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VISION 2020: “Androsapiens” and the Future of Personalized Learning

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Paul Vadas – M.A. Political Science, Professor, Lecturer, Tutor, Chief Educational Consultant at Vadas Educational Consulting and Chief Educational Editor at BrazilMonitor. (paul@campsitetv.com)

In my last article I dealt with the idea that robots are becoming “humanized” and that, eventually, it would be hard to tell them apart from real humans who, in many ways, are becoming “robotized”. Since then, to my surprise, I learned that Sophia, a robot created by Hanson Robotics in 2015, had become a citizen of Saudi Arabia. Imagine that, a “robot-citizen” which, in theory, could have all the legal rights and privileges granted to any regular, flesh and blood citizen.

The possibility of humanoids becoming citizens in the U.S. is not that farfetched. Based on the 2010 Supreme Court decision in “Citizens United vs. FEC”, which affirmed that corporations have the same rights of freedom of speech as individuals, Mitt Romney, republican candidate for president during the 2012 presidential election, was very clear when he stated that “corporations are people”. The ramifications of that assertion cannot be overstated: are we on the path of, eventually, finding that humanoid robots are people too?

What those rights of citizenship, if they ever come to pass, mean for humanoids, in terms of voting rights, party affiliation, and participation as candidates for political office, for instance, is something to be considered in another moment, with all its practical, moral and ethical implications. Right now, suffice it to say that a new world of “androsapiens” is dawning: a world in which Artificial Intelligence (AI), in all its different forms and applications, will actively participate in day-to-day life, and especially in the education sector.

In a recent article in The Telegraph, Henry Bodkin reports that “robots will begin replacing teachers in the classroom within the next ten years as part of a revolution in one-to-one learning, a leading educationalist has predicted.”

The leading educationalist, in this case, is Sir Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buckingham, who said that “intelligent machines that adapt to suit the learning styles of individual children will soon render traditional academic teaching all but redundant… The new era of automated teaching promises an end to grouping children by year, as the personalized nature of the robots will enable pupils to learn new material at their own pace, rather than as part of a class…It will open up the possibility of an Eton or Wellington-style education for all… Everyone can have the very best teacher and it’s completely personalized; the software you’re working with will be with you throughout your education journey. ‘Inspirational’ robots to begin replacing teachers within 10 years

A cursory look at Google confirms that robots are already becoming an integral part of education in many schools. If you are skeptical, look it up. Just look for “Robot as teachers” and you will find that, from the very early stages of life, children are already interacting with robot as tutors. When we analyze the progress of robots such as Sophia, we can see that we are not so far away from the day when robots will become college professors. With the knowledge they can be programed to store, and the capacity to express that knowledge in very specific, scientifically precise ways, robots can be naturally born Phd’s.

Just think, robots can be programed to “understand” and speak several different languages, making it easier for them to assimilate and communicate new ideas instantly, from all over the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You see, one of the most important characteristics of robots in the information age is that they have the capacity of “robotic telepathy”: when interconnected (webbed), they are capable of reading the minds of other robots instantly so, when one robot “learns” something new, all “webbed” robots learn that same thing at the same time, regardless of place or language.

Vision 2020, a take on the 20/20 Vision concept (an optometric measure that indicates normal visual acuity), is part of my studies of the future and will be a series of articles on education I will be writing describing my vision of the decade that will be starting with the year 2020, less than two years away.

As I see it, the soon approaching decade of the 20’s will be the most important decade humanity has ever lived. It will be a decade characterized by the most significant disruptions in the way we live and in how we interact with each other. Schools will not escape from fundamental changes in their missions and ways in which they operate.

If, as Sir Anthony Seldon said, “intelligent machines that adapt to suit the learning styles of individual children will soon render traditional academic teaching all but redundant.”, than we should ask: how will teaching occur? Is there a role for human teachers in the future? And what about schools? Will they become obsolete? If not, how will they be structured? How will they function? If yes, what will replace them?

In my next Vision 2020 article, I will propose what I believe will be the setting for education in the next decade and how “androsapiens” (intelligent things based on AI, including robots and the concept of “internet of things”) will permeate all aspects of personalized learning and create a radically new model of education for this and for the next generations. The new model will be profoundly different from the one that we have known for the past 7000 years, a school/teacher model that was created in ancient Egypt, when young boys learned how to be scribes and educational technology was centered in a place (school), the teacher (transmitter of information), the library (content), the blackboard/notebook (platforms for chalk/ink based technologies for information registries) and the student (the recipient of information) . It is a model that persists to this date, but not for much longer.