FF Daily #554: Humans vs. AI

December 21, 2021: The rot in education; Why the latest Spiderman movie matters; Relativity for dummies

Founding Fuel

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Good morning,

In their book, The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity, Lynda Gratton and Andrew J. Scott explore the impact of technology on the future of work. They point out that human beings have two sets of unique capabilities, which we have long believed will make it difficult for machines to replace humans. 

The first is about complex problem solving and expertise that enable humans to come up with innovations like the iPhone. While most iPhones are made by Foxconn in China, the company that captures most of its value is the one that designed it—Apple. The second set of skills that is uniquely human is around interpersonal interactions, sensing, sensemaking and adapting.

Gratton and Scott write, “At the heart of the first set of capabilities is Polyani's Paradox, which refers to a comment made by chemist and philosopher Michael Polyani that ‘We know more than we can tell’. In other words, a significant amount of human knowledge is tacit and therefore cannot be written down in the form of instructions, so cannot be replicated by Al and robotics. The second set of tasks relates to Moravec's Paradox, which states that ‘It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility’. So, for example, a robot can perform complex analytical tasks with ease, but finds it more difficult to pick up a cup or climb stairs.

“Even here, however, some technology experts argue that the advantage of humans over machines will be short-lived. Fast developments in Cloud Robotics and Deep Learning could close the gap between human and machine performance. Developments in Cloud Robotics, where networks of robots have access to each others' learning through the cloud network, could result in learning at an exponential rate—certainly far faster than human learning. In Deep Learning the technology attempts to mimic the way humans make inductive reasoning through association by experience, again potentially through leveraging the experience of every other robot via the cloud.”

How do you think this will play out? Let us know!

In this issue

  • The rot in education 
  • Why the latest Spiderman movie matters
  • Relativity for dummies

The rot in education

As a society, we are failing our children. This is an argument Jyotsna Vijapurkar, a faculty member of the Homi Bhabha Center for Science Education in Mumbai, hammered home in The Indian Express yesterday. She points out that the rot had set in before the pandemic and she does not see it going away after it ends either because of how adults expect children to learn: follow instructions from textbooks, as opposed to explore the world outside. To illustrate, she shares an anecdote.       

“At a workshop I conducted in a school whose science teacher had won the ‘best teacher’ award, I asked if they had done an easily doable experiment in their textbook. They said ‘yes’. They meant they had covered it in the syllabus—the description, instruction and the questions and answers all rote learned from the book—not actually done the experiment! Similarly, I had once asked kids if they had seen mosquito larvae. Many had—‘in the book’. When shown live larvae, the students guessed they were tadpoles. Clearly, they had seen neither in real life—or at least had not known what they were seeing if they had.

“With this notion that everything you need to know and learn is in books alone, children are expected to hit the books when they return from school. When they start doing anything other than school-related stuff at home, they are told to ‘go study’. Thus, simple everyday experiences and observations that my generation took for granted are denied to them, leaving them completely ignorant of the most basic processes. Some random examples—8th graders telling me that dahi is made by keeping milk in the fridge (milk in, dahi out); 5th graders who didn’t recognise the Gulmohar tree in full bloom right by their classroom window, but knew about the baobab tree they have never seen (featured in science documentaries on TV). We should never underestimate the enormous learning that happens during activities such as helping out in the kitchen, a little gardening; or some time to observe happenings in the real world that are naturally fascinating to children. Not all learning needs to be formal.”

Dig deeper

Why the latest Spiderman movie matters

When the pandemic hit, closing cinema halls and pushing the demand for streaming services to record levels, there was a general consensus that it would significantly change the habits of movie watchers. As the pandemic continued to persist through 2020, becoming bigger in 2021, the early predictions seemed to be right. The logic was the longer we use streaming the more reluctant we will be to change course. Till Spiderman: No Way Home hit the theatres. 

The New York Times reports, “‘No Way Home’ collected an estimated $253 million at theaters in the United States and Canada, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. Not only did more than 20 million people leave their homes to see a blockbuster movie, prying themselves away from their streaming services, but they faced down the Omicron variant to do it—a reflection, box office analysts said, of the film’s novel ‘multiverse’ storytelling, a pent-up desire to be part of a big cultural moment, and, perhaps, weariness with the impingement of the pandemic on their lives.

“It was the highest opening-weekend result in the 19-year history of the eight-film, live-action Spider-Man franchise. And it was the third-highest in the overall Hollywood history books, behind ‘Avengers: Endgame’ ($357 million) and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ ($258 million).”

Dig deeper

Relativity for dummies

(Via WhatsApp)

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Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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