Computer Literacy Program – Class 12 – The Future
The final class for the Computer Literacy Program was on The Future. By this time, Ryan had caught my illness from Data, Information and Knowledge and needed to take a nap before class. The kids were amazing that day. Usually, the prelude to class is a loud, chaotic time. A hodgepodge of competing rap artists, animated discussions on local gossip, and arguments over who gets to sit in what chair. But this day, knowing that Ryan was under the weather, they all quietly took their places and got their slides loaded on their laptops. Together, we got everything ready to go, and Ryan was able to rest until class time.
Although he was ill, you couldn’t tell it in the lecture. Ryan kicked this class off by talking about Moore’s Law and computers getting faster. This was a great lead-in to quantum bits, qubits for short. Remember the term “Qubit”. It’ll show up in a future post! 🙂
From there, Ryan talked about computers’ accomplishments and how they’ve solved Tic Tac Toe and Checkers. He also pointed out how computers have their limitations and he gave some examples of games computers haven’t solved yet. With that, Nintendo’s Mario made an appearance in his third and final class (He previously appeared in Programming and Software).
Next Ryan discussed Artificial Intelligence and telling the difference between a computer and a human. He discussed the Turing Test and then a manifestation the kids are very familiar with, thanks to MySpace and Yahoo– The Completely Automated Public Turing Test to tell Computers and Humans Apart. It’s also known simply as “CAPTCHA.”
On the subject of humans and computers, Ryan talked about computer generated humans. He pulled up http://cubo.cc as an example. It’s a site that features a CGI woman whose face responds to your mouse moves.
Cubo.cc was well-received. On more than one occasion, the girl was declared to be “freaky”. Which was the perfect segue to Ryan’s next topic.
“There’s a reason why she’s freaky,” Ryan said and he introduced “The Uncanny Valley”. With James Cameron’s Avatar opening in theaters that same week, it was a well-timed discussion.
Next the kids got to chat directly with some AIs. They visited with Eliza and Alice. They played Cyc’s FACTory. Some kids found a link and started talking with an animated Captain Kirk. Off color questions and observations about each other’s mothers seemed to provide particular amusement. 🙂
The bots were definitely popular… perhaps a little too popular. Some children were so enthralled, they continued to chat through the rest of class. Next time, we’ll have to save that for last!
With a somewhat distracted audience, the next topic was the Semantic Web and its intent to help computers find, share and analyze data on the web. To demonstrate this, Ryan had the class pull up a copy of H. Res. 558 and view the source code so they could see the tags designed to help computers interpret the page.
Last up was WolframAlpha, a site that instead of just returning search results for *you* to parse through, tries to actually answer your question. We asked it “Where is the international space station?” and “How many calories are in a donut?”. I found the answer to the first question to be absolutely fascinating (It even includes a map!). The second answer– downright depressing. 🙂
With that, our very last class of our pilot run concluded.
But the adventure was not over yet and I have more posts to come! Over the next two days, we would do makeup classes, the kids would take a final exam on Moogle, and then each child that completed the program would be rewarded their very own laptop!