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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Break out of mould. Letter by David Lipschitz in Cape Times on Friday 1st July 2016

MANY people, including myself, are worried about "the singularity", an event that is supposedly going to occur some time in the future when robots take over.

Robots have already "taken over"!

I have come to realise that since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been turned into robots.

Working "9 to 5". Spending two hours a day in the traffic. Cooking. Cleaning. Tidying.

And then the weekend comes around, and if we are lucky, we have some time off to watch rugby or TV or read a book. If we are really, really lucky we do something that does not cost us anything, like spending a couple of hours talking to our friends, drinking free water from the Newlands spring.

We go to school to turn us into the robots that our society needs. I did badly at school. I didn't fit in. I couldn't catch (a ball). I didn't understand what was going on.

When I was asked what I thought of a poem, I wrote what I thought.

Twenty years after school, I realised that what the teachers wanted me to say about the poem was what they thought - "what do you think about the poem?" actually meant "what do I, the teacher or textbook, think about the poem?"

Imagine Shakespeare in a modern school. Would we have his wisdom in the "modern" age?

Luckily I "focussed" in matric, and my mathematics and science marks went from 45 percent to 75 percent and this gave me a "university exemption".

And then at university, I was freed to think my way, as long as it was provable. For example, there might be a number of proofs for Pythagoras's theorem, an algebraic proof and a geometric proof. Either proof is valid in an exam.

And in the university of life, there are multiple possibilities if only we are open to see them.

Our school system constrains our thinking. How do we break out of this mould?

And what of "the singularity"? Fortunately robots don't have intuition, although they sometimes seem to be cleverer than us humans.

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