low-cost steps that campuses can take to improve outcomes for underserved students.

Greg Davies' topic is "The Power of Mobile Communications Strategies and Predictive Analytics for Student Success and Workforce Development." The technology that has been used to transform, to both good and bad ends, most other major industries can connect the valuable resources available on campus to the students who need them most with minimal human resources. Technology has been used to personalize the digital experience in such industries as banking, retail, information and media, and others by reaching consumers via mobile technology. Higher Education has, in some cases, been slow to adapt innovative and transformative technology. Yet, its power to transform the student engagement and success experience has been proven. With the help of thought leaders in industry and education, Greg discusses how the industry can help achieve the goal of ubiquity in the use of innovative student success technologies and predictive data analytics to enable unprecedented levels of student success and, as a consequence, workforce development.

Is Our Group a Learning Community, Learning Circle or Community of Practice?

Though there are differences, you will often find the terms Learning Community, Learning Circle and Community of Practice used interchangeably. They are all groups of individuals who learn from each other, and with each other, on an ongoing basis with the goal of improving their work. 

Like any network of people, communities of practice are generally self-organized by people who share common work practice. As with the other labels, any of these relationship groupings have a desire to share what they know, support one another, and create new knowledge for their field of practice.

But communities of practice (CoP) differ from networks in that they are intended to be "communities" in which people make a commitment to be there for each other. They should participate not just for their own needs, but to serve the needs of others.

A CoP is very "open source" with a commitment to advance the field of practice and to make their resources and knowledge available to anyone, especially those doing related work.

A learning circle is a highly interactive, participatory structure for organizing group work. The goal is to build, share, and express knowledge though a process of open dialogue and deep reflection around issues or problems with a focus on a shared outcome.

Online learning circles take advantage of social networking tools to manage collaborative work over distances following a timeline from the open to close of the circle. Learning circles usually have a final project or goal which collects the shared knowledge generated during the interactions. Learning circles are a way to organize learning in global projects. They are also being used in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

But again, there is crossover with these terms. I have even seen articles about "Creating a Community of Practice Using Learning Circles

Almost anyone can facilitate a learning circle, whether it is a single learning circle in your home or multiple circles across a an organization like a university or library system.