Look For Vulcans On How AI Could Shape Our Future Education Model

Jānis Lanka
3 min readDec 29, 2018

On semi-regular basis a group of friends get together for what we call “Startup Idea Drinx” where everyone presents a startup idea and we collectively choose which one is the most interesting one. Then, everybody takes turns to evolve the agreed-upon idea with the help of an improv principle “Yes, and…”.

We do this, not to find an idea that could work on IRL, but instead, practice ideation, brainstorming and positive feedback. Often times, I see our days are filled with the opposite. One of our group members is working on some cool machine learning methods that would detect comprehension levels when learning about certain topics. So, he brought the idea up at the table, and we all agreed it being quirky enough, and kicked off our improv-inspired elaboration.

We first explored the problem plaguing the current education system, which is that every child is forced to learn the same subject at the same speed. We know that everybody is not the same — that kids are unique and learn at their own pace. When kids don’t understand something, they fake it, which hinders them from understanding the more complex topics. When they do this, it’s difficult to know what their actual comprehension is of the material.

If we were to develop an AI that could detect the lack of comprehension of a certain topic, then it may be possible to introduce a customized exercise to the student that will get them back on track or to another track altogether.

Let’s go a step further! Perhaps the Vulcans in the Star Trek (2009) universe were onto something in their Vulcan Learning Center. It looks like each pupil had their individual “skill dome” that provided a customized learning path. What better, focused, and individual attention could be used than AI’s help? AI driven Montessori, anyone? International AIEd Society is certainly on the right track.

While we’re not likely to start experimenting first on children with this, it’s certainly interesting to see if it can be applied to the corporate learning environment. Companies often use internal learning courses, internal wikis and lunch’n’learns to educate employees. The problem with them is that they’re often outdated and boring. Well, it is a bit subjective, isn’t it?

However, the corporate environment is always filled with people who fake comprehension out of fear of being seen as incompetent or the fear of being fired. Don’t think so? Take a look at recent job postings and see how the skill and experience requirements are often way beyond what a normal candidate of that particular level is likely to have.

So, how about turning the narrative around and celebrate the process of improving? Find ways to train employees based on their individual and/or department deficiencies that machine learning picks up on from scanning their emails, presentations, Slack conversations, annual reviews, etc. This is already almost attainable! With more attention on AI and the success it can bring, perhaps it’s possible to develop a personalized education system that runs via AI so everybody can reach their potential, at their own pace. And rather than going through the motions and “faking it until you make it,” maybe soon enough you’ll be able to present a plan and let others know exactly when the idea or skill will be acquired.

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Jānis Lanka

Building a better internet, one digital brick at a time.