Several of us from Taupaki School attended the Singularity Summit in Christchurch recently. This is the second in a couple of blog posts exploring my notes and reflections from the three days. Click here for the first post.

Part 2. Day 2 and 3.

Artificial Intelligence

Neil Jacobstein describes A.I as: Pattern recognition techniques; software agents; a vision of superhuman intelligence and computer science accelerating other technologies. But he warns of the importance of keeping our critical thinking hats on.

He talked about a practical framework for understand and using A.I (see Operational Recommendations in the slide below).

Artifical intelligence is being used in a variety of industries in many different ways. Neil tells us that  60 + start ups are already using Deep Learning and that Watson is becoming mainstream. There has been a huge advancement in computing power and IBM’s True North Is but just one example of this. We now have real time information discovery using software like Tensorflow and we can crowd source experts using Experfy

So what is A.I’s added value? There are lots of examples in healthcare like personalising treatments, DNA sequencing and more accurate diagnoses of disease. It has even been used to help people in poverty with credit card debt (Affirm ) and bringing transparency to the business world with Kensho. We can see that Education features on the above A.I category heat map, but Neil suggests that Education will be fast moving up the list for one on one communication.

Lastly he talked about Responsibility – this is a big one. Trust is going to big issue. Us trusting it and it trusting us. There needs to be a real emphasis on security, empathy, ethics and us all taking responsibility, because we are all in this together.

Ethics

Speaking of Ethics, ethics seemed to be a reoccurring theme throughout many of the talks. Amin Toufani talked about the changing landscape of economics and equity. Rich people typically benefit more from technology and we need to really think about how we can use technology to benefit those in need. He talked about a potential shift from ownership to access, which could lead to a more sharing economy. An example of this might be renting out your self-driving car when you are not using it at work. But with the use of Bitcoin our self-driving connected car might be able to pay the car in front to slow down so you can get past it and get to work faster. This seems to move us away from the direction of equity.. Technology can either create more inequality or reduce inequality that choice is ours and we need to own the choices we make.

This is a quote from a homeless lady who sat on the street with nothing but her old typewriter. She said to Amin that she would write a poem on anything he wanted. So he asked her to write a poem on exponential technologies. It is still making me smile.

Security

Mark Goodman talked about security and criminals as being early adopters of technology. Given Education’s increasing shift to a paperless world and the number of student’s on devices and our IT infrastructures in schools, this is one talk we should be sitting up straight for. I can’t reproduce any of the content of the talk (we were asked not to), but will give you the gist of why it is important and some ideas for making your world more secure based on trips to security conferences.

One example you may have heard about is is criminals using current gaming trends like Pokémon Go to lure people to remote locations to rob them This is a good example of thinking critically about the tech you are using. Our phones have Geo tracking on which is easy for hackers to intercept.

Ransomware is on the rise and the interconnectedness of the Internet of Things opens us up our surface attack area on unprecedented scale.

So what can we do? (tips picked up from Kiwicon over the years)

  • Change your password frequently and always use different ones for different logins. Use a password manager like KeePass to keep all your randomly generated passwords in.
  • Don’t ever give your password to anyone. Seems simple but many get caught out by people who are experts at tricking you into giving them hints about your password.
  • Always apply updates as soon as they become available – unpatched software is an open door for hackers.
  • Phishing scams are still the most common way to get attacked so learning how to spot one is essential.
  • Consider using multifactor authentication. This is becoming much quicker and easier these days.
  • Check out Netsafe and Cyberpatriots
  • Have a look at this security in education discussion at NetHui and related blogpost.
  • Go to at least one security conference in your lifetime (like Kiwicon )

Education

Sue Suckling was just brilliant. She stood up and declared the age of exams is over – a brave lady who was very deserving of that standing ovation.

Sue talked about what is different about our current environment and why we need to change. She suggests:

  • We are hyper connected.
  • The future of jobs is uncertain. We know we will have mass job loss to Robots and that landscape is changing all the time
  • Education is borderless
  • Increase of online study e.g. Deakin and MOOCs
  • Digital native norms. She talks about Don Tapscott and his idea of digital native norms. (I am not so sure about this, I am looking into it more).
  • Demonetisation – degrees for free and mentions the Manaiakalani Trust
  • Power to the individual  –  learning from You Tube and Makerspaces.

What will qualifications look like in the future? This will depend on what is relevant, what is needed for the subject, what competencies are needed, what character dispositions are needed and includes record of participation.

She says verification is important (that learners can do what they say they can do) and fair enough – I want to know that the person flying my plane is competent at it. This is where Blockchain can come in as a permanent record of skills and competencies. But we still need verification of providers. She suggests a rating system, which is an interesting idea as humans are riddled with bias and machines are programmed by humans so can inherit their bias. I hope this one is thought through.

