This post was written by a student in the Stanford’s Winter 2011 Networked Rhetoric class; it was designed to focus in on a particular source or research experience related to his project on social media and digital culture . See a more detailed overview of this assignment.
As a sophomore currently studying computer science here at Stanford University, I am very interested in learning about computers in general. My research topic for this class focuses on artificial intelligence and its implications on education. Google and Wolfram Mathematica are two of the most popular and most powerful pieces of software that use artificial intelligence. Google has significantly changed how research is done and how society attains knowledge. Mathematica has changed math and science in many ways. It can approximate solutions so well and fast that the approximation can be said to be the actual solution. In my research, I am hoping to see what other artificial intelligence programs like Google and Mathematica are being made and how they will affect areas of education.
To start my research, I thought it would be very important to better understand artificial intelligence and its capabilities and limits. What I think I have learned is that it does not have any limits. At least, it soon won’t have any. I began my research thinking that artificial intelligence was something good, something that should be pursued more heavily. From what I have read, it will definitely change learning and education, but to an extent, I am not sure I would want.
One article I have read has me reconsidering how far I want artificial intelligence. The more the better is what I thought my thesis would support in this project. In Understanding Artificial Intelligence, a collection of articles from Scientific American, Ray Kurzweil compares biological and artificial intelligence so strikingly in “The Coming Merging of Mind and Machine” that the idea of the human brain becoming obsolete is not far-fetched.
I did not know much about computer history, but in his article Kurzweil clearly shows the exponential growth that it is undergoing. When he compares it with the exponential growth of humans, he illustrates that the exponential growth of computers is much faster. The human genome project is only one example he uses. When it was first proposed, it was estimated that it would have taken thousands of years to complete given the past computing power. It has been completed nearly a decade ago.
Artificial intelligence is such a powerful that I am sure society can benefit from in many ways, but I am starting to see that it is a double-edged sword. Human beings can benefit from it as well as become obsolete by it.