Category Archives: Artificial Intelligence

Of men and machines

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The book “La Guerre des Intelligences” by Dr Laurent Alexandre is a good opportunity to reflex on a sensitive issue. The book is about “how artificial intelligence will revolutionize education”.

It is true that AI has the potential to revolutionize education. The book discusses many possible applications of AI in the educational system. But beyond that, it discusses transhumanism i.e. the possibility to use chips and the latest advancements in biology to enhance the physical characteristics of the brain. We talk of course about possibilities that seem endless if not frightening.

According to the author we can enhance our intelligence with biology methods or with some chips installed in the body and especially in the brain. It seems too simplistic, though, to start from there and believe that these type of “more intelligent” creatures that we will create, will finally live a better life or even that they will act this way or another. This is more so true when we try to predict the kind of life in the societies that the “transhumans” will create.

Drawing conclusions from such possibilities is at least dangerous. Humans are not only intelligence and their societies are unpredictable complex systems even now. When converting to “transhumans” with supposedly enhanced brains, they will have increased the degree of complexity of their organization therefore their societies will be super-unpredictable. Most possibly such societies will also be super-sensitive to all kinds of changes within the system.

Thus, to expect education improvement by improving the human brain with technology or biology tricks is at least risky. Let us not forget a parallel issue: just because we invented Prozac it didn’t mean that we created a society of happy people; rather the contrary.

P.S. The person shown in the photo does not exist. It is the creation of an algorithm.

Telling the future

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Telling the future has always been a popular activity among humans. But why humans would even want to know the future? Probably there many reasons but in general it seems that we feel insecure; we are uncomfortable with the unexpected and thus we want somebody to tell us the future. Hundreds of people or groups invest on that fact: People who tell the future as a hobby, people who do it as a job, people who try to cover their psychological needs by having supporters and followers; even the end of the world has been predicted thousands of times.

Regarding education let us just not forget that after 40 years of “technology in education” there is no big change in education especially in Europe. You see, we can easily raise questions like “what is the big difference in education we offer”? More children want now to learn? Do they learn mathematics more easily or faster? Do people love learning foreign languages more now? Changes need time and it seems that the educational systems change in a completely different rhythm compared to that of tech advancements.

When time has passed we forget to look back. Do you remember that device called TV? It still exists; but when it was invented there was again the prediction that education has changed once and for all, teachers will not be needed any more and other fancy things. Reality proved different though.

Now there is this big discussion about Artificial Intelligence. Again one can hear the same predictions: no schools, no teachers and even more impressive things like children with chips in the brain and the like. So, why not, let me tell my own predictions for the year — and beyond. Artificial Intelligence is not going to change education dramatically. Because education is a whole system and systems do not change overnight. Michel Serres, the French philosopher, used to describe this phenomenon as a big ship where the captain gives the order to turn to the right. The ship of course cannot turn to the right immediately as it is a really voluminous device; it will take its time. The problem in our case though is that until we turn right there is one more command to change route and then another one etc, ending up with no actual alterations. Happy New Year!

P.S. “My beloved OVELIX (container ship)”. Pastel by author.

Van Gogh’s visit to Paphos

OK, Van Gogh never visited Paphos. It took us 127 years after his death to become the European Cultural Capital of Europe. If we only had achieved this, then! Maybe there was a possibility that he would have visited us, spent some time wandering about and, who knows, inspired by the Mediterranean air, painted a few landscapes.

As of course all the above are fiction I turned to technology to fill the gap. And here are some examples of what could have been some painting of the great Van Gogh if he had the chance to visit us!

The above images were made with the help of Deep Dream Generator at https://deepdreamgenerator.com. According to the site itself this “is a platform where you can transform photos using powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms.”

Well, once again AI is here and pushes things! Maybe the result is not perfect but it is an important moment in the history of humankind when we can analyze the style of a painter and then have the machines paint like him. This is not the first time anyway, years ago the same happened with classical music and maybe a future article would be well worth to write. And let us not forget the really scientific work done on Rembrandt in “the next Rembrandt project”. All these cases oblige us to make some thoughts and put some questions. Here are some: Is this creativity? Or a new way of creativity? Or a new opportunity for creativity? Can a teacher use it in classroom as part of the art lesson and not only? Will thinking machines be our next tools to create art or our co-creators in art? Will AI be the teachers’ co-worker in the classroom? Food for thought in this brave new era.

PS The photos show Paphos castle, and a vineyard in October, Kili village, Paphos. Copyright Georgios Charalambous, all rights reserved.

Reviewing 2016: Artificial Intelligence got down to business

aiAs 2016 is coming to its end I cannot but reflect on the advancements that this year brought us in a technological field that is around for decades without making a significant impact: Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Since the very beginning of the electronic era in the 40’s, the foundations of AI were set by great scientists as Turing (and others of course). We can say that the expectations for the advancement in the field of AI were then far more optimistic compared to what reality proved to be. During the last 2-3 years, though, we are watching a coming back of the legend, this time with real and tangible results: IBM’s Watson AI program is cooperating with researchers for cancer, Google translates with AI use, Facebook is making extensive use of AI for its users, Amazon for its clients, many games are already benefiting by AI use and even there are many startups in the field of education and especially adaptive learning. Let us not forget the creation of www.openai.com and www.partnershiponai.org , two organizations for studying the impact of AI on the human society- all the above during 2016.

Things are interesting to say the least; they are serious too. AI is what you can call a disruptive technology. It has the potential to bring everything upside down. How we work, how we learn, how we entertain, how we understand our world. It seems to me that technology is ready to change the world once more. Still struggling to adapt to computers, to the networks and to smartphones, all of a sudden we are called to go for a new round of new things. Can humanity really adapt to such an accelerated rhythm of change? It remains to be seen…

An interesting article in Economist here https://goo.gl/L16Tgd and a magnificent lecture by Michel Serres here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCBB0QEmT5g