Having grown up with the orthodox belief that overpopulation will be the death of us, I now find myself among catastrophists who see low birth rates as the death of us. You can’t win in the catastrophe business!
Thursday, February 02, 2023
Friday, January 27, 2023
Wednesday, January 25, 2023
People in education and learning often imagine that everyone works in an office and is in need of hokey 'Leadership' training. Working people who do physical jobs, not on Zoom, are often written out of the narrative. I've had some of those jobs.
In fact, I’m always surprised when young people get to University or start their first job after graduating, having never worked. Sure paper rounds have gone the way of newspapers, and employing children is no longer easy but it’s part of growing up. More than school, college or any University, it’s your first honest encounter with real people and the real world.
Sunday, January 22, 2023
We have been using GPT software since its launch in a range of learning tasks and in all three of these books, the idea of AI generating content among many other tasks is covered. It is not a matter of 'if' but when and how much the learning game will be transformed by AI.
AI is the new UI, as well as generating content, learner support, personalisation and assessment. It is leading to smarter platforms, smarter content and smarter forms of delivery.
OpenAI is worth around $30 billion. This doesn’t surprise me. It was set up as a philanthropic entity to create AI for the good of humankind. It has been true to that goal so far, creating some of the most astounding AI services we’ve ever seen. It worked because of its focus on hiring some of the best talent on the planet, funding it well and giving them clear goals.
It started with a $1 Billion investment in December 2015 by Elon Musk, Sam Altman, Greg Brockman, Jessica Livingston, Peter Thiel, Reid Hoffman, AWS, Infosys and YCResearch. It became a ‘capped-for=profit with a $1 Billion investment by Microsoft.
1. Microsoft has invested $1 billion but that deal is not exclusive, so OpenAI can do things for themselves and with others. This gives them the flexibility to do things either solo or in deals with others.
2. DALL-E became a global meme in image creation. It was the start of generative image AI that is going at an incredible speed. It is clear that this will have a major impact on image production, content production, even art. There is also Image GPT.
3. GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is much larger than ChatGPT, with 175 billion parameters compared to ChatGPT's 20 billion parameters. This makes GPT-3 more powerful and capable of handling more complex natural language processing tasks.
4. ChatGPT-3 though, is a dialogue based LLM that was released to huge acclaim. It is truly disruptive as a text generator in areas such as content creation and assessment. It is rumoured that ChatGPT-4 will be released in 2023.
5. Whisper is speech recognition software, trained on a huge and diverse set of audio data. It can generate speech as well as translate and identify languages.
6. OpenAI Five is a set of five bots that play on five on five games in Dota 2, a computer game. They also have GYM Retroa platform for RL research on video games.
7. MuseNet has been trained to predict subsequent musical notes in MIDI music files to generate songs with ten different instruments in fifteen different styles.
In just a few years they have managed to create some of the world’s most advanced AI software. There is no guarantee that the existing large tech companies will not be challenged by the new. In fact, it is almost certain. Being small and focussed, well funded, with clear goals, can lead to stunning breakthroughs. Deepmind was a previous example in AI, there will be others.
Saturday, January 21, 2023
I have written about Amazon in all of my books but especially in 'AI for learning' and 'Learning Technology', as arguably the single largest digital disruptor on the planet. What they did was extraordinary, to take a bricks and mortar sector and turn it into a global, digital service. They have redefined retail, not just in books but for almost everything. They are also in digital services such as AWS. The deep technology behind all of this is AI. They are the masters at using customer focused AI, as well as manage and scale their business.
- Amazon’s retail business is one great recommendation engine. Their product recommendations are on all services, focused on the home page. Their interface is finely tuned and personalised using AI. Bezos was fanatical about having AI as the new UI to improve customer performance, first with one-click but then hundreds of other small adjustments and services. Fed by data from their massive customer base it is constantly improving.
- Amazon Prime’s interface is AI and data driven, tiled and personalised, as is Amazon Music. It uses collective and individual data to recommend what you may want to watch, as well as promote Prime as a service.
