There are three people who have really influenced my thinking on education matters. One of them is Ray Kurzweil. He was recently hired at Google to work on… something. It has not been completely specified but I can take a guess.
To figure this out you need to understand at the most fundamental level what Google’s goal is. I believe it is to be the search engine for everything. Think about that for a second. There is a mind boggling amount of information on the Internet now and a further mind boggling amount being added every day and yet it’s only a small percentage of all the information in the world. Of that information, Google only knows a small percentage of that. It’s a big job. <— My entry into understatement of the year.
In order for Google to meet its goal it needs to acquire data from every source you can think of. It started out as a search company with a “robot” that goes out and just hit websites and archives the content. After some years it then started doing it in different languages. Then it started looking at pictures, and video (Google owns YouTube). Even so, there is still a lot of information it can’t archive. To this end, Google will have to learn how to recognize things like people do. This means natural language processing in any language will be critical.
This is where I think Kurzweil will come in. He’s an industry leader in natural language processing and will also help attract other bright minds to this endeavor.
Why this matters to education is simple. A computer that can listen to any language can also speak it. You want virtual teachers? This is how it will be done. There won’t be a company that says they want to invent a virtual teacher; no it will be a side effect of some other project like Siri at Apple or whatever Google has in competition. When a computer has 5 senses like humans they will become companions to us in ways we can’t imagine yet.
What an amazing and scary world that would be.