Ke vs. Lee or, China and South Korea Vie to Beat AlphaGo

So it’s only a game as they say, but the geopolitical implications seem obvious.  This board game is called Go and I have seen it played in parks around Hanoi, but please don’t ask me to explain it.  But I will quote from a article by a Hong Kong reporter that might help shed some light.  “Go, in which two players vie for control of a board using black and white pieces called stones, is considered complex because of the sheer number of possible moves.  Even supercomputers cannot simply calculate all the possible moves, presenting a big challenge for AlphaGo creators.”  But AlphaGo developers did accept the challenge and created the software that makes this game available online.

So far, AlphaGo seems to be the undisputed “artificial intelligence” champion, only being beaten once by South Korea”s Mr. Lee.  China’s Mr. Ke seems more resigned to only playing against human opponents.  He noted that he would focus more on playing with people saying that the gap between humans was becoming too great.  He would treat the software as more of a teacher, he said, to get inspiration and new ideas about moves.  Or maybe he should say that he has finally met his match, but when his “match” is basically artficial intelligence, it just may be too hard to admit defeat by a software program?  Somehow this all sounds vaguely familiar, like Dr. Frankenstein being outsmarted by his own “monstrous” creation.

AlphaGo is also demonstrating an ability to learn from its gaming experiences.  It is not just calculating moves, but learning from its own experiences.  That is something that we can all benefit from, so that we can remain smarter than our machines, I hope.

Ray Myers 

P.S.  Happy Memorial Day weekend.  Be back on the 31st.

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Don’t Google It, Strawman – Use Your Brain

Outsourcing knowledge to Google keeps you away from learning things the right way.  Don’t take my word for it.  Psychological researchers have been studying the effects on internet dependence on the human learning process.  Take your ability to remember, or learn things the right way so that you can recall them at will.  And on a personal note, this seems to get harder as you get older.  So if you want to stay younger mentally, using Google may be a handy tool, but still keep using your own mental faculties if you want to have people think you really know what you are talking about.  How old is Donald Trump?  Seventy?  He seems to like Twitter better than Google, but he still might like to use it if he wants to fact-check something.  I just don’t think he worries about those bothersome facts that much.  He does use the TV to watch FOX news, right?

“Using knowledge in the head is also self-sustaining, whereas using knowledge from the internet is not.  Every time you retrieve information from memory, it becomes a bit easier to find it the next time.  That’s why students studying for a test actually remember more if they quiz themselves than if they study as they typically do, by rereading their textbook or notes.  That parades the right ideas before the mind, but it doesn’t make them stick in the same way, you won’t learn your way around a city if you always use your GPS, but you will if you work to remember the route you took last time (NY Times, 5/21/17).

“But why do I worry about all this?  And why does Donald Trump come creeping back into my mind.  Maybe it is the fact that he is not the “fake President.”

Ray Myers






Conversation – There’s no App for That

Ours is now a world of constant communication.  We can reach colleagues, friends, and family in an instant thanks to our technological connectivity anywhere from wherever we may be.  It’s hard to imagine that it has not always been this way.  And as teachers struggle with implementing technology in their classrooms in the most advantageous ways for all students, they often find technology getting in the way.  With students’ heads bowed scanning the screens of their iPads or other digital devices, teachers must often compete for some modicum of attention for a lesson they are presenting.

Maybe there’s really nothing new about this classroom phenomenon.  Teachers have been competing for students’ undivided attention since the days of Aristotle but the most consequential outcome in the digital age may be the loss of students’ conversational and broader social skills.  As one writer expresses it:  “Kids have to use their five senses, and, most of all, they have to talk to each other.”   In a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development study across more than three dozen countries (not including the United States), moderate computer use in school results in modest academic gains.   More frequent or heavy computer use has a negative impact on student learning.  

So students in the digital age may actually be learning less as they use their computers more.  Besides turning off or moderating their use of digital devices, what should these young people do.  Maybe have a face-to-face conversation with someone?

Ray Myers



Time and Tech and Remembering

Monday will be Memorial Day in the U.S., and we are all reminded to take time to remember those who are no longer with us, and perhaps spend more time with those who are the most important in our daily lives.  Perhaps the title of this blog deserves some explanation in this respect.  “TechtoExpress” is not only intended to reflect an “express” mode in the rapidity of our dealings with others.  It surely has that capacity in terms of how quickly we can communicate on any topic with anyone in the world.  Technology also empowers us with many more tools to “express” our thoughts and emotions using new powerful digital tools.  More expressive opportunities are now available for more people, who may become the new “artists” of a new century.

Happily we can also now connect with family and friends even when we are not able to be with them personally.  Such tools as FaceTime and Skype enable us to do that in real time.  So let’s always remember those we love and those who loved us and now live in our memories.  And be grateful for the technology that enriches our daily lives so that we can “be” with those we love in so many ways.

Many worry that technology is rapidly accelerating our loves so that we have less time to spend with our closest friends and family members.  I don’t think it has to be that way.  Do you?

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Ray Myers

Aerogrammes to Emails to FaceTime

So now there are a lot of ways to communicate globally.  Thanks to the Internet we may no longer have to write and read to connect remotely with colleagues, friends and family wherever they may be.  There are now many interactive technological tools that enable us to make these connections without being literate.   The telephone may be the most universally used in this respect.

Let’s consider some of the implications for students in learning about the world around them.  If we replace the book with the digital tablet, are we promoting electronic imagery and sound over printed text and individual imagination.  I recently read that college textbooks were still coveted by students for digesting and reviewing subject matter presented in their classes.  Perhaps this is not very scientific evidence in support of the best methods of learning, or maybe it is more an indication of how lecturing is still the most dominant pedagogy on college campuses?  Could it be that real learning is not going on in the classroom, but on the Internet or with the multitude of digital tools that today’s students possess if they are connected and affluent enough to possess.

The real issue may still be more about an economic divide than a digital one.  But as the title of this article suggests, we can still connect globally in a number of ways.  It may all be a matter of how fast you want it to be, but in this new century, speed makes all the difference.

Ray Myers

What’s Your Reality?

So life is full of many choices, and now we have all have a very critical ones to make.  Would you like to live in a virtual or real world?  A bit oversimplified I agree, but we do now have choices that did not exist until technology came along and made it at all possible.  The virtual world may be rapidly becoming the world where we spend much of our waking hours where we work and play online, communicating with increasing ease and access on a twenty-four hour basis.  In a certain sense we can create our own realities in the choices we make.  This was hardly an option that earlier generations had.

Technology can also be a tool that enhances the breadth and meaningfulness of our personal and professional lives.  But access alone does not guarantee this.  I think one of the “twenty-first century skills” that our students and all families must now learn is the prioritizing of our time so as to maximize our life experiences in both worlds.  I am also concerned that many children’s realities are exclusively contained in the four walls, or stories, of their family homes.  Ironically it may be the technology that confines them there physically when the World Wide Web can take them anywhere virtually.

Of course there is always the experience of attending school in a building with other students and teachers.  This reality is also changing with many variations and permutations of how and where students can attend classes, from elementary school through higher education.   Technology has again made this all possible.  A flexibility that surely benefits and enables access for many more learners.  While “old school” advocates may decry such alternatives in learning, this is a “twenty-first century” reality that may make the biggest difference of all.