Disrupting Education

How do we disrupt our education system?

That’s the question asked of Peter Diamandis on a recent podcast1 (jump to the 5:40 minute mark). Diamandis is not an educator but is considered a “big thinker” as the CEO of the X Prize Foundation and several other out-there ventures. So, he must a good person to ask about transforming education, right?

He starts off pretty well, by differentiating between the socialization mission of most schools (which has evolved with changes in society over the decades) and the academic learning process, which he says is 150 to 200 years old and “sucks”.

Then he veers way off track.

Diamandis says the solution to fixing classrooms where “half the class is bored, the other half of the class is lost, and even the best teachers can only teach to the median” is to be found in artificial intelligence, AI.

…in the case of education, what I believe is going to happen is that we’re going to develop artificial intelligence systems – AI’s – that are using the very best teaching techniques. Basically an AI can understand a child’s language abilities, their experience, their cognitive capabilities, where they’ve grown up, even know what their experiences are through the days, and give that individual an education that is so personalized, and so perfect for their needs in that moment that you couldn’t buy it. And the beautiful thing about computers and AI is that they can scale at minimal incremental costs.

AI for me is the answer to global dematerializing, demonetizing, democratizing education. We have to separate learning things from actually socialization and being inspired, and so forth. I think humans are going to be a part of that, always will be, but AI is going to be the way I learn something, where an AI can really deliver the information in a way that’s compelling and meaningful.

Of course, Diamandis is equating learning with the content expert-delivered information model that is the norm in most schools, and which he correctly notes has been in place for centuries.

However, his vision of transforming education by essentially removing the human element and replacing it with a set of algorithms makes for a very depressing future.