Is Thomas Frey right? “…by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet.”

From a fairly recent e-newsletter from edsurge.com — though I don’t recall the exact date (emphasis DSC):

New England is home to some of the most famous universities in the world. But the region has also become ground zero for the demographic shifts that promise to disrupt higher education.

This week saw two developments that fit the narrative. On Monday, Southern Vermont College announced that it would shut its doors, becoming the latest small rural private college to do so. Later that same day, the University of Massachusetts said it would start a new online college aimed at a national audience, noting that it expects campus enrollments to erode as the number of traditional college-age students declines in the coming years.

“Make no mistake—this is an existential threat to entire sectors of higher education,” said UMass president Marty Meehan in announcing the online effort.

The approach seems to parallel the U.S. retail sector, where, as a New York Times piece outlines this week, stores like Target and WalMart have thrived by building online strategies aimed at competing with Amazon, while stores like Gap and Payless, which did little to move online, are closing stores. Of course, college is not like any other product or service, and plenty of campuses are touting the richness of the experience that students get by actually coming to a campus. And it’s not clear how many colleges can grow online to a scale that makes their investments pay off.

 

“It’s predicted that over the next several years, four to five major national players with strong regional footholds will be established. We intend to be one of them.”

University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan

 

 

From DSC:
That last quote from UMass President Marty Meehan made me reflect upon the idea of having one or more enormous entities that will provide “higher education” in the future. I wonder if things will turn out to be that we’ll have more lifelong learning providers and platforms in the future — with the idea of a 60-year curriculum being an interesting idea that may come into fruition.

Long have I predicted that such an enormous entity would come to pass. Back in 2008, I named it the Forthcoming Walmart of Education. But then as the years went by, I got bumbed out on some things that Walmart was doing, and re-branded it the Forthcoming Amazon.com of Higher Education. We’ll see how long that updated title lasts — but you get the point. In fact, the point aligns very nicely with what futurist Thomas Frey has been predicting for years as well:

“I’ve been predicting that by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet,” Frey, the senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute think tank, tells Business Insider. (source)

I realize that education doesn’t always scale well…but I’m thinking that how people learn in the future may be different than how we did things in the past…communities of practice comes to mind…as does new forms of credentialing…as does cloud-based learner profiles…as does the need for highly efficient, cost-effective, and constant opportunities/means to reinvent oneself.

Also see:

 

 

Addendum:

74% of consumers go to Amazon when they’re ready to buy something. That should be keeping retailers up at night. — from cnbc.com

Key points (emphasis DSC)

  • Amazon remains a looming threat for some of the biggest retailers in the country — like Walmart, Target and Macy’s.
  • When consumers are ready to buy a specific product, nearly three-quarters of them, or 74 percent, are going straight to Amazon to do it, according to a new study by Feedvisor.
  • By the end of this year, Amazon is expected to account for 52.4 percent of the e-commerce market in the U.S., up from 48 percent in 2018.

 

“In New England, there will be between 32,000 and 54,000 fewer college-aged students just seven years from now,” Meehan said. “That means colleges and universities will have too much capacity and not enough demand at a time when the economic model in higher education is already straining under its own weight.” (Marty Meehan at WBUR)

 

 

A prediction for blockchain transformation in higher education  — from blockchain.capitalmarketsciooutlook.com by Michael Mathews

Excerpt:

Ironically, blockchain entered the scene in a very neutral way, while Bitcoin created all the noise, simply because it used an aspect of blockchain. Bitcoin, cyber coins, and/or token concepts will come and go, just as the various forms of web browsers did. However, just as the Internet lives on, so will blockchain. In fact, blockchain may very well become the best of the Internet and IoT merged with the trust factor of the ISBN/MARC code concept. As history unveils itself blockchain will stand the test of time and become a form of a future generation of the Internet (i.e. Internet 4.0) without the need for cyber security.

With a positive prediction on blockchain for future coupled with lessons learned from the Internet, blockchain will become the single largest influencer on education. I have only gone on record of predicting two shifts in technology over a 5-10 year period of time, and both have come to pass now. This is my third prediction, with the greatest potential for transformation.

 

 

What I did not know until last year was a neutral technology called blockchain would show up in the history of the world; and at the same time Amazon would start designing blockchain templates to reduce all the processes to allow educational decisions to become as easy as ordering and receiving Amazon products.

