AI Hype and the Risks of Dehumanization: A Critical Look at Education Technology

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I listened to an EdSurge podcast on my commute this morning titled “How AI Could Spark Fundamental Shifts in Education.” While the podcast raised thought-provoking questions about how AI could transform learning, it also revealed the tendency for experts to overhype and make overly optimistic predictions about these technologies.

The podcast interviewed two authors of a paper speculating on the future impacts of AI in education. They discussed scenarios ranging from AI being banned to humans uploading knowledge directly to our brains “Matrix”-style. While imaginative, all of these predictions need to be taken with a huge grain of salt. As the history of AI shows, our ability to foresee technological change is extremely limited.

Past predictions about AI have almost universally overestimated its capabilities and timeframe. For example, the podcast mentioned how one of the pioneers of AI in the 1950s thought we would solve computer vision in a summer. Yet it took over 50 more years to achieve major breakthroughs in that area. This illustrates the poor track record experts have in forecasting AI’s development.

Furthermore, the speakers gave little attention to the risks and potential downsides of these technologies. There was an implicit assumption that AI will inevitably advance and that we must adapt our education systems accordingly. But there are real dangers in terms of these technologies deskilling professionals, displacing human roles, and diminishing rather than enhancing our capabilities.

Rather than speculating on fanciful scenarios of brain implants and AI-run corporations, we should have a sober assessment of if and how to implement AI ethically. This requires focusing less on hypothetical futures and more on education’s core purposes – fostering creativity, critical thinking, empathy and human connection. If technology is dehumanizing or detracting from those goals, it should be rejected, not embraced.

AI may yield transformative changes, but they will likely unfold gradually and unevenly. Evaluating new edtech tools requires avoiding both utopian dreams and dystopian nightmares. With care and wisdom, we can harness AI’s benefits while avoiding its hazards. But we must approach it skeptically, not as cheerleaders or passive determinists. The future remains unwritten, and we must take responsibility for shaping education technology, not be shaped by it.

Author: Dave

LX Designer, entrepreneur & change agent. Immersed in collaborations that improve learning & working environments. Sometimes, I go fishing.

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