Alan Dix explores AI and Social Justice
Author of Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
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For centuries, access to education has divided us along socioeconomic lines. Technology has erased that barrier, and artificial intelligence is now accelerating the road to equality
by Michael Puscar, Ziotag 11 February 2020
When looking at the historical statistics of Internet access, one can’t help but marvel. While in 2009, 1.8 billion people had access to the network, ten years later this number multiplied to over 4.5 billion.
There is no doubt that the advent of technology in the 21st century has brought great change to our society, and that this change has accelerated in the past decade. And nowhere has that change been more impactful than in education.
There is a direct correlation between access to and quality of education and wealth. It is a vicious cycle; a large amount of research (Belley and Lochner 2007; Conley 2001; Haellsten and Pfeffer 2017; Morgan and Kim 2006; Pfeffer 2011) has proven that parental wealth directly influences the educational attainment of children, both in the United States and abroad, and that education then results in more opportunities to obtain higher incomes.
This paradigm is nothing new, it has existed for centuries. Technology, however, is the great disrupter. According to the latest Forbes 400, seven of the top 10 wealthiest people in the world made their money through technology. Never before in the history of mankind have more individuals from lower social-economic income brackets been able to achieve such wealth so fast. These jumps in economic status do not just affect one individual. They create generational wealth that affects entire families.
However, do not mistake lower socioeconomic status with a lack of education. Though technology is creating thousands of rags to riches stories for low-income entrepreneurs, access to education is still absolutely fundamental to the equation. What has changed is that these individuals, some from so-called third world countries and poor families, no longer need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an Ivy League education to educate themselves. Technology has changed that, and specifically video technology.
Want to learn to speak Albanian? There is an online video course for that. Want to learn to program in Java, or build a hobby horse, or learn how to make pesto? You can learn how to do all of those things with one single query in Google, which will, in turn, take you to your video sharing service of choice, usually YouTube, where it is all on-line, and almost always free.
According to TubeFilter, 500 hours of video are loaded to YouTube every minute. That’s more than eight hours of video every second. The problem, in fact, is no longer equal access to education, but the sheer volume of video content available and the length of those videos. Only a fraction of the videos on YouTube are educational in nature, and often times what we need to learn is not an entire 4-hour course but a very specific, discrete information that can educate us in minutes.
This is where artificial intelligence comes in. The advent of AI has been predicted for decades, but the catalyst for its emergence is the explosion of online media combined with cloud computing and virtually limitless computing power. In 2012, Google’s artificial brain used YouTube to learn how to accurately identify cats in videos. Since then, contextualization technology has combined AI with classic semantic web algorithms to identify topics of discussion.
This transformational new technology, called media contextualization, means that not only will everyone be able to quickly educate themselves on their topic of choice, but with a few keystrokes, they’ll be able to find precisely the information that they need to learn. This will optimize our learning experience, making it more time-efficient and better quality.
What does this mean for us in 2020? It means that, in the near future, if you need to know how to crush garlic to make pesto you will no longer need to watch the entire video about making pesto. You will be able to watch only the 30 seconds that you need from the video to learn what you need. If you need to know how to use hash tables in Java, you will be able to learn exactly that, without wasting an hour learning about other concepts that have no value to you.
A better quality, more efficient learning experience benefits us all. Technology helps in multiple ways: Not only does it make education more accessible; it also makes it more refined. It empowers us to access the exact information we need without cluttering our brains with irrelevant noise – something that is even more important as we enter the next decade.
Author of Introduction to Artificial Intelligence