Proteus vs Papert – Musings by Dr. Jasmin B. Cowin

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What does the future of public, private and corporate education hold for us? I believe Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, natural language processing, neural nets and deep learning will be the catalysts for world-changing disruptions in fields such as medicine, education, and job creation. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, Ford, Tesla to name but a few are positioned to be leaders in this transformation. Questions on institutional pathways to success and viability need to be framed against the background of AI, super intelligent machines and the broader questions of humanity and human consciousness.

In The Gears of my ChildhoodSeymour Papert states “What an individual can learn, and how he learns it, depends on what models he has available. These questions raise, recursively, the question of how he learned these models. Thus the “laws of learning” must be about how intellectual structures grow out of one another and about how, in the process, they acquire both logical and emotional form.” Papart sees the computer as the “proteus of machines,” the universal enabler, an instrument flexible enough so that “many children can create something” which assimilates new models of knowledge into their individual styles of learning. However, kindling the spark of “love” for learning and inquiry as the driving force in creating a “genesis of knowledge” is the dominant message of Papert’s essay and the universal message to and for educators.

For Ray Kurzweil “Technology goes beyond mere tool making; it is a process of creating ever more powerful technology using the tools from the previous round of innovation.” As a generation of students prepares for their future, they must be prepared for a fluid and lifetime assimilation of new technology and models of national and international coexistence.  However, Luke Rhinehart aka George Cockcroft, a psychiatrist, university professor, and writer of the cult novel The Dice Man wrote: “Man must become comfortable in flowing from one role to another, one set of values to another, one life to another. Men must be free from boundaries, patterns, and consistencies in order to be free to think, feel and create in new ways. Men have admired Prometheus and Mars too long; our God must become Proteus.”

Thinking about the future of education and humanity brought forth the questions: Is the quest for AI a quest to create God? If yes, in whose image? Alternatively, is this quest for the ultimate AI the ultimate archetypical story on the search for immortality? After all, humans have fantasized about the possibility of bringing a loved one back from the dead ever since that fateful, everlasting separation of Eurydice and her husband Orpheus on their wedding day through the venom of a viper. In this light, Rhinehart’s words that “men must be free from boundaries” seem prophetic.

Author: drcowinj

As an Assistant Professor for TESOL and Bilingual Programs at Touro College, Graduate School of Education Dr. Cowin’s focus is on the Responsibility to Touro Students (Teaching), Responsibility to the Discipline (Scholarship), Responsibility to Touro College and Community (Service). Dr. Cowin strives to inspire students to be creative and to model the love of lifelong learning by inculcating the habits and attitudes that create agile mindsets. 21st-century learning extends well beyond the classroom, and Dr. Cowin incorporates takes full advantage of online learning technologies for L2 language acquisition and current global trends in teaching English as a Second Language She represents high levels of scholarship and participates fully in the larger world of TESOL academic discipline. Ongoing research, expressed in scholarly contributions to the advancement of knowledge is demonstrated through publication, presentation and participation in academic conferences, articles in Education Update, blogging and other scholarly activities, including public performances or exhibitions at conferences and workshops such as the Plekhanov University of Economics keynote address in 2018. Of special interest to her are The Blockchain of Things and its implications for Higher Education, Current Global Trends in Teaching English; Developing Materials and Resources in Teaching English – Methodology; E-learning & Micro-Methodology in Teaching English; and E-Resources Discovery and Analysis.

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