Ok I’m going a bit OTT here, a bit Off The Topic, a bit off the reservation so to speak. But I’ve got to get this off my chest, and well, that’s gotta be a good thing for my well being and my ability to function as a human being.

When I was a little younger than I am today I was an early adopter. Well, as early as I could depending on the cash circumstances at the time. When Casio came out with a new digital watch that had a calculator on it; well I definitely wanted one, but the finances weren’t there, and anyway I wanted a Healing Ten Speed bike (green preferably) more instead.

When the Sony walkman came along, yup I wanted one. And did some extra shifts on the milk run pushing the trolleys (remember those?) to get one.

Took me a while longer to get my first CD player as it meant replacing everything, and I mean everything, of meaning and worth to me. But I got there.

I remember a time when I had three typewriters in my classroom, and in the corner sat an old bathtub full of cushions; a reading well if you like, instead of a couch. It was cool. The bathtub itself as a reading implement wasn’t necessarily an example of “early adoption”, maybe just some early craziness.

Fast forward and I remember asking my Board to fork out extra money for a colour printer. “What do kids need colour for?”, asked the Board Chair.

And a while later I asked for a digital camera that could take 8 photos before you had to change the data card. “Won’t that just encourage the kids to use the coloured printer more?”, asked my Board Chair.

So as I said, I’ve always liked being a bit of an early adopter. Heck, even when interactive whiteboards were all the rage, fellow 40HPer Dave Armstrong and I were trying to figure out ways of getting them into our classes without spending gazillions of dollars.

All of it seemed to make sense and appeared to add to the experiences that we were supporting our students through. It all helped in making them see some sort of sense in their world. With the operative being THEIR.

I now find myself in “Green Eggs and Ham” territory when it comes to a thing called AI. Well, a little is an understatement …. It’s more like a lot. I feel totally in the “Would you, could you, in the rain?” part of the story when I’m talking about AI. 

“I would not, could not, in the rain. Not in the dark, Not on a train. Not in a car. Not in a tree. I do not like them Sam, you see”.

AI is short for Artificial Intelligence and it’s everywhere already, just not particularly smart, and entrenched in our way of life so much that sometimes we don’t even know it’s there. Up until this point it’s been useful, and supportive of the way we now think we should be living our lives.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen AI in a number of different ways;

Here’s the lead singer from the Darkness (I believe in a thing called love), Justin Hawkins attempting to work out what is a human produced song and what is an AI driven song Can You Tell The Difference Between AI & “Real” Music?!. If he can’t get it right, (and often he doesn’t) then what does that say about how far AI has now traveled? Need a song in a jazz frame … don’t worry about an actual musician, just get an AI to produce it for you.

Similarly we see Art pieces now being produced by AI in the genre of anything you want. Picasso anyone?

And then there’s ChatGPT, a chatbot that lets you converse like a real human. It has real flaws, makes mistakes sometimes, corrects itself and carries on. So much like a human, but without the emotional flaws that we bring to our own conversations.

Apparently AI is now at the stage where it is likely to take over sport journalism in the near future. Nothing to worry about that, but if all you need to do is type in the school, and give the AI access to some video feed – well, where does that stop?

In Australia, and no doubt other places around the world, questions are now being asked about the relevance of written assessment and exams at school. The ability of AI now to act, and respond in a way that is beyond human “perfection” is just a little scary. 

There’s something unnervingly unhuman about AI. But it begs the age old question; What is the point of being human?

I don’t know the answer to that. I’m supposing it has something to do with finding some sort of meaning in our lives. And that search for meaning is a lifelong search. What happens when you find it’s actually a 30 second  job for an AI bot? 

Is this going to be the great social leveler that we’ve all hoped for. You know that thing that provides us all with an equitable and equal 100% chance of being a success? That sounds a little intoxicating. We can all be Elon Musk.

Will it make us any happier? 

Or will it just make us all the same?

I don’t know any of these answers. But for once I don’t feel like being an early adopter here. I don’t even know if I want to be a late adopter.

Perhaps I’m worrying just like my parents did before me, when I told them I needed a calculator they said, “You don’t need a calculator, son, you just need to learn your tables”. 

I wonder where you sit with all this? Or maybe I should just ask ChatGPT.


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