- Amazon put AI into the home with Amazon Echo - Alexa. They created the home device sector with machine learning text to speech and speech to text in a consumer setting.
- The hidden hand of AI optimises logistics, storage, waste packaging and delivery, a massive worldwide distribution service. They are the masters of logistics. Computer imaging is used in product selection in their warehouses. Their logistics also includes forecasting product needs and supply through predictive AI software.
- AWS delivers broad and deep and pre-trained AI and ML services to their IT customers, more than any other cloud offering. They are number one, delivering. Others are; Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle, Alibaba and Tencent. Most companies will obtain AI capabilities through cloud-based enterprise software.
- AWS is optimised using AI and is 16% of Amazon business but delivers 41.5% of the cloud computing market -- greater than all of its competitors combined -- Microsoft Azure (29.4%), Google Cloud (3.0%).
AI is the heart that beats within Amazon, the core technology behind all of its services. It is what drives them forward, increasing customer growth through better service and lower prices, as well as dominate cloud computing.
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
They are more about improving the performance for the consumer, step-by-step on used devices, rather than launching AI as service products. This is all about increased value in the consumer market for hardware. Indeed their focus on the design and manufacture of their own AI chips has been relentless.
However, they have a strategy and artificial intelligence is embedded everywhere in their products:
- Built their own A13 Bionic Chipset, now found in their devices, putting algorithmic power in the devices themselves, the fastest CPU and GPU embedded in a smartphone.
- Integrated AI into many of its products, such as face recognition on its iPhones.
- Using machine learning to improve the performance through image processing on its iPhone cameras. Their AI chips include, for example, an image processing feature known as ‘Deep Fusion’ which uses machine learning to improve low to medium light photography,
- Siri, the personal assistant for iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, macOS, and tvOS uses AI to improve performance. It make Sirs pretty slick, especially on understanding prompts, recognising specific voices and translation.
- Heath apps such as exercise, sleep and dignostics use data and machine learning.
- Smart home devices will include AI, including face recognition on door cameras, that recognise who is at the door.
- Hand washing countdown, digital car keys and many other real world tasks will be recognised through Apple devices.
- AI will be foundational in their AR glasses, rumoured to be released in 2023.
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Microsoft launched ChatGPT-3, but Google also have a great hand, in fact they have a bird in the hand...
Microsoft are holding a lot of great cards in the AI game, especially ChatGPT-3, but Google also have a great hand, in fact they have a bird in the hand:Sparrow, from Deepmind, is likely to launch soon. Their aim is to trump ChatGPT by having a chatbot that is more useful and reduces the risk of unsafe and inappropriate answers. In the released paper, they also indicate that it will have moral constraints. Smart move.
Hassabis has promised some sort of release in 2023.
Their goal is to reduce wrong and invented information by linking it to Google Search and Scholar for citations. Stating the source(s) is important to overcome the nervousness people have about the validity of the content. It may also frighten those who see these tools as blowing up citation-based assessment and hey may have a solution to this problem.
Google’s goal is a more laid back goal to build on Google Tools such as Search and Scholar to deliver factually correct text. They also have Lamda, remember the chatbot that a Google developer thought was sentient? RanBran , is AI deeply embedded inside tier search engine and they have acquired well.
To achieve this they want to use a form of reinforcement learning (RL) based on people's actual feedback, to improve performance. This is clever as it can determine whether output is adequate, needs more or even a citation.They also stress test the system by getting humans to break the system.
They recognise that real dialogue with trustworthy answers, requires additional rules that constrain that dialogue. The quickest way to determine those rules is from real human judgements.
Of course, OpenAI will release with ChatGPT-4, a product that is several orders of magnitude bigger than Chat GPT-3. Google are old hands, have the processing power to deliver and may want the ChatGTP to take the heat, then release afterwards. The stakes are high. The winner adds billions in value.
