“Leaving on a Jet Plane” performed by Peter, Paul and Mary is playing on Pandora. It is their selection for what I might like. Bruce Jenner, Brian Williams and a 50 foot sculpture of Darth Vader at the Sapporo Snow Festival are trending on Facebook. Jenner and Williams are also trending on Twitter, along with a bunch of things I’m not following. Also trending on Twitter is #msc2015, the Munich Security Conference.
The technological singularity is the hypothesis that accelerating progress in technologies will cause a runaway effect wherein artificial intelligence will exceed human intellectual capacity and control, thus radically changing civilization in an event called the singularity. Because the capabilities of such an intelligence may be impossible for a human to comprehend, the technological singularity is an occurrence beyond which events may become unpredictable, unfavorable, or even unfathomable.
Have we reached the technological singularity? Are these snapshots of what is now trending in social media glimpses into some artificial intelligence? After all, besides all those algorithms looking for what is trending or of interest to us, Watson is reading what we write online.
Yes, perhaps as Wikipedia says in its definition of the technological singularity, “unfathomable”.
So, let me present a way to think about the technological singularity. It grew out of my interest in the work of Wilfred Bion and Group Relations combined with some work with artificial neural networks back in the nineties.
The internet is a network of networks. If we accept the idea that each one of us is a neural network, then our social networks are networks of neural networks. What keeps this inter-neural-network from having some sort of intelligence?
One of the key things in artificial neural networks is the ability to learn from a process called back propagation. If the predicted results differ from the actual results, the strength of connections between nodes are altered to bring the results closer inline.
Long before the days of Twitter and Facebook, I pondered such a system. How could you get individuals, nodes in this inter-neural-network, to modify the strength of their links? Now, Facebook has addressed this. You can like, comment on, or share posts, strengthening the links. Or, you can unfriend someone. The network is evolving.
How is this inter-neural-network shaping us, changing us? How can we understand it? To what extent can we understand it?
It is evolving. So are my thoughts. More later…
Another winter storm watch is in effect for parts of New England, starting Sunday evening at 7 PM, shortly after kickoff for the Superbowl. I suspect many Patriots fans are hoping for a snow day on Monday, and also hoping, perhaps without the thought having yet crossed their mind, that we don’t lose power during the game. Others will hope that a travel ban doesn’t go into effect until after the game ends.
I am not a big football fan. I’ll watch the game at home with my family. No, we won’t be traveling during the storm. And throughout the storm, I expect that I’ll be working to get the message out about any closings or other considerations for my co-workers.
It is bitter cold outside today, at least by New England standards, with wind chill factors around zero. I did make the trip to the dump, not because there was a lot of trash, but in case I can’t go next week and the trash piles up.
I glance outside as I hear the latest gust and the creaking of the house. I see light snow blowing from roof to drift to driveway.
A child said What is the snow? fetching it to me with full hands;
How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he.
I’ve spent my day, besides the time I spent going to the dump, resting, and participating in online courses. This afternoon, I read section six of “Song of Myself” and watched a video of teachers talking about the poem. Leaves of Grass, Banks of Snow.
As I listen to the teachers speak, the words of Emerson come to mind:
Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views, which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given, forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries, when they wrote these books.
Are these teachers, critiquing Whitman as a teacher about grass forgetting Whitman’s educational experience, who ended his formal schooling at age eleven?
I made it further. I didn’t end my formal education until I was twenty, just shy of getting a college degree. Yet I find my thoughts about education closer to those of Emerson and Whitman, perhaps tinted with a little Piaget, Papert, and now, perhaps, George Siemens.
Besides the Whitman class that I’m taking online, I’m taking a course on Teaching with Moodle. As part of the class, I needed to set up my own course using Moodle, so I set up Moodle and Connectivism. The course, currently, has a link to Siemens’ paper, and a sample quiz and assignment; the parts of the course needed for the teaching course.
Of course, it is something that I’m constructing as I go, and learn more about Connectivism. It is also set up for other students to connect in, so that we can all learn together, and perhaps that is part of what Whitman is talking about anyway.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
“All goes onward and outward…”
When we learn something new, it is useful to spend some time thinking about our experiences and analysing our progress.
