Shifting Towards Education: A New Direction for 2018

Shifting Towards Education: A New Direction for 2018

 

Happy new year, everybody!

After a hiatus for the holiday season, I am now back to blogging with a renewed focus. For those of you who follow this blog or know me personally, last year was an encouraging beginning as I posted here my musings on the intersection between Theology and Artificial Intelligence. Above all, I’ve been encouraged by the conversation some of the posts have started.

After some reflection over the hiatus, I decided to shift the focus of the blog. As you may know, there are not a lot of voices speaking on this field. So the opportunities for making a contribution are vast. Moreover, I don’t see the topic of AI becoming less important in the coming years. The question I asked myself was how could I best contribute considering my skills, passion and knowledge. Promoting discussion on the topic was a good start but I was not satisfied in just being a thoughtful observer. The best insights often come from those who are immersed in practicing the field they are discussing.

Even as I type there are hundreds of AI startups starting to shape the future we’ll live in. There is a growing group of academics, consultants and enthusiasts speculating about what that would look like. Moreover, there are thousands of Data Scientists currently shaping the future of existing organizations building AI applications that will transform these enterprises for years to come. Eventually, politicians will catch up and start discussing policy and laws to regulate how AI is used.

While all this is happening, I think about my children. Will they have the tools they need to navigate this AI future? Will they be ready not only to survive but also thrive in this uncertain future?

When I look at the educational system they are in, it is clearly not up to the task. While I appreciate the wonderful work teachers do daily all over the world, the problem is systemic. The Western educational system was built in the last century to raise industrial workers. The economy required workers to learn a fixed trade that would last them through their lifetime.  Moreover, the academic system is always preparing students for the next level of education. Regardless of whether they pursue a job or continue their studies, a high school degree prepares the student for college, which prepares them for Masters’ work which, except for professional degrees, prepare them for pursuing PhDs. Hence, students are conditioned to excel within the academic “bubble” and have little interaction with the real world of jobs, leadership and service. Aside from a few exceptions, students are expected to figure out on their own how to apply the knowledge they learn into real workplace scenarios. While the system forces students to study separate disciplines, life is lived in multi-disciplinary spaces.

Staying out of the politically-charged discussion of “how to save our schools”, I rather work on how to offer something that will build on what the schools already offer. In my view, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education continues to be a challenge even as we have made progress in the past years. The concern I have with the current focus is that it separates these disciplines from humanities. In this way, students are taught only the “how” but rarely the “why” of STEM. This approach only perpetuates an uncritical consumerist relationship with technology, where we never stop to ask why are they being created in the first place and how they benefit humanity. Therefore the challenge is to engage young minds critically with STEM early on, empowering them to become creators with rather than consumers of technology.

While I can write about this frequently on the blog, being a detached analyst is not enough. That is why I am planning to develop actual learning experiences that address this gap. I am currently connecting with partners “glocally” to make that a reality. It will have both a classroom component as well as an online component. Stay tuned for more details.

How will that look like in aitheology.com?

The blog will flow from this journey of becoming an education entrepreneur. In this way, it serves as a platform for reflection, discussion, idea exchange and hopefully challenging some of you to join in this new endeavor. While I will continue to explore the themes of AI and theology, there will be an educational focus both in the topics discussed as well as in the way they are conveyed.

I also recognize that in our age, writing is not the most effective way to spread ideas and engage in conversation. Towards that end, I plan to add podcast in the near future so you can interact with AI theology in new ways. Finally, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in emerging projects.

I am excited for what this New Year will bring to us. I pray for wisdom and guidance in this new phase and I ask you to pray with me as well (if you are not religious, sending good thoughts would do).

 

 

 

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