Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What would a transhumanist theory of education look like? #edcmooc

Are you a human, a transhuman or a posthuman?!

... They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” First article of the Universal Declaration of HumanRights

... only the former has the capacity for rational thought. Reason belongs solely to the human and, as such, serves to unite the human race.” Neil Badmington 

... and share their lives, even if this simply means sharing a personal post on facebook.

Some humans try to...

Some of them... 
but in fact, technology has more worshipers than many religions nowadays...

Professor Steve Fuller's point of view reinforces the need to reflect about the “human” existence, given we “have failed in the humanist project”, which aims for racial, gender and class equality, for instance.

Shouldn't we consider transhumanism then?

“Here we are evaluating the opportunities for enhancing the human condition and the human organism opened up by the advancement of technology. Attention is given to both present technologies, like genetic engineering and information technology, and anticipated future ones, such as molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence.” Nick Bostrom

“We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.”
TheTranshumanist Declaration  

...and augmentation of human intellectual, physical and emotional capacities.

And what about a posthuman?

It's already considered a radical enhanced human.

Posthumanism goes beyond what we would ever deem possible in regards to human beings and their use of technology.

Now comes the question: What would a transhumanist theory of education look like?!
I think it would definitely be linked to technology and digital education.

“'Technology-enhanced learning’ appears to have become the new acceptable term globally for what used to be called ‘e-learning’”   EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme

After reflecting the following statement: what is considered utopic (desirable) and dystopic (undesirable) according to a “transhumanist education”, I may say:

Dystopic points
1) can be extremely overwhelming, specially through the interaction of massive social medias

2) As we rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence (“Is Google making us stupid?”  )

3) Based on the misery noted in many regions of the planet, the opportunity to have a “transhuman education” may be restricted to a small elite group; this will likely further increase the disparity between the poor and the rich in our current society.

Utopic points
1) have a variety of computer-based simulations and games to stimulate learning, thus expanding the student’s problem-solving skills, and further increasing their ability to apply the new acquired knowledge.

2) use artificial intelligence to personalize teaching and learning.
go beyond written texts; new technologies can enhance embodied learning
“There is increasing support for the idea that the way we think maybe ‘embodied’, or inseparably linked to our physical experiences. Evidence has largely come from the way that we use gestures when explaining ideas, for example, moving our hands up and down to explain the notion of balance. These gestures do not just help listeners’ comprehension; they help the speaker’s own thinking”. Andrew Manches (pg 33)
3) have collaborative learning environment: online discussion forums and infinitely content tools allow teachers and students to work, study and learn together.

References used on my Digital Artifact submission for the course "E-learning and Digital Cultures" #edcmooc

Badmington, Neil (2000) Introduction: approaching posthumanism. Posthumanism. Houndmills; New York: Palgrave.

Bostrom (2005) ‘Transhumanist values’ reproduced from Review of Contemporary Philosophy, Vol. 4, May (2005)

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

System upgrade: realising the vision for UK education (2012) EPSRC Technology Enhanced Learning Research Programme.

Paintings by Alex Grey. 

Photos by Carline Piva (myself) in India.

Note: To produce this artifact I tried a new tool that I really liked: 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Que tal sexta com yoga?

Dentre as boas resoluções deste Ano da Serpente está a vontade de dedicar minhas sextas-feiras para trabalhar com yoga, no formato de pequenos grupos ou aulas individuais. 

Se você estiver interessado em praticar, mande um e-mail para
Ainda tenho horários disponíveis.

Compartilho um momento super poético da aula desta manhã. Namastê!

Photo by Carli, 22/02/13

Friday, February 15, 2013

"Have we always, sometimes or never been human?" (#edcmooc)

In this great video, Professor Steve Fuller (University of Warwick) invites us to think how “humanity” has been defined since ancient time. Something I've never reflected upon it, I confess. I've taken humanity for granted so far. 

I appreciated this question by the tutors of “E-learning and Digital Culture” course: 
Professor Fuller suggests that we are questioning the very existence of the ‘human’ because we have failed in the humanist project (for example, we are far from achieving racial, gender or class equality): do you believe this?”

Interesting that when I was watching some videos about the “cleanness” and perfection of a modern future, I would ask myself: but how about the poverty? What were the “technological” solutions to be able to extinguish the world's misery? 

I must agree that with so much violence around (collective rape in India, all the religious wars, corruption in Brazil) it's hard to consider we all belong to the same species. Some people do behave worst than animals. Sometimes we're so afraid to be under threat by technology (how we'll become slaves to the machines, for instance), that we forget how sadly we still are slavering each others. 

