Can We Engineer Students to Where They Learn Without Teachers?

I was reading Norman J. LaFave’s Web site, Alterworld: Norman LaFave’s Science Fiction Musings on Writing, Science, Technology, Education, Philosophy, Politics and Policy. 

His current article, The Future of Learning and Education…  tells of his thoughts on the future of education. He’s pretty imaginative, but I don’t think he’s wrong. I have been telling my Criminal Justice students that our ability to modify human genetics, alter human behavior with chemicals and change the structure of our bodies with implants is going to radically change the field. I think they only half believe me but the changes are coming anyway.

I am particularly interested in the experiments with brain chemicals that appear that appear to raise intelligence. The average intelligence in prison measured by IQ is about 70. That’s not much. What if we could raise that intelligence to that of an average citizen? Studies show that criminals suffer from poor judgment. One set of studies show that the process they use to make judgments is only partial the pattern used by law abiding citizens. Could we radically reduce crime by increasing inmate intelligence? We are likely to able to use this kind of technique not in some science fiction future, but probably in five or six years. It will be the first wave in new treatments for criminality not by prison but by altering the way their brains work.

The future may also hold direct transference of data from computers to the human brain. That might make much of college teaching obsolete. I can tell you I’m not looking forward to this, I’m a teacher and I enjoy it. However, I suspect the changes may be just far enough ahead for me to close out my teaching career with some dignity.

Both chemical treatment to raise offender IQ’s and direct transfer of information both present moral problems. However boosting intelligence in prison populations is hard to criticize ethically unless you can make a good case that an increased intelligence is a detriment some way. I think it is more akin to providing exercise facilities to build muscles than a punishment.

Direct transfer of information is going to be much more of an ethical dilemma. Will the machine evade the judgment centers of the forebrain and deliver the information without any moral screening? Will humans simply become skill bundles with only a limited humanity? What exactly are we putting in and how does it affect the whole system? As long as it is theory and their are no facts to work with, questions over what is right or wrong become more numerous the more you think about it.

I think raising intelligence by chemical means will be common in the next thirty years. I do not forsee direct knowledge transfer until minimally fifty or sixty years. But technology is not as predictable as when I was a child in the sixties, so we will have to see.

James Pilant

English: Computer tomography of human brain, f...
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