Digital Aristotle: Thoughts on the Future of Education

Digital Aristotle: Thoughts on the Future of Education


Hello Internet, Recently YouTube invited me to California
for a conference with a bunch of really interesting people. There were many talks and giant balloons
and much discussion of what the future of education might look like — which is no small
issue because how society raises the next generation of scientists, doctors, and programmers
shapes the future of human civilization. It was an amazing few days and, if you’ll
tolerate my ramblings, I’d like to share some of my thoughts on this as someone who’s worked
as an educator both in and out of schools. So this is how schools have pretty much always
looked: a guy in the front who knows all the things and students who don’t so the guy tells
them. But a teacher explains things at the right
pace for maybe *one* student in the room during a lesson. Everyone else is either bored because
they already understand the material or lost because they’re missing knowledge they should
already have. But, at the end of the lesson, regardless
of student understanding, the circeirculem marches rentlessly on. And whether the teachers use a blackboard,
whiteboard or smart board and whether students use tables, or paper, or tablets (again) this
system really isn’t any different — it’s just technology doing the same thing in a
shiner way. But the Internet is different and behind the
scenes something interesting is happening that hints at the shape of things to come. In a perfect school, each student would have
a personal tutor, like Aristotle to Alexander the great. But if your education policy is ‘Aristotle
for everyone’ then there are three big problems with this: 1st) There aren’t enough humans on Earth to
individually tutor every child, and even if there were it would be horrifically expensive
and even if neither manpower nor money was a problem not everyone is as good a tutor
as Aristotle. But technology is solving these problems:
starting with number 1: For who needs humans when the Internet can
teach you all the things? Want to learn calculus: get started. Need an AP biology course? Go watch this one
along with hundreds of thousands of other students. The Internet massively multiplies the audience
of potential teachers and solves the manpower problem. But isn’t cheerleading the Internet the same
thing I was complaining about before: new tech doing old things just with more shiny?
After all if you were a pre-Internet child, with bookish inclinations, there’s *always*
been a place to teach you all the things. And people thought that radio and TV were
going to revolutionize education by giving teachers huge audiences, but here we still
are. These are good points but Internet also solves
the cost problem in a way that Radio and TV never could. Real shows are expensive to make and even
the best of educational TV often gets pushed aside for dumber, more popular stuff that,
not coincidently, is also more profitable. This is known as the History Channel Effect. But the cost to access to the Internet is
only going down, as is the cost to make stuff for the Internet. Which is why a guy with some paper and a marker
in his bedroom can pull in a million views a month at essentially zero cost and doesn’t
have to worry about competition from stuff like this. So the Internet solves problems one and two,
but educational videos still aren’t personalized to students and that leaves YouTube still
as a library of video, not a tutor like Aristotle. But you can build on top of YouTube and what
I see coming is this: Digital Aristotle for everyone. A computer program that tutors students individually,
by pulling from a library of videos like YouTube, a program that tests students on what they
know and, more importantly, adapts to the way they learn over time by comparing the
effectiveness of different videos and different tests to discover scientifically, what works
best. This isn’t a fantasy, there are people building
parts of this right now (even if Digital Aristotle isn’t their explicit goal). And one of these
places is The Khan Academy which is more than just Sal’s soothing voice. If this does not
blow your mind, you have no emotion. Behind the website is incredibly complicated software
testing everything about student learning: the effectiveness of different videos, different
tests, and different ways of asking questions. And while it may seem primitive now, technology
only gets better, faster. When Digital Aristotle arrives it will be cheaper, less labor intensive
and better than human teachers ever could be. I often hear the argument that Digital Aristotle,
or something like it, will free teachers to float around the classroom helping kids works
on interesting projects — and while that might happen in the near-term, I don’t think
that’s the long-term reality. For what happens when Digital Aristotle truly
knows students better than the teacher? When, for every topic of human endeavor, it’s able
to take the best and brightest kids farther down the path of knowledge than their teachers
ever could? I doubt that schools will go away — after
all they aren’t just about learning but are also freeing parents to work in the economy
while their feral children are turned into civilized adults — but schools will be radically
different and there will be far fewer teachers working in them doing far less. And while that’s not great news for teachers,
it’s awesome news for students and society. Right now, if you’re a student doing poorly
school moves on without you and if you’re doing well, school holds you back. In the future, I see every human using a Digital
Aristotle for their whole life, a tutor personalized to them, teaching them exactly what they need
to learn when they’re best ready for it and when that comes, we’ll have both a better
educational system and a better society. I want to thank YouTube EDU and the people
who ran it for bringing me out to California to meet up with these awesome people. I had
more interesting conversations over the space of a few days than I normally get to have
over the space of a few months. If you want to see what the best of education
looks like right now, go check out their channels and if you want to hear more on this topic,
I’ve also put together a playlist of talks on this topic I hope you like.