ONU is claiming one billion people to go to the streets this week to protest against women violence. One good example that we're still working in the humanist project, although we normally choose to invest millions of dollars to develop new (useless) machines or to avoid private economic bankruptcy.

Are they made out of...?
Other video also made me reflect about the “strangeness of being a human”. Some aliens come to Earth and discuss, in a surprise way, how we are made out of.. MEAT!
It's really cool. The humans look so stupid in the video that I feel quite ashamed of them as, in real life, I'm so ashamed of people that have prejudice against black people...

Humans in the digital era (#edcmooc)

Buddha passed all his life insisting that he was a man rather than a God and his search was almost the same as the focus on the #edcmooc this week: “what it is that is most valuable, most precious, most essential about ‘being human’?" Here we are also asking ourselves what is to be human in this digital era, specially under threat by technology? The picture also reflects our busy minds and the overwhelming choices nowadays.

Photo by Carli, Sampa, 15/02/13

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Frase do meu Carnaval em Ribeirão Preto

"Liberdade na vida é ter um amor para se prender", Carpinejar

Friday, February 08, 2013

Sexta-feira zen

Conhecei o Centro de Dharma, juntamente com Erika, na Rua Apinajés, em Sampa. Monges tibetanos entoavam suas preces.

Tashi Delek, Feliz Ano da Serpente de Água, que começa no dia 11 de fevereiro. 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Gamification of life: Vegetarian? Really? You didn´t say that on your profile... (#EDMOOC)

On week 2 of the E-learning and Digital Culture course, we´re looking to the future. We have more films to analyze and now they´re related to visions of technology and education, exploring more utopian and dystopian discourses. I found the “Sight” movie dystopic (and very, very disturbing).
Sight from Sight Systems on Vimeo.

The main character seems to be addicted to gamification. For example: he´s hungry, opens the fridge and grabs a cucumber. Here comes a game asking him to put the cucumber on the exactly place and while he chops it, receives rewards: well done, you´ve chopped correctly! Then TV break announces that: “Life is a journey and on this journey we all want to live more – and with no boundaries”.

And off he goes to have a romantic meeting. And guess what? He has a “dating app” that scores the level of his questions, suggests him to give more alcohol to the lady and checks everything that´s written on her profile. A conversation that is mediated but technological rewards: “excellent, good job, amazing”. 

The end of the movie is scary. She realizes that the guy is using this “dating app”, calls him a creep and decides to leave the scene immediately. That´s when he says “stop”, letting her without movement. After accessing her profile again, he  suggests “shall we start everything again?”.One of my course’s classmate called this “a rape”. I agree this scenario is similar to rape because she couldn´t escape from the situation and was forced to do something against her previous desire intentions.
Will technology give us a second chance to perform better in the future? Will we be addicted to this kind of technological intelligence that gives us hints to win conversations, contests and everything else? Will we feel like losers when we choose to act simply based on our own feelings and moral ethics? “Sight” points out to a dark future in my opinion.

The instructor Jen Ross says that gamification in recent years has been argued to harness the motivating qualities of games for all kinds of purposes, including learning. I even discovered a “Gamification WIKI” (!), with an interesting explanation: Gamification doesn't rely on internal motivation. Instead, it's using the oldest tricks in the book: providing instantaneous feedback, egging on the competition, and rewarding even tiny steps of progress. Gamification assumes that the player isn't especially motivated -- at least at the beginning -- and then provides barrels of incentives to ramp up that motivation”.

I´m curious to read and learn more about “game-based learning”. I´m sure there are plenty of benefits, but the danger is to teach people, specially the youngest, that everything has to be fun. Life is not always funny, is it? In the real world we won´t likely receive smalls rewards each tiny step we take. In the name of humanity, we should not.

And here comes one more video about the “fun theory”.

Quick, easy and fun... to do, to learn, to live.

Is this the way to live without boundaries? I really don´t think so. 

Time to laugh #EDCMOOC

Hamish Macleod shared this funny video that talks about what an average college graduate knows after five years from graduation. I'm thinking what I can actually remember from my journalism course in Florianópolis.. gosh, it´s been more than a decade! 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Digital society and a tragic cry for help via facebook (#EDCMOOC)

There's something I can't take out of my mind about the tragic death of 236 young people, that happened recently at the south of Brazil. A terrible fire in a nightclub with no emergency exit ended up with so many lives. It was really terrible and we're are still grieving deeply. 

One of the victims, a very pretty young girl, typed on her facebook timeline: “The Kiss nightclub is on fire: HELP”. Some time later, her FB friends replied: “What? Can you explain it better?”, “Are you ok?”, “Is everything alright?”. But this lady didn't have the chance to carry on with the conversation because she died. Those were her final words.

