Can robots fill the teacher shortage?

With the help of Derek Robertson

As leaders battled over the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations in New York this weekCynthia Breazeal, dean of digital learning at MIT and director of MIT RAISE, came to town with a different mission: to change your mind about artificial intelligence and robots.

It is a field dominated by the talk of efficiency and cost savings, and subject to controversy due to job losses and the surveillance implications of technology.

Breazeal is a different kind of tech evangelist who uses the UN General Assembly carnival to preach about “design justice” and “AI that helps promote human prosperity.” And he wants your kids to use AI both at and outside of school.

In from researchAI is a potential savior for children whose educational trajectories have been distorted by Covid, including refugees or children with disabilities unsupported by school systems.

The numbers in need of support are huge. There are around 36 million displaced children worldwideand globally, “80% of children with intellectual disabilities do not go to school,” Tim Shriver, president of the Special Olympics, told me.

With the United Nations predicting a global shortage of teachers around 70 million by 2030so-called Socially assisted robots – which aim to interact with people in emotional or intellectually useful ways – may be among the most viable ways to help these groups develop and catch up with peers.

The United Nations Office for Innovation is concerned about the “AI Generation” – officials say national AI strategies, where they exist, hardly mention children. If AI is partial and embeds that bias in people from a young age, it’s not clear who is responsible or how it can be undone, for example.

How do you test AI with children? “We actually teach the teacher and parents enough about AI, which isn’t a scary thing,” Breazeal said of plans for a pilot project in Clarkston, Georgia, for refugees. the “Ellis Island of the South”.

“We want to be very clear on what the role of the robot is in relation to the community, of which this robot is a part. This is part of the ethical thinking of design, ”continued Breazeal,“ we don’t want the robot to overstep its responsibilities. All our data we collect is protected and encrypted. “

How do parents and teachers react to the role of a robot in their children’s lives? “It’s not about replacing people at all, it’s about augmenting human networks,” said Breazeal. “It’s not about a robot tutor, where teachers want to compete against the robot,” he said.

Breazeal said the children he studied “don’t confuse these robots with a dog or a person, they see it as an entity in its own right,” almost. “like a Disney companion playing with you, like an equal.

What works with children in need could also be leveraged for other age groups and communities. “Much of this project is to work out ethical frameworks and processes that go beyond the specifics of this particular case study,” said Breazeal.

Like new technologies like blockchain and immersive VR on the net starting to transform the digital landscape, veterans of the current digital governance regime are starting to think about their wider impact.

In a panel held yesterday by the McCourt Institute entitled “Digital Governance and the State of Democracy: Why Does it Matter?” a group that included Erik Brynjolfsson of Stanford, Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser and Maggie Little of the Georgetown Ethics Lab came together to let off steam. The main point of consensus: whatever we did last time didn’t work.

“We built a system that not by design, but by effect, amplifies the most primitive parts of our brains,” said Brynjolfsson. “This is not the part that created the civilization we want.”

Pariser proposed a more radically public conception of digital spaces than the one the world has seen in recent years, saying “I think we live in an essentially autocratic digital environment. Yes, you can participate, you can post a tweet, but if you want to change the way Twitter works, you must have $ 50 billion, or it’s a person, at the end of the day; there are like five guys who ultimately make all the decisions about how these systems work. “

“If people don’t feel like they have significant power over their environment, then they either start to withdraw or are looking for someone powerful enough to break through,” he added. “Like Elon.” – Derek Robertson

Divisions within the Democratic Party on cryptocurrency policy they begin to be clearer.

A bill presented to the Senate Agriculture Committee last month that would place cryptocurrency regulation under the purview of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, largely considered more favorable than the SEC alternative, has gained both considerable advocate and a detractor. As first reported by Sam Sutton of POLITICO in today’s Morning MoneySenator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, said when asked about the bill that his committee has a “healthier skepticism” about cryptocurrencies than its agricultural counterpart.

Meanwhile, Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.) has agreed to present the counterpart to the bill in the House, stating in a statement that it will provide “regulatory clarity” and “provide consumers with the information they need to take correct decisions “. This echoes the slightly defensive tone taken by CFTC chairman Rostin Behnam, who said in a Senate Ag committee hearing on the bill last week that the commission “brought nearly 60 cases of digital asset enforcement, including a recent issue involving a fraudulent $ 1.7 billion bitcoin regime “since 2014, and that the bill would allow it to exercise its” full oversight skills without restrictions. “

Among the most prominent members of the Senate Banking Committee are Brown and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Two of the Senate’s hottest consumer watchdogs and standard-bearers of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing, in contrast to Maloney. , a moderate member of the New Democrat Coalition. It is still too early (and too trivial) to label either wing of the party as reflexively anti- or pro-crypto, respectively, but the nascent alignment around the Stabenow-Boozman bill is certainly in favor. of him. – Derek Robertson

Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Constantine Kakaes ([email protected]); Other Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us @DigitalFuture on Twitter.

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