E-Learning 1 and 2 Conversation with George Siemens – A Different Take

I had a very different take on Downes’s and Siemen’s Conversation than Roland Legrand’s elearn30 blog post “What and How to learn and teach in times of Artificial Intelligence?”  I think they actually answered the question and I would like to take their insight a bit further.

To start off here are the three salient questions that come out of their conversation –

1. What’s unique for humanity in terms of what computers can’t do?

This question was answered with this next question asking for unique domains for a human.

2. What is or are the final unique domain (s) of human control?

For Siemens, it is “Beingness” or as he says later on “contemplative processes of the ethical life. For Downes, it is “kindness and compassion”.

3. What does learning look like for humans when computers learn better and faster than we can?

Stephens reply is that in the future –

“The capacity to choose the capacity to make decisions to define what’s important that’s the role we will be playing in the future and that’s sort of skill and support that which we should be providing student, beginning now”.

So, in a world where AI/ machine learning robots are smarter and learn faster than we do, Downes suggest a coexistence state between robots and humans, with the idea that we are the “ghost in the machine, a reference to Issac Asimov’s I, Robot. Downes suggests that we will experience things from a different view than the machine and that we are the voice in the computer’s “head” that says I see it differently.

But what are the things we would see differently than we would define as an important choice than what an AI machine/robot would choose?

If you accept Downes unique human domain as “kindness and compassion” those tasks requiring empathy, “kindness and compassion”, come to my mind.

As an example, a machine learning diagnostic robot that has a 100% accuracy rate in its diagnosis and prognosis of a patient with terminal stage 4 cancer is a great aid to medicine and the doctor. But from the patient’s point of view, the delivery of that prognosis may be better delivered by a doctor instead of the machine who has the capacity to choose the circumstances and make the decision on the right manner to tell her patient the diagnostic results with empathy, “kindness and compassion”. That human “bedside manner” I think is an example of a unique domain skill over a machine and our capacity to choose and make decisions as the “ghost in the machine”

Here are two question and a challenge to the E-Learning 3.0 cohort readers of this post.

What are other fields of study that require empathy, “kindness and compassion”? Fields of study that require interaction with people come to mind like social services, healthcare, spiritual counseling, emergency management.

What are the skills, talents, and education required for the “ghost in the machine” that provides that alternative view? The field of computer science comes to mind with an emphasis on the ethics of AI and machine learning algorithms. Or the talent not to rely on Amazon’s “Alexi” for the degree of cooking successfully a 5 lb pork butt besides telling  “Alexi”  to “set my Hotpoint Oven at 325 degrees at  4:30 PM to cook the  5 lb pork butt for a time of 3 hours”.  The “ghost” may make the choice to extend or curtail the cooking time based on its idea of  “doneness” of the pork butt based on the reported internal temperature of the pork butt and a sense of how the oven maintains the cooking temperature or its own subjective view of “doneness” in its opinion of what “Alexi” is suggesting for “doneness”.


Here timesis my challenge to all the E-Learning 3.0 cohort and a task associated with course module E-Learning 1 and 2 Conversation with George Siemens. Please comment on what fields, skills, talents, and education that you think are unique domains of humans like Stephen’s “kindness and compassion” and the skills, talents, and education required for the “ghost in the machine” that provides that alternative view.

In closing, the cynical ”ghost” inside of me says the world is and will continue to be dangerous as long as there are the inequalities, the haves, and have-nots and that the flipside of kindness and goodness – unkindness and badness – will also be part of that final domain of ours. Dealing with that flipside is also our unique task as humans.

Thanks, Frank

P.S. For Stephen Downes – This blog post also meets the 1st task for week 2 “use the course OPML file to subscribe to the course feeds which led me to Roland Legrand”s elearn30 blog post “What and How to learn and teach in times of Artificial Intelligence?”  Which I have commented on in this blog post. I also hope that I will meet week 2’s second task with my challenge task to the E-Learning 3.0 cohort on requesting comments on what fields, skills, talents, and education that they think are unique domains of humans like Stephen’s “kindness and compassion”.



4 Replies to “E-Learning 1 and 2 Conversation with George Siemens – A Different Take”

  1. Frank – this is just the aspect of everything we are discussing that is of most interest to me. Is that because I too am effectively retired. Do we dwell more on what it means to be human the older we get, or is it simply that we have more time to do this?

    Anyhow – I am going to give your questions some thought and hope I can get back to you with something sensible to say!


    1. Jennifer,
      In retirement, my focus has changed. I now have time to focus on the things that now matter or continue to matter and have tended to be more contemplative on those issues.
      Hope to hear from you again on our questions.
      Thanks, Frank

  2. Hi Frank – Just to let you know that I have responded to your challenge over on my blog – https://jennymackness.wordpress.com/2018/11/09/e-learning-3-0-the-human-versus-the-machine/. Thanks for setting the challenge. I enjoyed thinking about it and with more time could probably have expanded on my response quite a bit; it’s a fascinating topic. Thanks

    PS I’m interested that my name has come up as Jennifer Mackness on your blog. Maybe it does everywhere and I haven’t noticed before. My name is Jennifer, but I was only called Jennifer as a child by my mother when she was cross with me! Everywhere else I have always been known as Jenny.

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