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
The cigar goes to Microsoft. Google comes second... But first Microsoft:
1. They were wise to pay $1billion for OpenAI in 2019 as that has already led to a massive multiple in value. The monetisation of these tools at volume is a certain winner and they have the computing power to deliver.
2. DALL-E now powers Bing Image Creator and is the start of something very big in images. This is starting to move towards the creation of video and 3D objects and worlds that gives edge in the Metaverse.
3. Then there's GPT functionality in Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, future proofing these office tools. This changes these from tools to powerful, generative job aids. It will help you write, design presentations and use spreadsheets with a significant increase in speed and quality.
4. Their ability to deliver via Teams is also possible. AI is already built into the platform. One can expect learning content to be one beneficiary.
5. They also own GitHub which has released the amazingly well received Copilot, increasing productivity in coding.
6. Valle also produces an AI voices. AI is the new UI.
7. Azure and associated services give them global and important edge computing delivery.
Saturday, October 29, 2022
Ryan and Rigby
Richard M. Ryan, professor at the Institute for Positive Psychology and Education at the Australian Catholic University and a research professor at the University of Rochester.and Rigby, founder of Immersyve Inc. provide a theory of gaming built upon ‘Self-Determination Theory’, developed by Ryan and Deci, the idea that specific, deep needs explain what we require to live fulfilling lives.
They applied Self-Determination Theory to explain that intrinsic motivation was the key to understanding the power of games and gamification. Gaming has become wildly popular globally, as it provided autonomous action, optimised learning and connections with peer groups. Gaming has been researched by them in detail and they provide a compelling account of why games are so popular.
Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, put forward Self Determination Theory in their book Self-Determination and Intrinsic Motivation in Human Behavior (1985). It sees the active self, being in control, as the primary driver behind growth and fulfillment. It is essentially a theory of motivation, placing importance on intrinsic, not extrinsic motivation. It is your own need for growth that drives other personal needs. This means growing in competence as well as feeling related or connected to other people.
Self-determination theory has three components:
Autonomy - being in control, able to take action that results in actual change
Competence - learning knowledge and skills to achieve more autonomy
Connection or relatedness - feeling attached to other people
Gaming and SDT
It was this theory that Ryan and Rigby applied to games and gamification. Self Determination Theory (SDT) claims that autonomy, competence and relatedness are the three ways to true fulfillment and growth but are they also the reason why games are so popular?
They argue in The motivational pull of video games: A self-determination theory approach (2006) that gaming is fundamentally about meeting basic needs. Matching challenges to stretch abilities, optimal challenges, allow the gamer to progressively acquire competences, mastery through action, which they experience virtually. In Glued to Games (2011) they further suggest that superficial narratives are less important than these deeper psychological needs and experiences.
Ryan and Rigby did four studies confirming that computer games offered autonomy within games and this was a key component in the enjoyment of the game. Competence was also studied and, as competence, in terms of knowledge and skills and achieved competences, manifested in actual performance up through levels in games, is a primary feature of gaming. Connection was also a strong feature in multiplayer games, a sense of being part of a team and wider community, within that one game, across all players of that game and the gaming community in general.
Rigby and Ryan studied actual motivations. consequences and game interventions. They claim that it is not the ‘content’ of games that matter but the feelings and achievements through playing the game. Unlike books, TV programmes and movies, it is not the narrative or story but the player interactions that matter. Game players get their satisfaction from the actions they take, not ‘fun’ as some assume. Hardcore gaming can be far from fun as game players will endure intense periods of effort, frustration, even disappointment but the satisfaction comes through the gameplay. This gameplay is the sense of control, achievement and relatedness to others (especially in multiplayer games). After playing, engagement in fan chat, videos and streaming, shows that the social side is very important. They go beyond the game to discuss, create and mod games.
All of this confirms their view that SDT explains the huge popularity and success of computer games. Rigby and Ryan give a solid explanation for the huge success of games, beyond mere entertainment, differentiating computer games from other media.