 

 

Why AI is a threat to democracy — and what we can do to stop it — from technologyreview.com by Karen Hao and Amy Webb

Excerpt:

Universities must create space in their programs for hybrid degrees. They should incentivize CS students to study comparative literature, world religions, microeconomics, cultural anthropology and similar courses in other departments. They should champion dual degree programs in computer science and international relations, theology, political science, philosophy, public health, education and the like. Ethics should not be taught as a stand-alone class, something to simply check off a list. Schools must incentivize even tenured professors to weave complicated discussions of bias, risk, philosophy, religion, gender, and ethics in their courses.

One of my biggest recommendations is the formation of GAIA, what I call the Global Alliance on Intelligence Augmentation. At the moment people around the world have very different attitudes and approaches when it comes to data collection and sharing, what can and should be automated, and what a future with more generally intelligent systems might look like. So I think we should create some kind of central organization that can develop global norms and standards, some kind of guardrails to imbue not just American or Chinese ideals inside AI systems, but worldviews that are much more representative of everybody.

Most of all, we have to be willing to think about this much longer-term, not just five years from now. We need to stop saying, “Well, we can’t predict the future, so let’s not worry about it right now.” It’s true, we can’t predict the future. But we can certainly do a better job of planning for it.

 

 

 

Amazon is pushing facial technology that a study says could be biased — from nytimes.com by Natasha Singer
In new tests, Amazon’s system had more difficulty identifying the gender of female and darker-skinned faces than similar services from IBM and Microsoft.

Excerpt:

Over the last two years, Amazon has aggressively marketed its facial recognition technology to police departments and federal agencies as a service to help law enforcement identify suspects more quickly. It has done so as another tech giant, Microsoft, has called on Congress to regulate the technology, arguing that it is too risky for companies to oversee on their own.

Now a new study from researchers at the M.I.T. Media Lab has found that Amazon’s system, Rekognition, had much more difficulty in telling the gender of female faces and of darker-skinned faces in photos than similar services from IBM and Microsoft. The results raise questions about potential bias that could hamper Amazon’s drive to popularize the technology.

 

 

A landmark ruling gives new power to sue tech giants for privacy harms — from fastcompany.com by Katharine Schwab

Excerpt:

A unanimous ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court says that companies that improperly gather people’s data can be sued for damages even without proof of concrete injuries, opening the door to legal challenges that Facebook, Google, and other businesses have resisted.

 

 

Online curricula helps teachers tackle AI in the classroom — from educationdive.com by Lauren Barack

Dive Brief:

  • Schools may already use some form of artificial intelligence (AI), but hardly any have curricula designed to teach K-12 students how it works and how to use it, wrote EdSurge. However, organizations such as the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) are developing their own sets of lessons that teachers can take to their classrooms.
  • Members of “AI for K-12” — an initiative co-sponsored by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence and the Computer Science Teachers Association — wrote in a paper that an AI curriculum should address five basic ideas:
    • Computers use sensors to understand what goes on around them.
    • Computers can learn from data.
    • With this data, computers can create models for reasoning.
    • While computers are smart, it’s hard for them to understand people’s emotions, intentions and natural languages, making interactions less comfortable.
    • AI can be a beneficial tool, but it can also harm society.
  • These kinds of lessons are already at play among groups including the Boys and Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania, which has been using a program from online AI curriculum site ReadyAI. The education company lent its AI-in-a-Box kit, which normally sells for $3,000, to the group so it could teach these concepts.

 

AI curriculum is coming for K-12 at last. What will it include? — from edsurge.com by Danielle Dreilinger

Excerpt:

Artificial intelligence powers Amazon’s recommendations engine, Google Translate and Siri, for example. But few U.S. elementary and secondary schools teach the subject, maybe because there are so few curricula available for students. Members of the “AI for K-12” work group wrote in a recent Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence white paper that “unlike the general subject of computing, when it comes to AI, there is little guidance for teaching at the K-12 level.”

But that’s starting to change. Among other advances, ISTE and AI4All are developing separate curricula with support from General Motors and Google, respectively, according to the white paper. Lead author Dave Touretzky of Carnegie Mellon has developed his own curriculum, Calypso. It’s part of the “AI-in-a-Box” kit, which is being used by more than a dozen community groups and school systems, including Carter’s class.

 

 

 

 

Amazon has 10,000 employees dedicated to Alexa — here are some of the areas they’re working on — from businessinsider.com by Avery Hartmans

Summary (emphasis DSC):

  • Amazon’s vice president of Alexa, Steve Rabuchin, has confirmed that yes, there really are 10,000 Amazon employees working on Alexa and the Echo.
  • Those employees are focused on things like machine learning and making Alexa more knowledgeable.
  • Some employees are working on giving Alexa a personality, too.