100 thoughts on “Digital Aristotle: Thoughts on the Future of Education

  1. WAIT! I HAVE A QUESTION! When the digital Aristotle eventually teaches at "its own kid's" pace, then some will be faster than others, and there would inevitably arise HUGE social problems because today in normal schools, friends who are smarter still are friends with people who aren't because everyone is basically learning the same thing (these connections would last for their whole lives) ((and are in the same learning place generally)). But wouldn't splitting up the equal kids into groups ranging from "dumb workforce" to "elite" cut them off from everyone else and at worst result in aristocracy and at best bad communication due to bad connections with different "learning classes?"

  2. And now, seven years later, Khan Academy can take every question you get wrong on the PSAT 10 and give customized SAT prep.

  3. My question: what will the required knowledge to be a teacher become? Teachers take expensive tests to prove their credentials, but what about when they don't really need the facts anymore?

  4. The thing is, machines REALLY struggle to teach languages. I don't think machines will ever be able to translate and teach languages well and consistently.

  5. "get 3 teachers in a room and ask them how education should be done and youll get 3000 answers" -my uncle, a teacher

  6. I think teachers will have an easier job. Let’s say a teacher has 100 student classes, each with an Aristotle. The teacher only needs monitor the progress, run experiments, and manage the students behavior.

  7. One thing I like about the concept is that a Digital Aristole will also know what you need to know in order to get to what you want to know. You can offer advanced courses, and when the student wants to take it, it goes, 'Ah wait you're definitely going to need to know calculus if you want to take THIS course so let's do that first.'

  8. Another fun method is the brother sister method, in which two students work together throughout their education careers. They learn together, socialize together, and solve problems together. If they don't work well, they divide and either join a successful pair until they find a better fit or go it alone based on preference. While this method does raise a lot of difficult questions and unique problems, I still think it is worth a shot and could promote mutual success and competition between learners

  9. uhhhh students still need a place like school to socialize and learn important life skills that the digital teacher struggles to teach. 

    also they need a reason to awkwardly interact w/ each other in group projects because "the teacher said so"

  10. 🤔 Mmm… But where are the social and the emotional skill learning . How it will learn being in a group. And how a child will learn motoric skills.

  11. This reminds me too much of a thing called I-Ready (The worst education system possible. It tries to adapt to the student but fails, and forces you to take long boring tests. Plus it isn't fun or engaging in any way (Which is one of the most important things for learning).

  12. So I know this video is very old and Grey will probably never read this comment, I still have to get this off my chest. As a special educational needs teacher I strongly believe, that teachers won't become obsolete, but their main task will shift away from knowledge transfer to pedagogic intervention. Children with special needs in learning and behavioural disorders are ever growing and I doubt a computer would be able to actually be empathetic enough to deal with that, since that takes a lot of observation, diagnostics and and pedagogic skills. I know that the US sucks when it comes to give children with special edjcational needs what they need, but in my country the course of studies is seperate from the teachings for regular schools. I learn just a little bit of didactics for 3 different subjects but my main focus is pedagogic specialization. I will also have the authority to do diagnostic tests and how to conceptualize a support plan for every individual student based on tje grand concept of their life and how other people tie into that. I believe that this kind of intense social work is needed in a society that becomes less empathetic and less social every year. No child can gather knowledge without and adequate psychosocial support system. And like you said, parents do not provide that many times.

  13. 2019 now and still ain't happen 🙁 school is so slow to make a move. BUT YOU CAN GET A FREE MONTH TRIAL AT SKILLSHARE. Hmm, too much influenced by those sponsors lol.