This has even more explanatory power in newer genres of games. Hundreds of millions play Fortnite, Minecraft or Roblox games because they give you the opportunity to create those games, confirming a strong sense of autonomy. You then succeed in killing, surviving, getting somewhere or gaining something, confirming your learned competences, in your own self but also in the eyes of others. The trajectory of a game is in the deep game design, in keeping you going with achievable challenges and satisfying these primal needs.
Gaming, learning and SDT
Note that SDT contains an important word - the acquisition of ‘competences’. This is central as one must feel good about gaining and exercising gained abilities in a range of different contexts. They provide a well-researched and sound basis for the power of games including the need to learn. Games gain their power, in a sense, by being learning experiences, becoming more competent, namely learning.
So, to learn best one must feel in control, set your own objectives, and also be in control oneself, whether playing a game or learning, sometimes both. How do you help people learn? You situate them in the context in which they will be autonomously motivated to learn and become more competent by overcoming difficulties and learning from failure, then connecting with your peer group within that multiplayer game, players of the game in general or gamers in general.
Although this provides a general theory of learning, as well as an explanation as to why gaming and gamification may be useful in the delivery of learning, one must be careful in assuming this means games are always good in learning. Their focus on intrinsic, Self-Determination Theory, looks for deeper aspects of gamer motivation and games design, not superficial or simplistic fun.
Games may distract from actual learning by providing opportunities to learn how to play the game, rather than pick up required knowledge and skills. The rules and execution of the game mechanics may take up valuable cognitive load, thereby inhibiting useful learning.
SDT has influenced learning theory and those who see gaming as a useful way to deliver learning. Naruda sees it as important in framing a vision of the Metaverse providing a pull for meaningful activity in virtual worlds, satisfying deep and identified needs of autonomy, competence and relatedness.
Ryan, R.M., Rigby, C.S. and Przybylski, A., 2006. The motivational pull of video games: A self-determination theory approach. Motivation and emotion, 30(4), pp.344-360.
Przybylski, A.K., Rigby, C.S. and Ryan, R.M., 2010. A motivational model of video game engagement. Review of general psychology, 14(2), pp.154-166.
Rigby, S. and Ryan, R.M., 2011. Glued to games: How video games draw us in and hold us spellbound: How video games draw us in and hold us spellbound. AbC-CLIo.
Naruda, H. 2022 Virtual Society
Friday, August 12, 2022
Reality + is a unique book from a unique thinker. David Chalmers made his name in philosophy, with Andy Clark, on seeing the mind or consciousness as extending further than we think – what many now know as Extended Reality. I included them both in my series of 200+ Learning Theorists.
Here, Chalmers tilts his lance at what most regard as fake knights, but is quixotic enough to see both windmills and knights as ‘real’. A modern Descartes he pushes us towards a view that every virtual world is a new reality – hence the title Reality+.
More than this, he thinks that such virtual worlds can be as good as the world we think we know. He takes his considerable conceptual sword to that other pub philosophy topic, whether what we are living in is a simulation. The results may surprise you.
This is not a casual read, philosophy never is, nor is it a short read at 462 pages. Nevertheless, it is a key text for anyone interested in the big ideas behind VR, AR, AI and the Metaverse. Another word of warning, a lot of it is counterintuitive, philosophy usually is but that is what makes it so exciting, so stick with it! The good news is that he is a good writer, way better (also philosopher) than Bostrom. He also lightens the saddle by bringing in science fiction, movies and games.
In presenting the idea that virtual minds are genuine minds, he takes us through a philosophical journey from Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, through to Descartes, Berkeley, Hume, Kant, Bentham, Mill and Frege to more modern philosophy of Moore, Rawls, Nozick, Putnam, Dennett and Baudrillard, cutting deeply into problems such as ‘What is real?’ He doesn’t shy away from ethics, not the superficial twaddle one sees most of the time but actual moral philosophy.
This is a book that matters, as the time is right for a deeper philosophical text around these issues. It is not a book for the beach, it is a book that will make you think deeply about technology and what is about to become a reality.
