Tag Archive for future

The Abridged Versions of Everything

It occurs to me that the problem is probably not the use of “abridged” versions of any topic in education.

When you’re in fourth grade and you learn about any given subject, be it mathematics, history, grammar… You receive a shorthand version. What are considered to be key elements have been selected. They have been presented in a format that is something that the fourth grade mind can get its head around.

As you get older and you revisit these topics, you are exposed to how little you actually know. You find out that everything goes much deeper than the initial casual brush against it you had when you were a fourth grader.

But, for some strange reason, fourth or fifth grade (in US education terms) seems to be where many people’s knowledge sticks. Those are the facts, as abbreviated as they might be, that stay with people until long into adulthood. And I would argue that these early simplified forms are important. In fact, they are very important. They provide a beginning and an ending to a complex topic, they package it into something that most kids can learn in the space a school year. 

Every teacher has had a student who once they figure out 1+1 = 2 they want to know what happens when you try to -2 from one.  And, while that may be beyond the boundaries of the current lesson, because the lesson is directed at conveying the basic fact that 1+1 = 2,  negative numbers at this point become a distraction. But just because they are not part of the *current* lesson doesn’t mean they have ceased to exist. They don’t go away because you’re not exposed to them in the early stages of your education.

The same can be argued of history, of politics. The versions of history that you’ve learned in fourth grade are sanitized. They are merely a high concept that is designed to be as accessible to as many fourth grade minds as possible. The current versions may leave a lot to be desired, but it’s not the abridgement itself that’s the problem. It’s the lens through which those edits were made.

That deeper breadth of content is out there. The facts don’t cease to exist because your fourth grade textbook skipped them. That means a new lens can be applied in light of everything we know now, and a new abridgement can be designed, one that’s in better keeping with the realities of the diverse and flourishing future that everyone says they’re reaching for.

In fourth grade we were taught that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.  When you take a high school class you learn that Columbus was an asshole and that history is kind only to the ones who write it.  When you get to college you learn just how deep the damage went.  You learn, if you choose to continue pursuing the topic, that fourth grade is merely a nursery rhyme compared to the historical fact that underpins it.

I do not advocate for teaching calculus in fourth grade (without some consideration for special case students). I do not advocate for teaching the full depth and breath of history in that same year. The shorthand is important, the digestibility and easy remembrance of events on the timeline is key. But as those lessons were first originally designed to be celebrate-able in the service of a very one-sided historical identity. We now have the opportunity to create new ones, more inclusive ones. We have an opportunity to upscale the selection of facts to raise a generation with a better historical identity. A generation that can build on the mistakes and successes of the past, rather than remaining trapped in repetition.

If fourth and fifth grade are where knowledge sticks, lets make a change to better select that knowledge. We get to decide who we are. No other species on this planet has that privilege. Let’s leverage it for the next generation.

Set it and Forget it




Some day I will own a Tesla.  That’s a given.  Not sure how I will actually, you know, pay for it, but a gal can dream, right?

As cool as this is, though, I’m seeing only half of the equation here. Something Tesla doesn’t usually forget.  The people half.

Humans like to f*ck with stuff. I’m not speaking of our innate desire to break open the housing and see the glowy flashy bits, but rather our inability to just leave something alone.  To set it and forget it, because we know, we KNOW, deep in our brains, that the one time we don’t double-check, is the one time something will go wrong and we will burn our house down..

Imagine, if you will, pulling into your garage in your shiny shiny e-car, pulling the parking brake and walking away.  No muss, no fuss.

You can’t do it, can you.

You’re going to end up standing there, every time, just to make sure your magic snakey-charger plugs in properly.  At first, it will be because it’s just so *cool*, but then you’ll find you just don’t trust it.  What if, this time, you parked an inch too far to the left?  What if one of the connectors doesn’t seat right?  Your palms will itch with the desire to just plug the d*mn thing in YOURSELF and be done with it.  And if you *do* walk away, you’re going to come back, just to make sure, even if it’s two in the morning and you’ve woken in the middle of the night.

Because there are some things we just cannot let go of.



Talk Data to Me



There’s a difference, a pretty large difference, between an AI and a chatbot. It’s perhaps hard to see if you’re on the receiving end, if you don’t know what to look for, but the way they act and react are different and in the case of a chatbot, once you figure out how the logic behind it works, you can talk it in circles.  Which is a good way to kill an afternoon, if you’re bored on the intarwebz.

Not that I have ever done this.  Oh no, not me.

The point of a chatbot, usually, is to mimic conversation.  They are often not capable of *steering* a conversation themselves, they don’t, or can’t, as leading questions unless the developer has planned ahead (and even then, you can tell when the canned questions come into play, the segues are never terribly smooth).  What they can do reasonably well, however, is continue a conversation in much the same way that many humans do.  It deconstructs your sentence, pulls the appropriate verbs and subjects, and constructs a question or response of it’s own.

If you’ve ever gotten a customer service call, or contacted customer service through one of those “live chat” services offered by banks and online retailers you’ve likely encountered a few chatbots.  Depending on the sophistication, they are often used to just collect your basic information before passing you off to a real-live human, but you can hear the difference if you listen.