At the recent Town Hall meeting, I called myself out and determined not to get sidetracked with conversation about Artificial Intelligence (AI). The time has come, however, to discuss the structural changes to the Secondary School, and it would be foolish to do that without unpacking what AI represents in education. Conceived in the simplest terms, AI represents an iterative leap in the acceleration of our society. The quieter overtures we heard when Google became a verb instead of a noun have built to a crescendo of ease and speed. But what if mankind isn’t designed to work the way that our machines do?
The quieter overtures we heard when Google became a verb instead of a noun have built to a crescendo of ease and speed. But what if mankind isn’t designed to work the way that our machines do?
The less than subtle messaging of many is that AI represents another move towards having machines conduct work so that humans can be more focused. Like the John Deere tractor or the assembly line, AI will increase the amount of leisure time that people have available. Why wouldn’t that be a good thing? The problem with the question is the same as the issue that drives it. In the example provided above, work is being used to represent two different things. The beloved green and yellow tractor represents artificial muscle. It would be poor thinking to equate that with artificial intelligence. They are categorically different.
In the resolution of the 90th Psalm, Moses prays that we would learn to number our days and thereby gain a heart of wisdom. The days of a Secondary School student are already numbered: 1,080 should every day be attended, and nothing be lost to emergency disruption. Our rapid-reference world already devalues deeper learning in favor of nearly instantaneous research. What block scheduling ultimately represents is an attempt to provide greater focus to learning so that conversations and interactions can go deeper. These are the kinds of interactions that stay in the memory and treat human beings as being shaped organically. You could say that we’ve decided to try and slow things down a little.
After all, people grow. They aren’t patched like software or upgraded like hardware. For some, this will be bothersome. If learning is nothing more than a gap filler until career, this probably sounds counter intuitive. If learning becomes its own end, then it has value because it aims at wisdom. We might dare to say that it has eternal value. Not only is this something that is lost completely when interacting with an AI (sidebar, try asking one a difficult moral question, you won’t be impressed), but an immature posture of thought will begin to rate the artificial product as superior to the genuine article. Should people begin to look down on thought as being the province of inferior machines, they will inevitably wind up dependent on those machines to do their thinking.
For all of our advancements in technology and data support, our society isn’t turning out the giants of old. A careful look at the past indicates that God uses the very processes that AI would allow us to skip in order to grow us.
Try following some of that thinking out to its conclusion. For all of our advancements in technology and data support, our society isn’t turning out the giants of old. A careful look at the past indicates that God uses the very processes that AI would allow us to skip in order to grow us. To spend time interacting with other believers is one of the great blessings of this life. It is a necessary part of our growth. To do so with the Lord Almighty is the unmerited favor offered at the cross. It transforms and renews us. Joining with the foolish and wicked shapes us into something horrific. What then should we make of such time spent with something neither human nor divine?