 

 

From DSC:
How might this trend impact learning spaces? For example, I am interested in using voice to intuitively “drive” smart classroom control systems:

  • “Alexa, turn on the projector”
  • “Alexa, dim the lights by 50%”
  • “Alexa, open Canvas and launch my Constitutional Law I class”

 

 

 

Big tech may look troubled, but it’s just getting started — from nytimes.com by David Streitfeld

Excerpt:

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Silicon Valley ended 2018 somewhere it had never been: embattled.

Lawmakers across the political spectrum say Big Tech, for so long the exalted embodiment of American genius, has too much power. Once seen as a force for making our lives better and our brains smarter, tech is now accused of inflaming, radicalizing, dumbing down and squeezing the masses. Tech company stocks have been pummeled from their highs. Regulation looms. Even tech executives are calling for it.

The expansion underlines the dizzying truth of Big Tech: It is barely getting started.

 

“For all intents and purposes, we’re only 35 years into a 75- or 80-year process of moving from analog to digital,” said Tim Bajarin, a longtime tech consultant to companies including Apple, IBM and Microsoft. “The image of Silicon Valley as Nirvana has certainly taken a hit, but the reality is that we the consumers are constantly voting for them.”

 

Big Tech needs to be regulated, many are beginning to argue, and yet there are worries about giving that power to the government.

Which leaves regulation up to the companies themselves, always a dubious proposition.

 

 

 

Smart speakers hit critical mass in 2018 — from techcrunch.com by Sarah Perez

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

We already know Alexa had a good Christmas — the app shot to the top of the App Store over the holidays, and the Alexa service even briefly crashed from all the new users. But Alexa, along with other smart speaker devices like Google Home, didn’t just have a good holiday — they had a great year, too. The smart speaker market reached critical mass in 2018, with around 41 percent of U.S. consumers now owning a voice-activated speaker, up from 21.5 percent in 2017.

 

In the U.S., there are now more than 100 million Alexa-enabled devices installed — a key milestone for Alexa to become a “critical mass platform,” the report noted.

 

 

5 influencers predict AI’s impact on business in 2019 — from martechadvisor.com by Christine Crandell

Excerpt:

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) already proving its worth to adopters, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of companies will implement and leverage AI in 2019. Now, it’s no longer a question of whether AI will take off. Instead, it’s a question of which companies will keep up. Here are five predictions from five influencers on the impact AI will have on businesses in 2019, writes Christine Crandell, President, New Business Strategies.

 

 

Should we be worried about computerized facial recognition? — from newyorker.com by David Owen
The technology could revolutionize policing, medicine, even agriculture—but its applications can easily be weaponized.

 

Facial-recognition technology is advancing faster than the people who worry about it have been able to think of ways to manage it. Indeed, in any number of fields the gap between what scientists are up to and what nonscientists understand about it is almost certainly greater now than it has been at any time since the Manhattan Project. 

 

From DSC:
This is why law schools, legislatures, and the federal government need to become much more responsive to emerging technologies. The pace of technological change has changed. But have other important institutions of our society adapted to this new pace of change?

 

 

Andrew Ng sees an eternal springtime for AI — from zdnet.com by Tiernan Ray
Former Google Brain leader and Baidu chief scientist Andrew Ng lays out the steps companies should take to succeed with artificial intelligence, and explains why there’s unlikely to be another “AI winter” like in times past.

 

 

Google Lens now recognizes over 1 billion products — from venturebeat.com by Kyle Wiggers with thanks to Marie Conway for her tweet on this

Excerpt:

Google Lens, Google’s AI-powered analysis tool, can now recognize over 1 billion products from Google’s retail and price comparison portal, Google Shopping. That’s four times the number of objects Lens covered in October 2017, when it made its debut.

Aparna Chennapragada, vice president of Google Lens and augmented reality at Google, revealed the tidbit in a retrospective blog post about Google Lens’ milestones.

 

Amazon Customer Receives 1,700 Audio Files Of A Stranger Who Used Alexa — from npr.org by Sasha Ingber

Excerpt:

When an Amazon customer in Germany contacted the company to review his archived data, he wasn’t expecting to receive recordings of a stranger speaking in the privacy of a home.

The man requested to review his data in August under a European Union data protection law, according to a German trade magazine called c’t. Amazon sent him a download link to tracked searches on the website — and 1,700 audio recordings by Alexa that were generated by another person.

“I was very surprised about that because I don’t use Amazon Alexa, let alone have an Alexa-enabled device,” the customer, who was not named, told the magazine. “So I randomly listened to some of these audio files and could not recognize any of the voices.”

 

 

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