Technology and Education: When Technology Enslaves Children

By Samantha Wickramasinghe | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 1 2020
Tech Talk Technology and Education:  When Technology Enslaves Children

By Samantha Wickramasinghe

One of the latest global trends on using Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education is using cameras and brain wave trackers to monitor students’ progress. 

In China, an artificial intelligence program was introduced in elementary classrooms where students have to wear a headband which monitors their brain wave patterns, which can measure the attention that students pay in the classrooms.

This U-shaped device looks similar to a bluetooth headset, which can be worn in the forehead as any other smart device. Designed by US based startup company and Zhejiang Brain Co Technology company, these headbands were used by elementary students in Jinhua, East China’s Zhejiang Province. 

The device has a light in the middle which indicates the level of students’ ‘attention. For example, red means the student is deeply focused, blue means the student is distracted, and white means the student has gone offline. Thus, it can supposedly monitor ‘attention levels’ of the students. 

The data extracted can be shared with teachers and parents via a mobile application. This device got the approval of some parents and teachers, and all of it was done with the general intention of “improving students’ attention levels and monitoring progress.” 

The devices are available to be purchased online, but the real question is, are we heading in the right direction with the advancement of AI? 

When videos and photos of students wearing headbands were circulated in the internet, there was a big backlash. Many people questioned the purpose of the AI program and the device, which were given to elementary children. 

However, the program resulted in backlash – people argued that it was violating students’ privacy by monitoring their so-called ‘progress’. This can also become a nightmare for children, since it puts lots of pressure on them to succeed and perform better.       

One of the most celebrated misinterpretations about technology in the history of humanity is the idea that ‘new technology is better than the old technology.’ We are forever trapped in this misinterpretation, since companies who want to make commercial gains would like to keep reminding us about the latest technology. This is why companies keep creating updated versions of electronic equipment over and over again. 

This argument doesn’t necessarily mean that new technology should be discouraged or that everything about new technology is bad. However, we need to be mindful about how technology can be used as a tool to enslave us. In this particular incident, children were used as test subjects in the name of progress and technological advancement, which may raise concerns. 

It is just basic common sense that education is never about monitoring about another person’s mind or judging them of their behaviour.  Education is about liberating one’s mind from dogma and the deception of extreme controlling. 

In the past, monarchies and religious institutions used chains to imprison people and deprived them of certain freedoms. In the modern ages, governments and private companies use surveillance to monitor consumer behaviour by collecting data with our ‘consent’, as they put it. 

Likewise, those who want to have power and profit will create new traps in the name of technology to enslave us. Our struggle should be to break free from the slave mentality. Our struggle should be using technology to liberate human beings, and create better conditions for all, including animals and the natural world.

By Samantha Wickramasinghe | Published: 2:00 AM Aug 1 2020

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