Chris Chameleon: There are many things I want to teach my children

Henry

There are many things that I set out to teach my children in my ancestral capacity:

a) The principles of fairness, politeness and civility.

b) Take care of your knees and your teeth, you will thank me in your old age.

c) Get to know yourself. Knowing yourself is more important than knowing anyone else, or anything else.

d) One of the most virtuous skills of imagination is the ability to imagine yourself in another’s shoes; so you will get to know other people, as well as humanity, better.

e) Try everything at least once. Unless it’s something that will necessarily make it the last time and unless you know yourself as someone who can’t stick to just one time (see: c).

f) Be the kind of person people want to be with, but if it costs you money, you’re doing it wrong. Becoming that kind of person will benefit you especially when the cold grip of many winters is around you.

g) As far as you can, eat or cook all foods as close as possible to the state in which they were created. The rejection of processing is not nonsensical.

h) and so on.

And with the eventual realization of my own, real parenthood, I suffice with the above and the unmentioned.

But then there is school…

I hated school as a child. The academic part of it was pleasant for me – I am naturally a studious pale soul. But my social maladjustment and thoughts tending to the far-right from childhood made me a social outcast which, for all the pain it caused me in my youth, endowed me with self-satisfied independence in my adulthood.

Given the small percentage that my youth ascertains in respect of my entire life, the cabbage was worth the sauce and I even enjoy its dessert these days.

However, what about my children’s schooling? My (I suspect controversial) opinion is that school is a prison where the inmates are rehabilitated to become the best computers and robots their potential allows. And I make the statement without moral prejudices, moreover obviously that there may be irrefutable virtues and/or advantages attached to it.

But yes, “prison”, because there is no choice, according to the serving of a sentence. You are told what time, where, when and rarely why. You may eat and defecate when you are told you may. “Computer”, because you have to store things in your memory and be able to recall them on command. You must be able to perform calculations and for all these functions there is a reward for how close you can function to the effectiveness of a computer. And “robot”, because goals of manual dexterity and mechanistic efficiency are set for you with corresponding performance evaluation and consequent reward.

This school system has demonstrably endowed, for the most part, the cultures that committed to it with undeniable advantages over those that did not. From this system mostly economic, democratic high-trust societies have emerged in which the citizens experience the comfort of functional infrastructure and relative security.

However, the past decade has increasingly and with an acceleration (which already catches people off guard) started to overturn this established order. And it is a duty of fatherhood that I focus my thinking on the adaptation that these changes require.

I recently entered a ChatGPT command for an essay with a specific theme (I’m not going to mention it here because it was banal, but probably contained moral implications and linguistic challenges). Within 30 seconds I had an 800 word essay that I would estimate to about 60% of my own best ability. There was even, unsolicited, a moralistic denouement built into an artificial-intelligence computer’s audacious attempt to awaken me as a human being to more profound virtue. Of course, I could have given further instructions to refine and improve the essay to my taste and style, but I had seen enough.

In a subsequent conversation with teaching staff, I learned that some schools are now working with artificial intelligence systems and that even at university level, attempts are being made to overcome the challenges that AI creates for the traditional training systems. What’s really happening here is that computers end up surpassing the computer-like abilities of humans not only in specific cases (remember how we gasped in the 1980s when Deep Blue checkmate Gary Kasparov!) but in general.

Robots are replacing humans everywhere in Amazon warehouses. They don’t get tired, don’t steal, don’t strike and almost never make mistakes. The days of human manual skill as the most accurate manufacturing standard are numbered.

The prison metaphor is still seemingly inescapable. Taxes, fines, obligations and schedules stand strong as long as we move with flesh and blood in a world of steam and steel.

What then becomes of man’s value in a world where it previously earned him or her the place at the top of the food chain, if his calculation ingenuity and his skill are trumped by computers and robots? Is man then reduced to a political voice and a commercial consumer?

Maybe.

But what is certain is that the world of training is being shaken up, needs a complete redesign and is obsolete in its current form.

The beauty of this, however, is that the emphasis will shift from training to education. The demand is no longer based on how efficient a robot or human computer you can create. The need now becomes the kind of person you can create. The challenge becomes with how much excellence you can cultivate this person of yours in the guise of a loving, compassionate, interested, enthusiastic, fair, polite, civilized person. And so we as human beings are led back to our one, authentic, inimitable quality in our dealings and walk in times of tremendous trial: our humanity.

Our education must therefore also be seriously focused on it.

So, back to the list:

h) and so on…