Artificial Intelligence and Snuggling

Did you know that Google built an artificially intelligent computer that defeated the world champion in Go, a game that is considered much more complex than chess? And programmers did not explicitly ‘teach’ the computer the game. Instead it used the human brain’s neural networks as a model for the program.  It let the computer ‘learn’ the game from a series of databases on hundreds of thousands of games played and then from playing millions of games against itself.

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Pixabay , CC0 Public Domain

The article went on to explore how artificial intelligence could impact education, how it could become a student’s “lifelong learning companion”, following the student throughout her entire school life and into her career:

“Like an imaginary friend, learning companions would accompany students — asking questions, providing encouragement, offering suggestions and connections to resources, helping you talk through difficulties. Over time, the companion would “learn” what you know, what interests you, and what kind of learner you are.”

Being a teacher, my first thought was that these computers could potentially replace my job, and I wanted to go into defense mode.  But it is hard to argue against the advancements being made in technology, and I suspect that our job descriptions are going to need revising in the not-so-distant future.  What that will ultimately look like is up for speculation. Perhaps, as the article states, that might involve teaching social-emotional skills or “the exchanges that occur only between people.”  However, that too, is hard for me to envision.  What would that involve?

Then, one day I was driving in my car and listening to talk show on CBC Radio, I heard about a woman in New York who used to give out hugs on street corners.  She found she was making about $80 an hour.  So she decided to start a business in snuggling.  Yes, that’s right: snuggling, not smuggling.  Her business is thriving; in fact, she’s had to hire employees in order to keep up with demand.  Clients can hire snugglers for anywhere from an hour to overnight.  And no, apparently she is not offering any type of escort service; it is non-sexual with strict rules about what is allowed, what the snuggling positions are, what clients can wear, and the like.

As I was listening, I remembered wondering what a job teaching “the exchanges that occur only between people” might look like in a world with life-long learning companions, and I thought, “Oh.”  And I didn’t know whether to feel comforted or discouraged.

 

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About Sherry Langland

I have been teaching English for 15 years and am passionate about teaching students to read critically, think critically, and live purposefully. I am also the lead teacher for our junior high department and am thankful to be part of such a dedicated group of teachers who are committed to collaborating around the most important part of our job: student learning. My biggest blessing is being the mother of 2 young men who are in their 20s and discovering their purpose.
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