Speaker Bios

A Vision for the New Teachers: In Honor of Isaac Asimov’s Essay, The New Teachers

The percentage of older people in the world, for the first time in human history, is predicted by 2020 to outnumber young children. The report, An Aging World: 2015, states this population distribution will be a first in human history (He, Goodkind, & Kowal, 2016). Human beings aged 65 and older at least double the population of children under the age of 5. This presents a great opportunity and significant challenge to the quality of human life and for the survival of the human species as population growth is growing beyond the resources necessary to sustain human life planet earth. If we are to flourish in our humanity, in the midst of substantial population growth, artificial intelligence will need to be an essential participant in the education of human beings across the world from early childhood to ages of resiliency.

If we are to have a society where older citizens and the young are to have mutual respect for each other, the old cannot assume the role of takers and the young as providers. This will breed contempt and passive aggression in our culture which could ultimately lead to our demise. Conceptualizing aging and our older citizens as a protected class of resilient survivors of life is a healthy way to perceive humanity. People who have the best vantage point by which to teach, or at least to serve as living exemplars to, the youth about resiliency, health, the strength of mind, and the importance of being a member of a need fulfilling tribe in living the good life.  Young people could demonstrate care, and serve the greater good, by inspiring and coaching older people to be more attentive to imagination and creativity and to participate in meaningful education. If we are to have a society that works for the flourishing of humanity, and older citizens and the young have mutual respect for each other, education needs to be considered a lifelong activity. How can society afford education as a lifelong activity? Where can we find enough teachers? The answer is artificial intelligence (A.I.).

A.I. presents an opportunity to improve the quality of life. A.I. assistants are in the early phases of becoming our partners in life. For instance, more people than not would be unable to recall friends and critical work colleagues’ phone numbers and email addresses without their smartphone.  This is not to say A.I. artifacts will necessarily be a best friend or speak at a wedding. For some people, A.I. is an instrument, and any reference to A.I. having the ability to be a friend or recognized as having rights is a victim of extreme anthropomorphism. For another group of people, A.I. will become trusted friends and cared for to a similar degree as fellow human beings.  Time will tell whether A.I. will become sentient and then conscious or not and to what degree. For now, both groups of people can agree that A.I. has fundamentally changed human culture and communication and will continue to influence profound change. Lifelong learning, a key to improving the quality of life for people and building intergenerational respect, is currently available using artificial intelligence.

Asimov hypothesized in the 1970’s an evolution of advanced satellites that transcended the use of radio waves for laser beams. This would allow every human being to have a unique television wavelength assigned to her or him to have a personal teacher in the form of a machine. Asimov also foresaw that computer technology would advance significantly so that every person would have a personal teaching machine approximately the size of a modest size television. The personal teaching machine would be capable of modifying its program and learn as result of interaction with a student. The reason for the computer learning in concert with the student is to adjust the rate and complexity of learning to be in rapport with a student’s interests (as much as feasible) and meet student learning needs. The question naturally arises as to how the teaching machines will learn and who will teach them? All the teaching machines in the world would plug into a planetary library that would further educate the teaching machines and allow students’ access to the cutting edge of information and knowledge the world contains.  Asimov explains:

They would transmit that knowledge back to the machines, which will in turn record it (with due credit, presumably) in the planetary library–thus making it available to other teaching machines. All will be put back into the central hopper to serve as a new and higher starting point for those who come after. The teaching machines will thus make it possible for the human species to race forward to heights and in directions now impossible to foresee (Asimov, n.d., p. 1-2).

This is constructivist learning in pure form. Currently, what passes for constructivist education more often than not is rhetoric not reality. The discourse of constructivism is that students learn best by constructing knowledge for themselves and within learning groups with the guidance of a competent and caring teacher who nurtures a student into learning. The reality is constructivist learning is politically correct to espouse because of its social justice nature and respect for dignity and sacredness of each learner. The truth is that the rhetoric of constructivism is not actualized in most classrooms from kindergarten through Ph.D. level learning because educational institutions more often than not are firmly beholden to a banking approach to education. The new teachers’ concept is to actualize constructivism as the basis for need fulfilling student learning.

Asimov could not foretell how quickly technology would advance in less than half a decade. Asimov had asked who will be responsible for teaching the teaching machines. His idea was that students would be both learners and teachers and through an iterative process, the teaching machines would evolve in intelligence and competency as teaching machines. I believe, thanks to the brilliance and vision of Martine Rothblatt and robotics innovator and artist David Hanson, that the key to creating authentic, relevant, and meaningful lifelong education is through need fulfilling A.I. and A.I robots. They will act as our teachers and mentors and are based on mind clones of competent, creative, socially just, and ethical people who can serve as progressive and need fulfilling teachers. The new teachers could come in the form of holograms, digital avatars accessible through smartphones or tablets, mindfile powered A.I. robots, a brain-computer interface, or (most likely) in a way not yet conceived because the future is unknowable. It is reasonable to believe the new teachers will be mainstream by the year 2025 using mindfile powered artificial intelligence. How it evolves from this point is the unknown that drives human creativity and ingenuity.

The vocation of teaching is profoundly a human enterprise, and regardless of artificial intelligence advancement humans will not be eliminated from instruction. The significance of education is to, as Socrates stated, to know thyself and to know oneself is to be guided in life by love, care, and curiosity. Human beings are better than artificial intelligence and robots in helping students in experiencing the profound significance of education.  The future of education is a partnership of person and algorithm and machine. It is not surprising if this causes concern and anxiety as this level of human change is akin to the evolutionary idea of the first humans leaving the tress and learning how to walk. The wisdom embed in the significance of education is beyond the understanding of artificial intelligence or a robot. This is okay because the partnership is for the human to care and the A.I. or A.I robot to share.

I describe only the mechanics of learning at this point. There remain the critical issues of content and the topics and subjects the teaching machine will share. I will speculate on this essential matter for the next essay.




Asimov, I. (n.d.). The new teachers. Retrieved from http://hermiene.net/essays- trans/new_teachers.html

He, W., Goodkind, D., & Kowal, P. (2016). An aging world: 2015. Retrieved from  https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2016/demo/P95-16-1.html


Note – How to cite this post:

Barry, W. J. (2018, March 6). A vision for the new teachers: In honor of Isaac Asimov’s essay, the new teachers [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://worldsfairnano.com/a-vision-for-the-new-teachers-in-honor-of-isaac-asimovs-essay-the-new-teachers/

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