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Two from my FB feed this morning

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — well, three — what I read on FB, and what Chinese AI can now deduce about me ]
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First:

Carla Cahill‘s catch, I think, speaks for itself — the super blood wolf moon caught at exactly the right moment:

Carla writes:

Okay, I saw this jet coming, so I acted fast and got it along with the Blood, Wolf, Blue, Eclipse Moon!

The photographer’s gift is eternal alertness.

**

Second:

This DoubleQuote response to the #tenyearchallrnge showing a dying coral reef, via John Kellden and March for Science:

Friend Marshall Massey contributed this example:

I somehow suspect the photographer of the coral reef — the Great Barrier Reef? — didn’t mark the exact few “leaves” of coral he photographed ten years earlier, and then returned to those exact few leaves ten years later — I imagine he may have returned to the same rough spot where he — or she, why do I suppose a he? — had taken her first shot, and found a similar spot to take the second.

Or were there in fact two photographers? The similarity of the two photos almost convinces me of a single photographer with his eye on the same exact sport for years — his or her wife, lover or friends bringing sandwiches every day for ten years, sleepless nights under a cold moon..

Except both photos were presumably taken by a diver or divers, underwater..

Ah, the human mind!

And the forest / mine pair — were they taken at the same spot, roughly the same spot — or close enough to make a point, maybe a few miles apart, with the second shot positioned to include the truck..?

**

Third:

This was too rich to omit. Ali Minai wrote:

I don’t read or speak Urdu, so knowing Ali is an AI expert, I asked for translations from two AIs. FB’s in-house translator gave me:

It’s very short of the dead country.
The ironic is the same, yooo change.

Google Translate gave me:

History is very short of my country
Satyam is the same, the stars keep changing

Okay, those two give me state of the art, readily available AI capabilities. I then asked Ali how he would translate the couplet into English.. and gave my own best guess, sticking my neck out and working from similarities between the two AI versions:

History short-changes my native land —
ah, but truth’s the same, as changeable as the stars.

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Here’s Ali’s very gracious response:

Aha! Sense at last — English sense, that is.

I think this entire episode is a living, breathing testament to the state of the art in intelligence — artificial and embodied. Way to go, Ali Minai

**

Chinese AI looking for vulnerabilities to exploit will now think I’m an Urdu speaker, because I commented on Ali Minai‘s Urdu post. And ZP’s version of WordPress couldn’t even render Ali’s couplet except as:

??? ??? ?? ??? ????? ?? ?? ?????
??? ??? ??? ????? ????? ???? ???

— which captures my own sentiment when I first saw Ali‘s post exactly..

All in all, a rich morning’s education!

“They” are taking over, are they?

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — might be of interest to John Robb & Adam Elkus ]
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Whoever “they” may be, they’re taking over all over:

**

Sources:

  • Washington Post, MS-13 is ‘taking over the school,’
  • South China Morning Post, Wild boars are taking over Japan’s small towns
  • **

    Two things:

    One. In each case, we have a well-studied context — education, Japanese urban living — invaded by an unexpected “alien” force — a virulent gang, wild boars — which will easily blindise students of the context, resulting in unanticipated consequences..

    And two. there seems to be enough parallelism between the two instances on “taking over” that we should be able to abstract a rule from the pair of examples — though I’m terrified to think what the implications of such a rule might be..

    **

    Also:

  • Global warming may be a factor in the exploding Japanese wild boar population
  • Some of the wild boar in Japan are radioactive thanks to Fukushima
  • **

    Pamplona, the Running of the Bulls; Tokyo, the Running of the Boars:

    Voluntary (above); involuntary (below).

    Jacquelyn Schneider at War on the Rocks Plus One

    Saturday, January 13th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — jazzing on WotR plus Hesse’s GBG ]
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    **

    Towards the end of her fine War on the Rocks piece, Blue Hair in the Gray Zone, Dr. Jacquelyn Schneider, Assistant Professor at the U.S. Naval War College (and lucky they are to have her) wrote:

    The U.S. military has devoted immense resources to technology, but the future forces will fail without humans designing, adapting, operating, and maintaining the technology.

