Reconstructing Education for the Anthropocene - EurekAlert!

almondpitterpatterIA et Robotique

23 févr. 2014 (il y a 3 années et 3 mois)

53 vue(s)

Reconstructing Engineering

AAAS 2010 Annual Meeting

Brad Allenby

Founding Director, Center for Earth Systems
Engineering and Management

Lincoln Professor of Ethics and Engineering

Professor of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable

Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management


Source: M. Heidegger,
The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays
, translation by W. Lovitt (New
York, Harper Torchbooks, 1977), “The Turning,” p. 49; “The Age of the World Picture,” p. 136.

Why We Are Failing: Heidegger

“So long as we do not, through thinking,
experience what is, we can never belong to
what will be.”

“The flight into tradition, out of a combination
of humility and presumption, can bring about
nothing in itself other than self deception and
blindness in relation to the historical

What Has Changed?

Information environment is far more dense and rapidly changing
than previous generation; multitasking is an evolutionary strategy,
not a fad.

Characteristics of short attention span, flitting above information
landscape rather than diving in, are adaptive, not artifacts of
superficial technologies.

Logic of complex information environment is networked
association, not linear.

Implication: Students today have different cognitive structures
than their teachers; and their teachers by and large powerfully
disrespect those cognitive adaptations (when they even perceive
them at all).

Accelerating technological evolution and social change obsoletes
specifics of education ever more rapidly.

What Has Changed?

Social networking creates convenient alternate realities and a
different model for networked cognition in complex systems.

Social networked intelligence is comfortable for digital natives;
cognition emerges from network conditions, but everything we
teach is aimed at individuals.

We need to teach “network intelligence” but every cultural and
institutional incentive (tenure, disciplinary structure of
engineering and intellectual endeavor, reductionist model of
Enlightenment) is to remain wedded to Cartesian model of
individual education and cognition.

Implication: teaching “teams,” much less individuals, is
inadequate and increasingly obsolete, but the framework and
understanding to teach “network cognition” does not yet exist,
and the need for it is not yet recognized.

What Has Changed?

Walk into a classroom; students open their computers; they now
have a working memory as large as the Net

We still teach facts when what they need is pattern recognition
and integration across multiple disciplines and multiple cultures

Long term memory function is now dispersed across the Net

What will cognition be when each student has a cat brain in their
PDA and is fully networked with their peers?

What Has Changed?

Accelerating change widens the differences between social groups:

Current generation versus previous generation

Within current generation, between digital natives and digital

Implication: batch processing methodologies characteristic of early
Enlightenment education fail

Implication: professors rapidly decouple from the population they
are supposed to be teaching


this is not a result of incompetence, but of technological
change: the problem is not intelligence, but a failure to perceive,
much less respect, the cognitive differences between this
generation and their teachers

What Has Changed?

Students already live in a world of enhancement and human

The digital natives know they are different from their teachers,
even if most haven’t articulated that difference

Cognitive enhancers (first generation, e.g., Ritalin and Adderall
(focus, enhancement of cognitive tasks), Provigil (modafinil

memory enhancer; wakefulness and alertness enhancer).
Stronger, more effective pharma likely because of military
pressure to develop.

Debate on whether to accept or reject cognitive enhancers is
over. How to teach students with access to enhancements of
many kinds is the question.

Situation Analysis

Current educational methods are obsolete
and increasingly dysfunctional.

Incremental change is inadequate both in
scale and in substance.

Current educational institutions are too
resistant to change to be able to respond

World has Changed


Static complexity: more nodes, more links everywhere

Dynamic complexity: more interactions and shifts over time

Wicked complexity: human reflexivity, and technological and
social evolution, create contingency and unpredictability

Anthropogenic complexity: humans operating at scale of
interconnected global systems


Human as design space; there are no stable assumptions

Everything from atmosphere to food is increasingly product of
human design


Can’t foresee implications of emerging technologies and related
policy decisions

Emerging Technologies:

The Five Horsemen


is the end of intensive 2,500 year long project to
extend human design to limits of material world


extends human design through biosphere (synthetic
biology) and makes the human just another design space

is rapidly evolving, and is integrating the human with the
technological in unpredictable ways (e.g., Iraq had 0 ground robots
at invasion time; 150 by end 2004; 2,400 end of 2005; 5,000 end of
2006; 12,000 end of 2008)

Information and communication technology (ICT)

rise of the
“digital native”

Facebook is only 5 years old; Second Life only 6
(launched June 23, 2003); Twitter, 2 years old.

Cognitive science
: the diffusion of cognition across technologies to
enable mission performance (augcog in Iraq); funding for telepathic
interconnection (Carnegie Mellon detecting nouns; Japanese
detecting visuals; ASU/Duke monkey experiments on direct
interconnection of brain with technological environment)

Critique of Current Educational

Current educational processes are based on manufacturing mental

Batch processing

Same process applied to each unit (student)

Time metrics applied to systems where not appropriate (e.g., learning
measured by time in university)

Current disciplinary structures are product of reductionist approach
and no longer sufficient (not replace entirely, but augment)

Current instructional processes are based on obsolete ideas about
students cognitive processes.

Current professors are generally unable to perceive, much less
teach to, different cognitive models.

Educational system is very conservative, and even incremental
change is hard. Paradigmatic change will be rejected.

The Challenge

Develop new teaching models while continuing
with and incrementally augmenting existing

Develop model that meets existing requirements
(e.g., ABET) while responding to new

Maintain competency of graduates under
existing domain
related standards while
preparing them for contingency, unpredictability,
and responsibility of new environment.

One Route: Personalized
Education Skunkworks

Begin with Engineering

a bounded discourse, technology rich,
critical to Anthropogenic Earth and its management, and in
recognized need of curricular change.

Move from batch processing to individual trajectories through
learning space

Maintain existing technical proficiency metrics

Space designed as AI expert system so it provides as much guidance
as possible, minimizing demand on professors that would otherwise
make personalized education unscalable

All important skills obtained, and testable, when student reaches end of

Students proceed at own pace

Begin with selected students at freshman level, minor disciplinary
distinctions at BS level, disciplinary focus primarily at MS level. All
students to stay in program through MS.

Ph.D. level not offered (initially), because of heavy socialization and
networking implied by work at that level.

Personalized Education

Content of program to integrate social science, liberal
arts, and earth systems perspectives.

Goal is to create not just competent engineers, but
competent designers and managers of complex adaptive

the engineer as leader.

Reconceptualize students as active nodes in complex
cognitive systems, in addition to Cartesian individual

Students and professors are both learners; each brings
different information to learning process

Thus, students help design learning spaces

Choose professors open to student contributions


Create new institution structured around personalized education

Can be co
located with existing university, or greenfield (each plan has
advantages and disadvantages)

Multiple participating universities, businesses and other institutions

The one way flow of authority and information from professor to
student replaced by mutual learning (students know far more about
their world than the professors ever will)

Each institution contributes a few professors who become core of
new institution, and a few who are “visiting” to keep providing fresh

Commitment to freshest technology

graduating students should be
valuable in part because they understand shape of technological

Ethics component to all education

identifying questions, not
proposing prepackaged answers

“He, only, merits freedom

and existence

Who wins them each day