At that desperate moment, I wonder why didn't she just run and tried to scape? Or used her cell phone to call her parents or the firemen? Facing the imminent danger, however, she begged help on facebook. She tried to call the attention of her virtual friends in the middle of the night. My hypothesis is that she was so used with this social media that it was her first natural reaction, like when our hand releases the saucepan immediately after touching the hot surface. 

What else can we say? 

Utopias and dystopias – digital culture (#EDCMOOC)

First of all, I'd like to apologize for writing in English rather than in Portuguese. It's part of my first experience on participating in a MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). I've joined the community and for five weeks I'll be attending the “E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC”. We have five tutors from the University of Edinburgh, and an impressive amount of 40.000 classmates from all over the world (wowwwww!). I'm not quite sure if everyone will continue to participate since the dropout rates of online education are normally very high, but I can tell you that the engagement shown by so many students is already large enough to feel overwhelmed. Thousands of blogs, twitters, forum discussions, google +... I do feel I need a hug (and not a virtual one!).

Our first week of course ended with an hour of hangout session with the tutors. It was a live conference session and I was delighted to see and listen to the teachers, their accent, well, let's say the “human part” of a virtual course. Sian Bayne was drinking water, Jen Ross scratching her head once in a while, the students begging all of them to speak slowly... For them, it's also challenging to have so many students and essays to follow and provide guidance. We're all learning from each other in this massive type of education. Christine Sinclair talked about one student who said that all the texts are already very good and there's no need to add anything more, but the teacher insisted we can tell which parts we consider relevant and why. I'll try this way. And I'll try to check out others blogs and to interact as much I can. Because we really learn not just from the books but from interacting and exchanging ideas. This first week was already worthwhile, although I think we need more than 5 hours per week as mentioned on the course presentation. For me it's nice to learn the main subjects of the course and the whole e-learning process (what is the best "methodology", for instance).

To think about the binary utopia (desirable) and dystopia (undesirable) related to technology and its contribution for society development, we had a film festival on this first week. I really liked one animation called “Bendito Machine III”. It reflects how we worship technology. Isn't it crazy to realize nowadays that people stand in queue for 5 days (and nights!) to be able to be the first ones to buy a brand new model of Iphone? And later on, all this gadget will turn into garbage, like the piles and piles of e-waste mentioned on the film? Interesting that the story begins with someone climbing a mountain, like Moises did to receive the God's 10 commandments. The technology shapes our lives, creates extra needs and we don't realize anymore when we're acting like zumbis (non-critical people). You can see on this movie when the “digital-God” kills some characters on the way and no one seems to have tools or free will to try to “fight back” and protect their colleagues. I wonder how far we can see that the “digital-God” can be an enemy? On real life, however, I believe we can make decisions, analyzing what is good or bad on a digital culture (I will not buy a new cell phone to have more apps because of eletronic waste that prejudices the environment, for example).

I would like to share three interesting quotes from the web essay by Chandler, D. (2002) “Technological determinism”, that I consider related to “Bendito Machine III”.

(...) “'The Frankenstein Syndrome: One creates a machine for a particular and limited purpose. But once the machine is built, we discover, always to our surprise - that it has ideas of its own; that it is quite capable not only of changing our habits but... of changing our habits of mind' (Postman 1983, p. 23). Although Postman denies that that 'the effects of
technology' are always inevitable, he insists that they are 'always unpredictable'.”

"Postman insists that 'the printing press, the computer, and television are not therefore simply machines which convey information. They are metaphors through which we conceptualize reality in one way or another. They will classify the world for us, sequence it, frame it, enlarge it, reduce it, argue a case for what it is like. Through these media metaphors, we do not see the world as it is. We see it as our coding systems are. Such is the power of the form of information' (Postman 1979, p. 39)."

Carroll Purcell refers to a mystical, 'semi-religious faith in the inevitability of progress' (Purcell 1994, p. 38). As he puts it, 'the notion is that a kind of invisible hand guides technology ever onward and upward, using individuals and organizations as vessels for its purposes but guided by a sort of divine plan for bringing the greatest good to the greatest number. Technological improvement has been the best evidence for progress so far' (ibid., p. 39). This is a surprisingly widespread popular myth.”

I would like to invite you to watch this short film about the mobile evolution:

It lasts only two minutes, but it seemed extremely slow and endless for me. I felt the urge to “unpack” quicker and quicker a more modern version of the machine, that would be smaller, more efficient and more convenient.

How far goes our obsession for the technological progress?

How aware we are of the consequences of the information flood and devices that emerges apparently with no control into our daily lives?

Who controls who?