One of the more eye-opening highlights of "cosplaying as an adult" as your Senate President was going along with President Cornner, Guild President Haraldson, and the Board of Trustees to DC to lobby legislators and federal agency leaders. It is fascinating to see the community college system from the standpoint of those who fund and legislate at us. While I was in DC, I had a night to myself and used it to see a high-school friend who is a Republican health care lobbyist, and we had dinner and drinks and barked at each other vaguely amicably for an evening. A memorable exchange between us, at least for me, was when I believe I landed the argument that we are all Marxists to the extent that we view history in terms of the revolutionization of the means of production and the resultant socio-economic strain. I was like: “You’re not a Marxist? C’mon, you’re a Marxist. Everyone is a Marxist. You just don’t want to admit it.”
I meant to score the larger point that the transformational economic effects of automation and artificial intelligence should be a primary focus of governance, and I expressed frustration that issues such as reproductive and marital rights were still being exploited by both sides to drive the electorate in this or that way. I am always trying to get the moderates and conservatives I know to loosen up on the dance floor, really; you know, so we can get back to “boring,” and re-focus our attention on what constitutes public- or private-sector malinvestment, and let social mores be relative enough. Lol, good luck with that.
I would’ve, in the past, covered innovation (this month’s theme) by not-so-subtly celebrating my own status as a “3-D Animation Instructor” or “electronic musician,” possibly by calling attention to how easy it is to turn yourself into a “MetaHuman” in Unreal Engine (yes, you can do it on your phone), or joking about how pop music celebrity might be ending, but things are actually pretty weird and, to me, scary, so I will instead sound the alarm, albeit a quiet, goofy alarm, the kind you might find in a community college faculty journal.
Before I worry openly, though, I will say that innovation here at GCC should probably focus on reinventing our instructional and parallel programming for a post-pandemic world: first, by injecting renewed, actual wonder and excitement into the in-person experience of our college for students and supporting the in-person side of things, since it has suffered so much over the past few years. At the same time, we should keep and distribute the gains everyone made by migrating to the online modality. If you learned Canvas, use it as a scaffold for your in-person course, for goodness’ sake.
But I don’t mean to starve you, my immense readership, of my little musings, because soon you will not get to read them anymore, as next Chaparral is my last…
The worry I have about innovation, particularly in reference to automation and artificial intelligence, is that it is opening and evolving as an oligarchical structure in a relatively oligarchical age. It is a cloistered, invisible elite that develops this technology and privately manages its absorption into our culture/economy and the law simply will not be able to get out in front of it. Scarier yet, I am certain that innovation around artificial intelligence and automation is, at its origin, inextricably linked to its military applications, both on the combat and psyops side of things. There isn’t any doubt that the average citizen/college professor “doesn’t know what he/she/they don’t know” about this emergent technology, and it is obvious it can be used to dominate. And the insiders developing AI/automation, mostly owners of private businesses, really can better predict how innovation will take effect.
Maybe it’s not all bad. It’s all a part of the singularity, after all, the five scenarios thereof being: utopia, some new dystopia, apocalypse, rule by the machines, and oligarchy. I am not sure what a utopia would look like if the need for human labor were eliminated, but I would prefer to find out, given the other options. Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I smell oligarchy, my least favorite option; and what would this mean for educators/academic freedom? Would an oligarchy choose to eliminate the element of human-to-human interaction in education? To what degree would information taught be standardized? Isn't an intact intelligentsia of academics key to the preservation of a free society? And what would become of our festive arguments about "robustness" in regard to a return to campus or distance ed?
Big questions, for sure. I probably had too much coffee this morning. Anyway, I know I have not shared my track of the month for a couple of Chaparral articles, so I will share this one, Metro Area's "The Art of Hot," because when I listen to it I imagine humans and cyborgs enjoyably sharing the dance floor. See you next month for my last installment!
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