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The "great Singularity debate"

ZDNet is running a blog story on the Singularity Summit at Stanford University. Particular attention in the article is focused on the debate between Ray Kurzweil and Douglas Hofstader on utopian versus dystopian futures:

Kurzweil acknowledged that Singularity could lead to an unappealing or cataclysmic future, but he believes his vision will have a soft landing. If the technologies were considered too dangerous, it would require a totalitarian society, would deprive people of the benefits of technology innovation and drive it underground. In his view, narrow relinquishment of dangerous information and investing in defenses is a morely likely, or hopeful, outcome.

Meanwhile, Hofstader:

expressed the ‘human’ concern of uploading ourselves into cyberspace, becoming software entities inside of computing hardware as our destiny. “If that’s the case how will the entire world, enviroment in which we live be modeled,” he asked. “What does it mean for humans to survive in cyberspace, and what is the core of a person. It’s not clear what a human being would be in such an environment.”

Read the full post on ZDNet.

Virtual professors?

While the “dot edu” bubble has generated much interested in pedagogical technologies, issues of how the technologies are implemented and integrated into the curriculum typically do not enter the discussion. Poor implementation is perhaps a leading reason for why the dot edu boom has done little to actually improve student learning.

LiveScience.com reports on a new project sponsored by the National Science Foundation:

“Up until now, the personal computer’s potential to be a valuable teaching and learning tool has been stymied by its ‘soulless’ nature,” says Baylor, a professor of instructional systems at Florida State University’s Research of Innovative Technologies for Learning (RITL). “We’re using computers to simulate human beings in a controlled manner so we can investigate how they affect and persuade people.”

Using cognitive and emotional feedback, the researchers are investigating how to better implement technologies for improved student learning. There is hope.