    That’s pretty much the thrust of her whole piece — towards the beginning she’s already said it:

    With the pace of current technological change, future force architects should care just as much about the people that man the forces as they do the machines.

    **

    I applaud Dr. Schneider’s article, obviously — but to my mind’s eye it sums to a tiny, concentrated, powerful relationship:

    technology : humans

    We have the technology, the relation says, we need the humans.

    I’m with that, but as always when I see writings that sum to that relation, I think of my own, repeated, obsessive equivalent:

    humans : ideas

    That’s my obstinate Plus One.

    **

    It began, I suppose, with Hermann Hesse, who described his Glass Bead Game in a poem as a game played in a garden:

    In the title poem of his book, Hours in the Garden .. is the Game as he played it himself, while raking leaves in his garden and burning them. In this simpler form, the great Game consists in imagining the great minds and hearts of the past — “wise men and poets and scholars and artists” — meeting across the centuries and talking…

    That’s the game as an interaction between humans. In his great, Nobel-winning novel The Glass Bead Game, however, he has abstracted the game, and it is now played with ideas, rather than people:

    The Glass Bead Game is thus a mode of playing with the total contents and values of our culture; it plays with them as, say, in the great age of the arts a painter might have played with the colors on his palette. All the insights, noble thoughts, and works of art that the human race has produced in its creative eras, all that subsequent periods of scholarly study have reduced to concepts and converted into intellectual values the Glass Bead Game player plays like the organist on an organ. And this organ has attained an almost unimaginable perfection; its manuals and pedals range over the entire intellectual cosmos; its stops are almost beyond number. Theoretically this instrument is capable of reproducing in the Game the entire intellectual content of the universe.

    Hence for myself, once and always:

    humans : ideas

    **

    But that’s my background motif, the ostinato of my passacaglia, always running in the background of my mind, even when I’m reading War on the Rocks.

    And then I’m reading Dr. Schneider, and in the overlap of concepts —

    technology : humans meets humans : ideas

    or more simply:

    technology : humans : ideas

    **

    That’s what I’m impelled to say: just as we need the people to give algorithms to meaning and extract meaning from them, so we need the algorithms, and their contexts on a range of scales from tactical issues to the great questions of war and peace, conflict and resolution, pacifist’s and warrior’s codes…

    What say your heart and mind?

    Giving Critical Thinking Some Critical Thought

    Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

    [Mark Safranski / “zen“]

    This is a useful, quick read…

    Why Do Smart People Do Foolish Things?: Intelligence is not the same as critical thinking and the difference matters

    ….The advantages of being intelligent are undeniable. Intelligent people are more likely to get better grades and go farther in school. They are more likely to be successful at work. And they are less likely to get into trouble (e.g., commit crimes) as adolescents. Given all the advantages of intelligence, though, you may be surprised to learn that it does not predict other life outcomes, such as well-being. You might imagine that doing well in school or at work might lead to greater life satisfaction, but several large-scale studies have failed to find evidence that IQ impacts life satisfaction or longevity. University of Waterloo psychologist Igor Grossmann and his colleagues argue that most intelligence tests fail to capture real-world decision-making and our ability to interact well with others. This is, in other words, perhaps why “smart” people, do “dumb” things.

    The ability to think critically, on the other hand, has been associated with wellness and longevity. Though often confused with intelligence, critical thinking is not intelligence. Critical thinking is a collection of cognitive skills that allow us to think rationally in a goal-orientated fashion, and a disposition to use those skills when appropriate. Critical thinkers are amiable skeptics. They are flexible thinkers who require evidence to support their beliefs and recognize fallacious attempts to persuade them. Critical thinking means overcoming all sorts of cognitive biases (e.g., hindsight bias, confirmation bias).

