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Education In 2046, Chapter 1: Congress Demands That Schools Develop Human Intelligence

.Five years ago, I considered researching a book about the future of public education. My great-great niece, Anna, was a baby. Now she is a big girl in kindergarten. Where does five years go?

When my great-great niece Anna is 19, in 2030, according to Ray Kurzweil, author of, “The Singularity Is Near,” she will be entering adulthood into a world stunningly different from what it is today. Five years ago, 2030 seemed a good target for a book about the future of education. Now I’m thinking a book about the future of education should focus thirty years into the future — 2046.  Anna then will be 35 and ready to enter mature adulthood.

Thirty years of exponential progress in technology will produce astounding results. If Kurzweil is right, the technology thirty years in the future will be one billion times more powerful than today’s. One billion.

I write here: “Kurzweil predicts that by 2019 a computer with the capacity of a human brain will cost only $1000, by 2030 the process of ‘reverse engineering’ the human brain will be completed and by 2045 the intelligence of computers will be billions times that of today’s humans.”

To prepare today’s children for the future of intelligent machines will require a big transformation in education. It will require that the education system pursue aims quite different from the aims of the system today. The idea is to write a short book that will make a specific proposal showing how transformation could unfold in the school district where I live, Kettering, and show one vision of what a transformed system could look like. I’m considering advancing this proposal to jump-start the process.

With the emergence of the super machine intelligence described by Kurzweil,  chapter one of this proposed book speculates that the need to redefine the aim of public education will become a national emergency.

Education In 2046, Chapter 1:  Congress Demands That Schools Develop Human Intelligence

Eventually the force of exploding technology changed the very definition of what it means to be intelligent, what it means to be educated. In 2016, an educated person was acquainted with a wide curriculum and often specialized in a narrow discipline or profession. A well-educated person was expected to have good skills of analysis, reasoning and communication.

As technology advanced, machines came closer and closer to mimicking all of the qualities of an educated person. It became clear that eventually machines would surpass humans in all contests of intelligence and professionalism. Here in 2046, a physician robot, indefatigable in its efforts, knows each of his patients via a history of detailed data to a depth of understanding rare in human physicians. It is thoroughly up-to-date with the latest medical research and has energy and focus beyond what literally is humanly possible. A teacher robot, for the same reasons, succeeds in getting students to master the standard curriculum much more effectively than what is possible for a human teacher. Today’s robots are are growing stronger and more formidable at an incredible rate.

The human response to rising machine superiority at first was to deny its significance. This denial started in 1997 after IBM’s Big Blue defeated the reigning world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, in a chess tournament. From this water-shed event there arose the practice of devaluing those aspects of cognition that machines could mimic. The intellectual skills of a chess champion are wonderful, but, these skills became to be seen as machine-like and therefore inferior to aspects of human intelligence seen as non-machine-like.

As machines imitated more and more of the human intellect, they became intellectually dominant. For machines to dominate a narrow well-defined intellectual endeavor like chess was one thing. But when it became clear that we were headed for an era when robot physicians, robot teachers, robot architects and the like would be the world champions of their fields, the threat to human intelligence became very real. There was a lot of anxiety about defining human intelligence in such a way that humans would remain in a position of superiority relative to machines.

In 2035, an Act of Congress proclaimed this official definition of human intelligence:

Human intelligence includes machine intelligence — like memory, reason and the capacity to communicate with understanding — but because living and breathing humans transcend what is possible for a machine, human intelligence includes human emotion and human values as well. Human intelligence is the capacity of humans to experience and to generate love, empathy, joy, togetherness, leadership, meaning and independent thinking. Human intelligence is the capacity of an individual to grow into his or her potential to be fully human.”

This Act of Congress recognized the growing panic that unless humans could stand together —united in their humanity, united by their human intelligence — the very definition of what it means to be human would be compromised. This Act of Congress called for a transformation of American education so that it would effectively advance the development of human intelligence.

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