Saturday, May 31, 2008

What nonsense!

Via the Telegraph:
Children will learn by downloading information directly into their brains within 30 years, the head of Britain's top private schools organisation has predicted.
Chris Parry, the new chief executive of the Independent Schools Council, said "Matrix-style" technology would render traditional lessons obsolete.
He told the Times Educational Supplement: "It's a very short route from wireless technology to actually getting the electrical connections in your brain to absorb that knowledge."
Mr Parry, a former Rear Admiral, spent three years determining the future strategic context for the military in a senior role at the Ministry of Defence.
He is now preparing the ISC's 1,300 private schools, which collectively teach half a million children, for a high-tech future.
He told the TES that the Keanu Reeves thriller may not look like science fiction in 30 years' time.
"Within 30 years, sitting down and learning something will be a thing of the past," Mr Parry said.
"I think people will be able to directly access, Matrix-style, all the vocabulary you need for a foreign language, leaving you just to clear up the grammar."
Statements like this were made in the early days of computing and robotics. When the calculational potential of strings of ones and zeroes was discovered and then implemented electronically, it was presumed that the brain:computer analogy was very strong, and it was only a matter of time before computers could think themselves or that humans could think in a manner assisted very directly by machines. Mr Parry's assertion is slightly different - he seems to think that wireless technology can enable the fast and permanent transfer of information from the computer to the brain. However, he doesn't seem to appreciate how different human knowing is from the storage of information on a computer. Setting aside the philosophical question of the human soul and its role in human knowing, I think his presumption that somehow foreign language vocabulary could be transferred from computer to brain, in such a way that it links up with the student's knowledge of his native language (or alternatively with the student's knowledge of the world around him) is nonsensical. Additionally, why he thinks that this might be possible, but that grammar would not be portable in this manner suggests that he knows very little about languages, computers and brains.

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