Picking up from Random Notes on Doctor Bot Ed (5/10/2012) . . .
Back to Robots!! Personally, despite my earlier remonstration, I would be quite happy to learn all sorts of subjects from a robot. A robot is not going to rob us of our humanity and despoil our personhood â€“ after all, we have less to fear from machines â€˜wantingâ€™ to behave like humans, as much as humans wanting to behave like machines (Hence, my prefatory diatribe against the social engineering of technocrats and their worrisome bedfellows in academic bureaucrats). A better version of my objections are to be found in William Jamesâ€™ prescient essay entitled â€œThe Ph.D. Octopusâ€ published in the Harvard Monthly in 1903, that anticipates much of the problems that arise when universities and colleges turn into a factory for credentialing. The bean counters have triumphed (by this I donâ€™t mean the social sciences as a whole, but rather a narrow instrumentalist application of a particular philosophy).
Welcoming Dr. Bot Ed into Higher Ed can have all sorts of advantages in terms of research in planetary exploration beyond our solar system, learning foreign languages or even the behavioral sciences, insofar as exercises in situated cognition are concerned and not to mention, advanced mathematics. Even though the thought-Âprocesses in a human mathematicianâ€™s mind is distinct from the processes governing automated theorem proving, at the base, mathematics is not sui generis human as much as they are patterns for discovery â€“ imaginary numbers, complex numbers, other forms of irrational numbers even while having no correlates in nature or grounding in empirical reality are still about mind-dependent patterns that are not necessarily confined to our species. As a thought-experiment, there is nothing to suggest that a hypothetical â€˜alienâ€™ (play along folks) from an exoplanet, a super earth perhaps, could not independently stumble upon esoteric concepts in mathematics not unlike their counterparts in carbon-based clade of Eutheria upon this kindred clod of Earth. Still, the known history of mathematics despite the obstreperous intrusion of computers and other calculating gadgets is a testament to the resilience, creativity, and genius of human mathematicians. How could anyone not be moved by the apocryphal final words uttered by Archimedes â€œDo not disturb my circlesâ€ as a churlish Roman soldier was incensed to intemperate wrath because our beloved mathematician refused to meet conquering Roman General Marcus Claudius Marcellus simply because he did not want to be interrupted from his study, libations and oblations to Urania, the muse of astronomy. The young scoundrel killed the genius-savant while the stolen planisphere made its way to Rome. Every major mathematical discovery does involve an element of either the sage or the heroic making its history humane and immediate even while its concepts are too arcane for the rest of us. [Read more…] about Random Notes on Doctor Bot Ed: Part II