03 August 2010

Some quotes & thoughts from The Cult of Information

The Cult of Information, A Neo-Luddite Treatise on High Tech, Artificial Intelligence and the True Art of Thinking. 
By T. Roszak. 1st edition, 1986. I'm reading the 2nd, 1994.

Artificial Intelligence
Almost in spite of itself Artificial Intelligence research has taught us a significant truth about human thought. Literally. We have learned that computers that can rival grand masters at chess do not have enough sense to come out of the rain. Literally.  p. xxiii

I have a sense of direction. It's a form of common sense that enables you to find your way through a landscape, and get yourself to your destination even if you don't really have one. Google maps on my phone is great and if I lived in LA and drove for a living, I'd likely use a GPS. But neither of these AI devices is a replacement for having a sense of direction. Is common sense a kind of acquired intelligence that comes from interacting within an environment? I think it's learned, formally and informally, and is culturally-determined and defined.

I'll never forget this. In my study, one participant, Suz said that learning to build in Second Life involved common sense. She spent upwards of 40 hrs a week in-world and had been using SL for a few years. She had also inspired my study. A friend before study participant, she was noticeably capable in SL: She just knew how to do everyday things and tell you, in her own way, how to do them. In real life Suz was a woman in her mid-50s, who had not completed high school. She couldn't see my smile when she said that; it was a gem of wisdom and information, I'd still like to polish up more and write about.

I like intelligence, but I'm wary of man-made (gender deliberate) explanations of it. Even Gardner's Multiple Intelligences has been scrutinized as being hardly "scientific" if at all meaningful or useful. The authors of Womens' Ways of Knowing spun it differently, as have many other critical theorists* of education in the United States. All in all though, intelligence is almost always described in relation to schooling. Intelligence is a construct perfected in 20th century, enabling us educator folks to have something to talk about while people (like Suz) get on with the business of learning.

*See for example Valencia's Deficit ThinkingSpring's Deculturalization and the Struggle for Equality, and Feinberg/Soltis's School and Society.