Saturday, September 12, 2015

What we've got here is failure to communicate

If you have ever watched America's Funniest Home Videos, you know that towards the end the studio audience votes for the top three by using the clickers they have been handed.  Those clickers made their way into higher education, too.  Of course!  I did not ever want to use them in my classes.  It is a wonderful tool, no doubt, but it depended on the sincerity of students to use that in order to advance their own learning.  I was afraid that without that sincere interest in learning, well, the disaster that education is will become a catastrophe.

Clickers and bubble-in answer sheets are machine-friendly, unlike oral and written communication. Can you imagine the complexity if a machine has to read essays that students turn in, provide comments, and finally determine letter-grades?

Hey, what if we could do away with the complexity of communication itself?  Nicholas Carr writes that a few weeks ago "Mark Zuckerberg offered a peek into the future of interpersonal communication":
One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full, rich thoughts to each other directly using technology. You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too if you’d like. This would be the ultimate communication technology.
This is where you need to pause and think whether Zuckerberg's future is what we really want.

Did you think about it?

Carr then provides this interpretation:
But there is another, less frequently articulated reason why Silicon Valley wants to replace speech. One characteristic of verbal languages is that nobody can own them. Meanwhile, emoji characters are copyrighted, and software can be patented. The machinic capacity to measure emotions via the face or tone of voice is in the possession of businesses, and currently being rapidly capitalized by private-equity investment. Industrial capitalism privatized the means of production. Digital capitalism seeks to privatize the means of communication.
Do you see where this argument is going?  You need to pause and think.

Did you think about it?

Let me bring in Carr:
The best solution, if you have a need to get computers to “understand” human communication, may to be avoid the problem altogether. Instead of figuring out how to get computers to understand natural language, you get people to speak artificial language, the language of computers. A good way to start is to encourage people to express themselves not through messy assemblages of fuzzily defined words but through neat, formal symbols — emoticons or emoji, for instance.
 Now do you see what the worry is?  No?  Come on, already!
When we speak with emoji, we’re speaking a language that machines can understand.
People like Mark Zuckerberg have always been uncomfortable with natural language. Now, they can do something about it.
Of course, using emojis today will not literally change the world tomorrow.  But, what we need to recognize here is this: we are slowly changing our daily behavior in order to make them increasingly computer-friendly.  We change our behaviors in ways that make it easier for algorithms to understand what we do, what we say, where we go, what we eat, ... Meanwhile, we willingly feed those machines continuous data on our walking, breathing, blood pressure, pulse, thumb-print, ... Remember this from a while ago:
 Apple is building a world in which there is a computer in your every interaction, waking and sleeping. A computer in your pocket. A computer on your body. A computer paying for all your purchases. A computer opening your hotel room door. A computer monitoring your movements as you walk though the mall. A computer watching you sleep. A computer controlling the devices in your home. A computer that tells you where you parked. A computer taking your pulse, telling you how many steps you took, how high you climbed and how many calories you burned—and sharing it all with your friends…. THIS IS THE NEW APPLE ECOSYSTEM. APPLE HAS TURNED OUR WORLD INTO ONE BIG UBIQUITOUS COMPUTER.
Have a good weekend ;)

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