Posted by: crudbasher | June 28, 2010

How about an AI teacher?

I think I am going to have to add a category for Artificial Intelligence.  I believe that in the future (maybe 10-15 years) AI will make an ideal teacher for children in a lot of circumstances.  This will be a hard concept to accept for teachers who read this blog, but try to keep an open mind about this.  Our world is changing rapidly.  The people who can accept possibilities and think outside the box will be the ones who are successful.

This article talks about how AI is being used in various areas of society and talks about it’s current limitations.  The potential is there though.

Keeping an open mind is the way to survive and thrive in the upcoming Education Storm.  Constantly ask yourself, what can I do that is essential and valuable to others?  Seth Godin would call it being the Linchpin.

I’ll have to write a longer post fleshing this concept out.

  • Nice Article on Artificial Intelligence

    tags: technology, AI

    • “Our young children and grandchildren will think it is completely natural to talk to machines that look at them and understand them,” said Eric Horvitz, a computer scientist at Microsoft’s research laboratory who led the medical avatar project, one of several intended to show how people and computers may communicate before long.
    • For decades, computer scientists have been pursuing artificial intelligence — the use of computers to simulate human thinking. But in recent years, rapid progress has been made in machines that can listen, speak, see, reason and learn, in their way. The prospect, according to scientists and economists, is not only that artificial intelligence will transform the way humans and machines communicate and collaborate, but will also eliminate millions of jobs, create many others and change the nature of work and daily routines.
    • Smart machines, experts predict, will someday tutor students, assist surgeons and safely drive cars.
    • Computers with artificial intelligence can be thought of as the machine equivalent of idiot savants. They can be extremely good at skills that challenge the smartest humans, playing chess like a grandmaster or answering “Jeopardy!” questions like a champion. Yet those skills are in narrow domains of knowledge. What is far harder for a computer is common-sense skills like understanding the context of language and social situations when talking — taking turns in conversation, for example.
    • The real issue with artificial intelligence, as with any technology, is how it will be used. Automation is a remarkable tool of efficiency and convenience. Using an A.T.M. to make cash deposits and withdrawals beats standing in line to wait for a teller. If an automated voice system in a call center can answer a question, the machine is a better solution than lingering on hold for a customer service agent.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.


  1. I certainly hope education never comes to this. AI is awesome, but not for education. There is a human element to education that cannot be replaced by electronics. It’s like saying your girl friend/wife can be replaced by an AI robot that can do everything a real woman can.

    • I understand your feelings about this. I try not to say what technology can’t do. Remember when phone calls used to be routed by an actual person? I wonder how many people thought you couldn’t replace them?

      To solve this particular question you have to look carefully at what a teacher really does today. Not only that, but you have to break the job of a teacher down into parts. Can certain parts be automated or outsources?

      Thanks much for commenting on a touchy subject!! :)

  2. An interesting question in contemporary philosophy asks, if a machine can function *precisely* like a human, is there a relevant difference between the machine and the human? The answer seems to be, “no.”

    So if it were possible to have an AI program function *precisely* like a school teacher, I see no problem in using such a machine. The problem is in the making: (1) what does a school teacher do? (2) how can a machine do it? (3) how can a machine do it efficiently? (4) how can a machine do it efficiently at a lower annual cost?

    It’s easy to see phone operators replaced by machines. Call routing is essentially a combinatorial mathematics problem, solvable by an algorithm. The problems involved in school teaching span several other fields… it’s certainly possible an AI can smooth out all the communication and motivation issues, but I’d expect it to take far more than 15 years.

    • That’s a really well reasoned post Jared. Thanks much for contributing!

      I love what you said where you said if we can get a machine to teach like a person you would be ok with it. That’s very open minded of you. I submit our big problem with education right now is the exact opposite. We are forcing our teachers to teach like machines. All these standards and such are taking much of the creativity out of the teacher’s hands. Ooo that’s a good blog post topic! :)

      I agree that phone operators jobs were easily replaced by machines, however technology will keep advancing. I am having difficulty defining what kinds of jobs won’t eventually be replaced by machines of some sort.

  3. I came to this conclusion a few years back. I knew then it was only a matter of time before AI would reach the level of being able to interact with humans on a COMPLEX conversational level indistinguishable from real people. At that point, it is a small next-step for an AI device to take on the role of conveying NEW information to humans… as a teacher would. It would also be able to maintain a database of what a specific student knows (and does not know), and would work to fill in those “holes” over an entire lifetime of learning based on the ability of the student to absorb the information. Ultimately a personal dedicated teacher, mentor and friend. It could provide a level of attention that is simply not practical under the one-teacher-many-students model. There was a twilight zone episode that touched on this topic in the form of the AI being a house keeper helping a single father raise a family. This may not have been that far off.

    Of course this will not eliminate the need for human teachers. It will merely change their role, while simultaneously altering the educational system on a fundamental level.

    I believe you will see the first sparks of this technology in the next 10 to 15 years, and it will be commonplace in 30.


    • I keep going back to when the teacher needs to be involved in learning. The way I see it, if the student is doing ok and learning, then the teacher doesn’t need to get involved. They only need to be involved when the student needs help right? Therefore we can automate a lot of other things and then notify the teacher when they need to help, we can increase the teacher touch time when it really counts.

      Also, I wonder if it really will take as long as 10 years. As fast as things are moving now, we might see the first learning tutors in as fast as 5 years maybe. We will see!

      Thank so much for commenting JP, great thoughts!!

  4. I think the point of AI fully replacing teachers may never come, and if it does it is a ways out. But when it comes to AI doing some of the things teachers do, and doing it better, we are right around the corner and may not need to wait until the end of the decade.
    A lot of AI progress has been on statistical learning, so any activity that can be bettered by statistical analysis is ripe for disruption by AI. AI has not made as much progress on integral learning, that is learning how we learn by integrating a new concept into our entire understanding of everything.
    There are a lot of areas that may not seem to be impacted by statistical learning, but really can be. Just because someone has not imagined the way a task can be bettered by statistical analysis does not mean it won’t be thought of tomorrow. We talk about AI disruption, but the real disrupting intelligence near term is human ability to imagine thousands of new ways to leverage existing AI technology.
    AI is currently a cognitive prosthetic that can help the human mind do exponentially more than it could on its own. But it currently needs to be custom fit to an application. AI is qualitatively different than human intelligence, the two complement each other, and we should stop thinking about when AI will replace human intelligence and start thinking about how AI will augment human intelligence. True, a teacher might never be fully replaced by an AI, but heavy machinery didn’t replace all humans on infrastructure projects, just a significant majority of them.

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