  14. Invention of Radio: "This will revolutionize education!"
    Invention of Motion Pictures: "This will revolutionize education!"
    Invention of Computers: "This will revolutionize education!"

    Invention of Digital Aristotle: "This will revolutionize education!"
    Sounds Familiar…

  15. I can see teachers being necessary. In the optimistic sense, teachers would teach less of the stuff that computers are good at (e.g. memorization, calculation) and focus on other skills like emotional intelligence, creativity, and critical thinking. Perhaps technology in the long run will aid in teaching these skills, but these are difficult concepts to teach remotely (particularly the emotional ones). Yes, this is entirely aspirational and unrealistic considering how schools are but an interesting thought I had. And who knows, maybe technology will become a surrogate for interacting with groups of people in the future

  16. You are wrong, while some things may be taught this way, many things can never be taught this way.

    Moreso, many people will never be able to taught through this method; because they need human engagement, etc.

    It's a little like in your ideal flight boarding video, you recognized that there are more factors than just what the most idealized mathematical formulas consider. People are not numbers nor blobs, neither is education or teachers merely about teaching info.

    You started to see it, it's about raising the next generating as best as we can. You are not wrong about the digital Aristotle generally but you are wrong about not needing the teachers or that it can replace the entire education system.

    Adam

  17. Even if somehow AI can facilitate right-pace learning without becoming the AI god (singularity), education is still fundamentally about socialization. And no amount of digital Aristotle can teach children to treat each other compassionately and care about politics. If you think teachers just pass down knowledge, then, yeah. But if you think that being a teacher essentially means making children people, that is not something an algorithm can achieve (at least, not without effectively becoming "human" itself).

  18. Aristotle is good idea, but it will be short lived when they are able to interface biology and technology via cybernetics. Information will be downloaded into human memory through artificial hardware. Scary stuff.

  19. I live in a world where some political parties strive for equality-of-outcome. To them, Digital-Aristotle would be the devil, because it doesn't narrow the scope of what students achieve, which produces people who are less unequal.

  20. "<10 years", ">10 years", 7 years have passed…

    When Grey predicts future technology, take the what seriously, but not the *when*.

  21. That sounds dangerous, think about how easily you could shape the minds of the future. It would be so easy to mess with sosiaty even accidentally.

  22. i'm 14 i'm probably to old to see this but i will love to see it in the future i've thought about that and it seems so logical greet video

  23. sounds like schools will eventually be turning people into bots' the problem is- if you remove the necessity to grasp information from a limited source ie- a struggling student overcoming an inept teacher – analogous to pulling blood from a stone, then you lost the rare individuals who overcome the system, of which they remove themselves from in place of a homogeneous samey thinking society.

  24. I like how old this video is, nothing seems to have changed. Though this is probably because school never seems to change period. "Cause it needs to just work, it doesn't need to be perfect" methodology explains it best, even to the expense of an entirely new lost generation.

  25. You commented on stupid television is cheaper and has a better return, that's true of the internet as well.

    Another mistake with your argument is the cost of internet going down. ISP's are removing plans and trying to force internet plans to be bundled with cable television to prevent the cord cutting movement that's been going on. For the past 5 years, my internet costs have gone up significantly, to the point that I'm paying nearly $100 for high speed internet that still occasionally struggles to supply enough bandwidth for YouTube videos.

  26. If all our jobs will be taken by bots, why would we need to learn? If this digital aristotle will make human teachers absolute and all our jobs will be taken by bots, why would we need to learn? I mean if everything we do will be done by bots what would we be needed for? What would digital aristotle teach us if there is nothing for us to do?

  27. Why do people expect me to still know multiplicatiom and division even tho I learned it back when I was like 9? I can learn it but it disappears after like a year lol

  28. This will also create an education gap bigger than what we have today, not because kids aren't applying themselves or because their teachers aren't as good, but because of kids' genetic code and how quickly their brains learn certain subjects.

