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Grouse with the Sky

30 May

On Sunday, I was playing a game of Innovation.  Innovation is a unique card game where player’s quest for achievements, the person who score five achievements wins.  This was the first time I was playing the game and as usual in a new game, it took me a while to figure out what I was doing.  As I proceeded through man’s history of innovations, represented by cards separated by ages, I found myself doing better as later age cards came my way.  An opponent, who had done well in earlier ages, found himself reeling from the cards I found myself with in later rounds of the game.  As he stayed in the past, using his older technology, my newer technology found a way to catch up and help me win the game.

One of the things I love about games is how they take something in real life and simplify it.  Laying it bare before you and sometimes letting you see the hidden truth of life.  In Innovation it was about how technology, man’s innovations changed society, how those who stayed behind and did not change were left behind.  Moreover, no one died, but not all opponents fared as well as others.  There were winners and losers.

Some people who read my articles will think I just side with technology, always seeing the positives and never seeing the disadvantages.  I will take that assessment and live with it, I do like to see the positives in the possibilities, because of the negatives of the realities.   That is to say, what could be done for the benefit of the whole is often ignored for the benefit of the few.  We have so many leaders who say they are looking out of the best for all, when reality is they are looking to the benefit of themselves.  This selfishness becomes a detriment to them in the end.  In addition, so many times in my life I have seen those who put selfishness to the side, ultimately prosper more.  Moreover, because we are a society that values a good cover, we sometimes never see the truth.

Every week, sometimes every day, I am reminded of how things are changing because of the current revolution we are going through.  Technology is once again changing us and it amazes me those who complain or use fear to dissuade the change.  Especially those who complain the loudest from their air-conditioned house, while using a phone or using a pencil and piece of paper to complain about the future.  Never once considering the things they are using to complain are the result of technology and change.  What is even sadder is the realization that those who are older or in power are using fear to prop up that which is obsolete and must go.

One such recent example of this is the Post Office.  The Post Office is becoming endangered and soon will no longer serve a good purpose.  One of the reasons the Post Office still exists is because of the slow growth of reliable broadband access in the country.  People just do not have the need for paper form of communication like they did before, when more direct and quicker options such as Texting, IM and E-Mail exist today.  And when you the reason for saving the institution is that senior citizens need junk mail to keep them company is a never a good sign.

Someone will be quick to point out that you cannot send a package any other way.  And while that is true, I will be quick to point out other companies who do that job also.

Another thing I am noticing is the fact that corporations and institutions (I am starting to think this is a very bad word) who have had a lock on certain sectors are starting to watch their grip fall away.   We have seen news agencies lose some of their grip to the rise of the blogger and man on the street reporting.  We are also seeing delivery of things like entertainment (music, movies) completely change power structures.  The traditional is becoming the old, and the ancient before our eyes.  Moreover, those who are not careful to watch the changes are going to swept up and left behind.

It is ironic to see the complaint about unfairness of current power structures towards those not in power, when the system that is so unfair is being made fair on its own.   It is almost as if the system finds a way of balancing itself out.  We are seeing the Horse and Buggy makers laughing at the Automobile makers in modern day.  Moreover, in the end those that put themselves ahead of others, ultimately find themselves the real losers.  In a world of “dog eat dog”, everyone loses.

In experiments at six public universities, students assigned randomly to statistics courses that relied heavily on “machine-guided learning” software — with reduced face time with instructors — did just as well, in less time, as their counterparts in traditional, instructor-centric versions of the courses. This largely held true regardless of the race, gender, age, enrollment status and family background of the students.
http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/22/report-robots-stack-human-professors-teaching-intro-stats

This past week I found this story among my daily reads.  The article is about how machine guided instruction can be cheaper and more beneficial students then traditional forms of education.  Moreover, as with anything that disrupts the current, the shore of dissent arises.  Reading the comments to the article it is clear that those in power and those that have a vested interest are going to be resistive to change.

Now I will be quick to point out that:

The robotic software did have disadvantages, the researchers found. For one, students found it duller than listening to a live instructor. Some felt as though they had learned less, even if they scored just as well on tests. Engaging students, such as professors might by sprinkling their lectures with personal anecdotes and entertaining asides, remains one area where humans have the upper hand.

Change is not going to happen overnight and testing will need to happen to balance the two out.  Machine Guided Learning (also known as Online Learning) has a lot of bugs to iron out, but it is the a solution to a problem traditional learning cannot solve.  That is, those students that do not fit the averages of learning, and want to move forward on their own.  In the last five years there has been a movement towards Open Source Learning, that is higher education allowing anyone access to their educational materials to learn on their own.

I almost (sadly not) enrolled in Stanford’s free Introduction to Artificial Intelligence.  This was a free Online Course.

One thing that I ponder is why this is such a bad future for society as a whole.  The traditional would say that you get what you pay for, but is it not in our best interest to do what we can to pass on the next generation better opportunities in areas such as education, even if that costs society more.  Now when I talk about bigger costs I am not talking just about money, but about jobs.  Just as the Industrial Revolution cost jobs, I see the same happening now.  The traditional is becoming obsolete and that is not always a bad thing, as people will make it out to be.  In addition, looking at the situation as a whole the benefit to the whole of society outweighs the benefit of the few.

A few years ago, I was reading a book about how people romanticize about the past.  The never look back on the past with the proper light of truth.  People fantasize the past, looking at it through rose-colored stained glass windows never letting the truth come to light.  Because as we know fantasy is always better then reality…

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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Technology

 

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