About half way through the first week of the Teaching with Moodle course, we are being encouraged to reflect on our learning.
Being an old guard geek, most of the stuff we are learning are things that I’ve already picked up, or probably would have picked up pretty quickly just by playing with Moodle. It is fairly easy to use. What is more interesting to me are the discussions about how it is, or can be, used.
I now have a better idea about how to organize topics for a class. I’ve also been more directed in playing with it, learning more about blocks, enrollment and tracking completion of course tasks.
This last part has brought about one of the more interesting discussions. Should you set up Forums so that they automatically complete a section of the course based on what the student has posted, or do you leave a manual completion check box for the student to check off? How does this relate to badges, and how important are badges and gamification? What other ways can you encourage participation in the Moodle?
These are issues I spend a lot of time thinking about in terms of social media, how to encourage participation, badges and gamification.
This leads to some other interesting discussions, such as the role of lurkers in a class, or in social media. As one possible longer term todo, it seems like a literature review of the use of badges and gamification in education is called for. I may tackle that when I have more time.
Another interesting discussion has been about the age of students in Moodle. Do younger students, digital natives, find it easier to use a Moodle? How does this relate to ideas of education around Constructivism, Constructionism, Connectivism, and other learning theories?
It has also brought up an interest in exploring the conditional activities in Moodle.
Hopefully, I’ll spend more time reflecting on this later, when I’m not so busy and tired. I look forward to reading some of the other learners experiences.
With the snow and cold, I decided to take it fairly easy this weekend, resting and reading. Mostly what I’ve been reading has been material from an EdX MOOC about Walt Whitman and a Moodle course about Teaching with Moodle.
For this evening, however, there are a few things that caught my attention from the Moodle course. The Moodle uses Badges as part of the system; particularly Mozilla OpenBadges>. I earned my first badge in the course which I’ve placed in my Open Badges Backpack. So, one of my todos is to learn more about Mozilla’s Badges and Backpack.
One of the first issues I ran into was that the badge I received from Moodle was for my work email address and the backpack was set up for my private email address. In exploring this, I managed to get my work email address added and come across Mozilla’s Persona.
Each of these are things that I need to explore in more depth.
In November, David Weinberger put up a blog post, Before Facebook, there was DeanSpace. It highlights a video of Zack Rosen, a founder of DeanSpace, talking about how DeanSpace came to be and what it was all about.
But before DeanSpace, there was Hack4Dean. I’ve recently been reading though some of the email archives of this group and wanted to note a few things. It’s interesting to reread some of this today in light of all that has gone on since 2003.
In one example, there was a discussion about Creative Commons licenses: One post suggested
My choice is to require all people who sign up using our code to concede all rights to their material to a Creative Commons share alike attribution
liscense. (or they we could give htem a couple other options for different
In this, we here precursors of discussions about who owns or should own content on social media sites. The DeanSpace idea stayed with each person owning the content and making it available for others to use via a Creative Commons license. As much as I like Creative Commons, I argued against the requirement, believing that each person should have as much say as possible over their own content. We were, after all, trying to reduce barriers to participation.
In a different post, Zephyr Teachout put the issue we needed to address in very simple terms:
there is a more basic role for
Deanster, and the reason for its urgency (w/the idea of experimenting
w/this functionality on top of it).
People can't find eachother.
Dean supporters in the same area can't find eachother.
Dean supporters w/the same interests can't find eachother.
We have, incredibly, a nationwide movement of people who happen to run
into eachother if they use the get local tools -- or show up wearing
buttons -- or are on a listserv. Imagine what it could be if I could
search for local people to ask them to join me?
Here we are twelve years later. We have Facebook and Twitter. We have presumed front runners for the 2016 Presidential election. Perhaps there are or soon will be autonomous emergent campaign organizations, but I’m not seeing them right now. To play off of old clichés, mostly what I see now are cat videos and assorted memes. We see polarization and people unfriending one another over discussions of racism and white privilege. About the only campaign I could see emerging from Facebook right now is Grumpy Cat for President.
Can we rekindle to DeanSpace fire? What would it take?