  29. I'm actually reading The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson right now and I was delightfully surprised by the reference to it in the video. The point that you had about how people will likely still be using their digital Aristotle even after their school years was cool. Whenever I imagine human intelligence augmentation I usually imagine HUDs, headphones, and neural implants just delivering people relevant information, but now I realize that a dynamic and personalized education tool could be nearly as powerful.

  30. what did aristotle do to convince poor alex he could rule the world? I mean even tho that's what all my more encouraging teachers basically tell us…

  31. One point about this video hasn't aged well, as true as it was in 2012 not anyone with a camera can get 1 000 000 views on a regular basis, like all mass media harsh competition has arrived to the internet and people demand more from the creators now than what they used to

    So we're back to the same problem

  32. Where was @Kersegat? (Spelling) I also used a few science challenge like SciShow to help me and my team in the state wide science-bowl competition.

  33. and we’re still waiting for digital aristotle

    As someone who 1: is bored by school because I know this stuff and could learn what I don’t in 10 mins not 60, and 2: has ADHD and therefore problems concentrating sometimes, digital aristotle would be absolutely amazing.

  34. "you should get them a copy of The Way Things Work:"
    I saw this in the description and it sounded familiar. I saw the front cover in the video, and I grew up with that exact book! I still have it sitting on my son's bookshelf for when he's old enough to read it.

  35. I disagree, I don't think a digital Aristotle can exist, and even if it did exist, I wouldn't like it. Let me state why:
    One of the problems that you seem to have with school is that classes can either go too slow or too fast. But this solvable. If a class goes too slow, then students can move up to honors classes. Are you ahead of your honors class? Then you can skip your class. Can't? I've seen teachers that allow students to read their own Calculus book at the back of the class even though they are in pre-calc. They even get help from the teacher.

    But what if it's too fast? If you are in honors, you can obviously move down. If you aren't, then I seriously think it's better to try to improve yourself at learning than replacing the entire education system. A student who's too slow can improve by learning his fundementals again by getting help from the teacher after class, sometimes even during, or at home. A student can improve his speed at learning by becoming fluent in the material, or by learning how to take better notes and such. I don't view the too slow problem as being a system problem, I think it's a student problem.

    If Digital Aristotle existed, and students could go on their own pace, then I fear that this would worsen the problem. Rather than students becoming fluent with the material, they modify the pace of the material so that it is never too fast for them, which can make them less fluent. And by fluency, I mean they become slower at seeing or noticing patterns, they are slow at solving problems, and they are slow at learning new material.

    My second reason for being against Digital Aristotle is simple. Learning from a machine, 6 hours a day, is even more boring than having a teacher. It would also feel repititive. Questions in Khan Academy are very repititve, you will never get a hard problem on khan academy. The questions there are more for verifying that you know the material, but they aren't there to advance your knowledge, which makes the whole thing for me feel pointless.

    Also, it would really pain me to see students going to school only to just stare at computer/tablet screens.The human interaction between a teacher and a student should be extremely valued.

  36. But does not making more proficient and well rounded students make society more unstable because an intelligent person can see the trouble in their own home.they can see the inequality more clearly and the societal pressures squeezing in on the people they love. They see there parents who were once teachers pushed out by the digital Aristotle now stuck at home with no money and no future. It either leads to contempt for older displaced generations increasing generational conflict and difference or it just leads to more Lenin's who want to tear the world order apart and see anchary as anything better than the slow decay and demise of their own existence. But maybe I'm just blind and stuck in my tribe worshipping my idolatary. Love the videos btw and keep up the great work. You rock

  37. I wonder how this sort of tech will effect social skills. Many disciplines require it and if anyone wants to learn something from the comfort of their bedroom or study then they'll be more inclined to do that instead of moving outside and interacting with strangers. I imagine schools would just become a formal place for people of the same age to meet up and get to know each other whilst also be given time to go through these personal training programs so that they can learn at their own pace. Not to mention that the highest form of acquiring knowledge is the ability to be able to teach/explain it to someone else.

  38. Does anyone else get kinda uncomfy with CGP Grey's emphasis in what improvements can be made for the best and brightest? Like, What about how much good can be done to bring those who are struggling up to speed?

  39. An education system also needs verified experts. An example of the internet teaching system following your three points but breaking down is flat earthers.

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