Thursday, August 11, 2022
Coffee and memory
We are still not entirely clear about how it works on the brain but a paper this month suggests that regular coffee drinking improves the signal-to-noise ratio during information encoding, in other words it improves memory and therefore retention.
In fact, there is now lots of evidence that coffee improves short-term memory and reaction times by acting on the pre-frontal cortex. Researchers from the University of Innsbruck in Austria, in a group of 15 volunteers given 100 mg of coffee, then scanned and tested, showed distinct improvements in memory in the caffeine fuelled group, "those who received caffeine had significantly greater activation in parts of the prefrontal lobe… These areas are involved in 'executive memory', attention, concentration, planning and monitoring."
A study from the University of Arizona, published a trial in Psychological Science, showed that in 40 participants, given 250 mg of coffee or decaffeinated coffee, the group that were given caffeine showed no decline in memory across the day in contrast to the decaffeinated group who showed significant decline.
In another French study researchers compared women aged 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day with those who drank one cup or less per day. Those who drank more caffeine showed less decline in memory tests over a four year period. The study, published in the journal of Neurology, raises the possibility that caffeine may also protect against the development of dementia.
Indeed, a trial from the University of Florida showing that coffee, more accurately caffeine, both prevents and reverses symptoms of Alzheimers in mice. Sure, mice trials don’t always transfer to humans, but these mice had the relevant human genes transferred. It suggests that caffeine both blocks and attacks the plaque that causes Alzheimers and memory loss. The University of Florida used 55 mice and gave one half doses of caffeine, similar to around five cups a day for humans, and the other half water. What was astonishing is that after two months the dementia mice had recovered their memories and were the same as the mice who showed no signs of dementia. The results were astonishing. What’s more, these mice had a 50% reduction in the beta-amyloid protein, which forms the plaque that causes brain dementia.
Coffee shops and learning
Since that first Yemeni goatherder observed his goats frolicking after eating coffee beans, coffee grew in popularity in the Middle East. It allowed Islamic Sufis to get through long nights of prayer and Islamic students found they could keep awake to recite and learn the Koran. The port of ‘Mocha’ eventually opened trade in the 16th century, through Constantinople, into Europe. As a habit of hospitality, it encouraged meeting socially and conversation, especially in an Ottoman Empire that did not drink alcohol.
They became hothouses of political debate, which is why Charles II wanted to shut them down. Edward Lloyd’s coffee shop became Lloyds of London. Jonathon’s Coffee House in 1698 listed stock prices, which eventually became the London Stock Exchange. Similarly in New York, a coffee house became the New York Stock Exchange. Coffee houses were also seen as sharpening the wit. The Tatler (1709) and Spectator (1711) link the periodical with the coffee house, drawing content from that source. So we have then coffee stimulating thought and cultural output. Pepys goes to coffee house three or four times a day. Voltaire drank 40 cups a day!
Urban, corporate coffee chains, and now more artisanal small coffee shops, constitute a global revival. Starbucks and its imitators, picked up on the digital revolution, popular mobile laptop workers and students, offering free wifi. They have now become focal points for meetings and working. Many have people deep in thought, writing, coding, emailing and doing their jobs, stimulated by coffee and the general social environment of a warm and inviting place. WiFi in coffee shops has given them a real lease of life.
Quick and easy to make, with psychoactive qualities, coffee was also incorporated into the workplace, as a break from work but also a method of keeping awake and getting through the working day. At conferences we stop for coffee breaks, a social ritual which encourages social networking.
The drink of a coffee in the morning as a wake-up experience, then after meals to combat post-prandial lethargy, is now an established social ritual. Espressos, an Italian habit, came with the machine compression of water through coffee, making it quick. The in-out coffee culture developed because there was a tax on service, hence service at the bar, standing up.
Coffee has long fuelled learning, whether it be through the direct stimulation of the brain, increasing attention, improving memory, preventing dementia or providing a social context for debate and work. Coffee has more recently re-colonised the world, through a global coffee shop culture, in the workplace and at home. Fascinating drink, fascinating culture.