    Read the rest here.

    Most people will say (without critical thought) that critical thinking is a good thing but fail to define what they mean by that term. Usually right before they complain that schools and higher ed aren’t imparting the desired but undefined critical thinking skills to their students. While this stereotypical complaint is accurate as far as a generalization, it underestimates how much imparting such skills in students is generally opposed in practice by Left and Right. Argumentative peons who can think for themselves? Really, when in history has this ever been popular? Seldom with rulers and not often with the ruled; sheep do not enjoy the bark of the sheepdog even when the dog is defending the flock from the wolf.

    There are idiotic factions on the Right, often socially conservative home schooler types who openly complain about “critical thinking” in the public schools as s kind of liberal conspiracy to replace content knowledge. It isn’t. Though the reverse idea, to minimize the idea of a canon of core content knowledge,  has appeared in ed fads, including aspects of the (deservedly) controversial Common Core Standards which was pushed by a cabal of billionaires, establishment GOP hacks, the Pearson corporation and the Obama administration in order to nationalize the school curriculum and vastly increase standardized testing. It is this recurring pattern of of political-academic-big business charlatanism in American education that gives this perennial right wing complaint traction. The public ed community in the past 40 years has pushed a lot of dubious programs and theories on students and the taxpayers. And still are; often in service of bureaucratic or political agendas like corporate ed reform.

    The political  Left is no better and in some ways, worse. If ever there was a cultish, anti-critical thinking, movement for brain dead indoctrination, it’s the social justice/identity politics movement. Rarely have more intelligent people been made to say stupidly nonsensical things on a college campus than in the past two years. It’s play-acting Red Guardism  and vicious moral one-upmanship but as an ideology, SJW identity politics works socially as a self-referential, closed system to inoculate the believer from any need to consider contrary ideas and justify, if need be, violently suppressing them in others.

    Critical thinking involves a capacity to use logical reasoning, the skills at the top of Bloom’s taxonomy, probabilistic reasoning and several other important intellectual skills in pursuit of rational, skeptical inquiry. It’s powerful.  So powerful that it has been an engine of mankind’s progress whenever it has been given enough freedom to flourish. The flip side is that critical thinking in essence and outcome is also ultimately subversive of all ideologies and regimes. Without exception – and there is the rub. There’s a reason in other words, that Athens put Socrates to death. And we are no better. We do it daily on Twitter, albeit metaphorically because millions of Americans today can neither think critically nor stand to see others do it if it calls their cherished sacred cows to account.

    We can teach critical thinking skills along with content. It’s not hard, assuming you can think critically yourself. We don’t systemically do this because we create ed systems designed to prevent it (public ed) or hire an army of people opposed to critical thinking on principle (university diversity bureaucracy). I’ll end my rant on this thought: immediately improving American education across the board at all levels could be done without costing one additional cent, but it means getting a lot of self-serving, politicized, rubbish out of the way.

    On targeting as a mood this electoral season, 1

    Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — the only virtue I can see in this darkness is that the light contrasts with it ]
    .

    I find this frankly horrifying:

    This, at a supposedly Christian university?

    Feh.

    **

    Mark you, I think targeting an individual — any individual –in this way is very different from targeting contested seats in an election. I can understand both Democrats and Republicans using the imagery of targets or cross-hairs to suggest where they’d like their supporters to get active, get out the vote and win seats..

    acceptable-or-not

    I said as much in On sneers, smears, and mutual sniping:

    Neither “targetting” political adversaries nor “having them in your crosshairs” equates to killing or there would have been a whole lot more attempted assassinations — just the one was bad enough.

    Have some proportion, people.

    **

    However, as an inveterate DoubleTweeter I have to say that pinning targets or cross-hairs on individual leaders in highly charged political disputes speaks a wholly different language, and presents a far higher threat level, than targeting districts on an electoral map:

    **

    For the record, I find this no less offensive:

    trump-target


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