The biggest surprise for me was was when Sue talked about the blockers to change being fear from the students themselves. We as a society have spent decades indoctrinating them into a system where you need a degree to get a job. That is what we have taught them. The question now is how do we change this? How do we talk to our young people to support them in taking the leap of change? Find your Billion is a brilliant initiative and a great place to start!

A vision for the future of education according to Sue:

So what? What now?

So after hearing all those talks these three things stuck out for me as being important competencies and dispositions:

  1. Critical thinking – The ability to interrogate the world around us and make better decisions.
  2. Ethical competency – An understanding of ethical theories and applied ethics. Ethics gives us a framework to view our actions from a 360 degree view. How might this product harm or help others? What is the right decision when there seems to be no right answer? What moral guidelines am I or should I be guided by?
  3. Empathy – We are going to need it in spades. At this rate of change, technology has the potential to increase or decrease inequality in society, to allow us create or destroy and empower or disempower others. So we had better care and take responsibility for each other and what lies ahead because our future generations depend on it.

Knowing how machines and the internet works, the place of information security in the future and the possibilities of biohacking seem like good things to know about. What was crystal clear is that business’s and school’s that don’t adapt to change and hold on to their old ways, will end up left behind, slowly becoming obsolete and not realisng it, until they are.

I wasn’t scared by what I heard and saw at the Summit, rather super excited and filled with hope about what’s possible in our future.

Professional reading suggestions:

*These are my notes from SU. If any of this interests you, I would suggest doing some further reading as this is my interpretation and sense making of what I heard. Also check out these great blog posts on SU reflections:

https://twitter.com/taratj/status/799891136512860160

https://twitter.com/claireamosnz/status/799841299457159168

http://www.thinkbeyond.co.nz/blog/exponential-change-prepare-disruption/?platform=hootsuite

 

 

Part one: Day one:

Several of us from Taupaki School attended the Singularity Summit in Christchurch recently. This is the first in a couple of blog posts exploring my notes and reflections from the three days. I am still processing a lot of this and what it means for Education and our future, so these are just my ‘initial thinkings’

The first day was set aside for speakers to introduce some important concepts in order for the attendees to be able to get their heads around the impeding cascade of content that was to come in the following days.

The first concept was this idea of exponential change, which in this context, refers to the idea that the world is changing at a far greater rate than ever before. In fact Kurzweil suggests that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century. This is all because of a thing called the Law of Accelerating Returns. An example of this is computing power doubling every year and halving in price. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

This is a concept that humans find really hard to get their head around and the graph explains why. Simply put we humans think linearly not exponentially. This lures us into a false sense of the speed of change. It always feels like we are in that spot labeled ‘present day’ and from that viewpoint change looks liner. Check out the Wait But Why blog post for more information.

My first takeaway had hit – I really had no idea, none, about how to be responsive to that rate of change or how to raise my consciousness of it. Lucky the next few days offered some content for comfort.

Breaking capitalism

One of my favorite speakers was Tiago Mattos who talked about Abundance and Scarcity models. Which, in short, mean you either have a belief that there are not enough resources for everyone (Scarcity) or you believe that there are enough resources to go around (Abundance mindset). I wonder if we talked to our students, children and co-workers about changing our mindsets from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset, how that might change our approach to our interactions, behaviours and mental models around building products.

All we know is capitalism, I thought this could be a really nice framework to build an alternative where ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ we work together, we are great, we achieved this together.

Tiago offered a continuum of ways of being:

  • Depriving humanity – The Dementor approach to life
  • Apathetic – Everything sucks
  • Lone Warrior – Egocentric (gets things done, but on their own)
  • Tribal pride  –  (our company is great)
  • Innocent wonderment – (we are all great). I am wondering how this mindset might map onto complexity theory, in terms of influencing how people interact within systems with each other – much more thinking here for me to do….

Disruption

David Roberts talked about disruption and I think it was one of the most important talks because he clarified for me what disruption meant. I had felt a bit uncomfortable with the term for a while after hearing a lot of talk like “we need to disrupt education” as if it were an ointment that we apply to all the broken areas of education.

David used the spice trade as an example of how disruption works. The spice trade was a booming industry and spices were worth more than gold due to their popularity in preserving food (we know they don’t, they just make rotten food taste better – but they did not know that then). Along comes Frederick Tudor who invented the first insulated warehouse and completely disrupted the spice industry. He didn’t intend to he was just experimenting with putting ice into a wooden crate and shipping it around the world.

No one in the spice trade made it into the ice trade. Just let that sink in. Disruption is unlikely to come from the industry you are in and you won’t see it coming.

So ask yourself this question: As educators what are we in the business of? What industry are we really in?

And prepare: In my view one of the best ways to prepare is to be agile enough to pivot when disruption happens.

And Remember: Innovation is doing the same thing better. Invention is making new things. Disruption is doing new things that make old thing obsolete.

Click here for the next blog post on the Singularity Summit exploring Artificial intelligence, Security, Education and the So Whats?