The Semantic Web, Knowledge and Implications for ... - Angelfire

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A critical look at
critical thinking

Alan McLean

International School of Kuala Lumpur

Presented at

SEGi College

24
th

June 2009


Full text available from:
http://www.angelfire.com/linux/alan1/crit_crit

My contact details & aims:


http://www.angelfire.com/linux/alan1


016 636 0754

My aims:

Say why I think critical thinking is
important

Be open to criticism

Test my ideas

(what is critical thinking?)

Here is a definition


Critical thinking

is purposeful and
reflective judgment about what to
believe or what to do in response to
observations
,
experience
,
verbal

or
written

expressions, or
arguments
.


(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking)

Here is a definition


Skilled, active, interpretation and
evaluation of observations,
communications, information, and
argumentation.


(Fisher & Scriven

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking)

Here is a definition


the careful, deliberate determination of
whether one should accept, reject, or
suspend judgment about a
claim

and
the degree of confidence with which
one accepts or rejects it.


(Parker & Moore
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking)

Our Wikipedia author goes on to say …


Critical thinking gives due consideration to
the
evidence
, the context of
judgment
, the
relevant criteria for making the judgment
well …….




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_thinking)

What critical thinking is not:


Always negative


Marxist / Structuralist



Memory (and other relatively well
understood cognitive functions)


Totally unpredictable




A suggested (partial) definition


Critical thinking is something that
machines cannot do.



(Somewhere in there is a larger and hidden assumption, that
the development of information technologies influence the
way people think.)






(of course, this hypothesis is problematic in a number of ways)

… a central idea


My starting point is that this is a period of innovation
in information technology and that this change is
important.


My central idea is
automation
. Industrialisation partially
replaced the physical labour of people. Information
technology can also be seen as a form of automation. But
what does IT automate?

(and what does it have the potential
to displace?)


Perhaps we need to look at other advances in information
technology, such as the Gutenberg revolution.

The analytical potential of this approach

social and economic phenomena


Industrialisation is associated with other
phenomena such as urbanisation, capitalism,
nuclear family relationships and universal
schooling.


This approach (a focus on automation) allows us
to ask questions about whether changes of this
magnitude are associated with developments in
information technology.

The analytical potential of this approach

epistemic phenomena


Our special interest today is on critical thought.


At various stages in the automation of
manufacturing, people have been displaced my
machines. This had implications for what people
did and for what they were able to do.
Communities of knowledge were transformed or
died. Somehow, there was a need for people to
embrace new kinds of knowledge.


Manufacturing

Information Technology


Scribal reproduction of
texts replaced by
printing. Human and
animal distribution
replaced by mechanized
transportation.


Unemployment among
artisans and craft
workers (e.g. weavers)
as their products are
displaced by mass
manufacturing.

Primary

Mechanisation


Control

Automation



Unemployment in the
manufacturing sector
as automation
displaced human
control of
mechanized
manufacturing
processes.


Unemployment in the
administration, office
work, retail,
professional service
and other non
-

manual
sectors of the
economy.

So, what is happening now?


A trend:
ubiquitous computing


A project: the

Semantic Web

Ubiquitous Computing


Ubiquitous computing is the idea of
computers everywhere in the real
environment which can interconnect,
exchange data and work together.
Computing capability and appropriate
interfaces will be installed throughout the
urban environment, in shops, banks,
classrooms and public spaces. Computer
access will become increasingly ordinary,
even invisible.


The Semantic Web


“... our

capacity to find and retrieve, much less
manipulate and organize … material is … at a
very rudimentary state. The Semantic Web …
allows humans and agents to query and infer
knowledge from information quickly and in
many cases automatically”.

(
Anderson & Whitelock
(2004))


In the era of ubiquitous computing and
the Semantic Web,
access

to the kind of
knowledge available in books and periodicals
will be instant and effortless.

A New Framework


Working backwards from these innovations, we
see the immediate function of
automation

in
information technology two parts



bringing the resource and its user together


identifying an appropriate resource.

Utility of the New Frame


Allows a reconceptualisation of the history of IT. For
example, the importance of printing is understood in
terms of scalability, but the Gutenberg revolution of
1450 can be understood in three phases:


Printing


scalability


Page numbering, indexing and cataloguing


resource
identification


Steam powered transportation
-

bringing the resource
and its user together


In this way, we can understand the slowness of the
impact of the Gutenberg revolution and usefully
contrast it with our current situation.

The Future of these Technologies


It will neither be appropriate to carry a
significant quantity of information in
human memory nor to know how or
where to find information.


Individuals will be able to access the
information they need in almost any
place, effortlessly and without delay.


… so, you simply don’t get paid any more for knowing things!




Consequences
-
Memory


It will no longer be useful for people to carry in
their head the kind of thing that can be found in
books


…or to perform any other function that
machines can perform better, cheaper or faster.

Consequences
-
Memory


The printed book is prosthetic


Innovations in information
technology accelerate the
exteriorisation of knowledge

Consequences
-
Memory


The field of useful human knowledge
is defined
negatively
, in terms of what
machines
cannot

do.


This highlights the importance of
critical thought



and …. this presents a challenge for
education

How can education respond?


Education, particularly
schooling is a social institution.


Social institutions are not
planned or rational entities.


Change is likely to be mediated
by larger social and economic
transformations.

A critical look at
critical thinking

Alan McLean

International School of Kuala Lumpur