人工智慧 : 当今媒体的热点话题之一
最近，在微博上，一张图片吸引了许多人的关注：在教室里，30个学生面对黑板坐着。看起来是一个典型的教室。可是，一些矩形被叠加在每一个学生的脸上。一个看黑板的学生的绿矩形里面写着“身份：000010，第一个状态：专心“。一个站在桌子的后面的女学生的蓝矩形里面写着，”身份：00001, 第三个状态：回答问题“。如同在从乔治•奥威尔的反乌托邦的科幻小说《1984年》里. 可是这个噩梦成真了。
中国父母渴望了解自己的孩子在学校里的表现。上课是唯一时刻孩子们能避免父母的视野，使得父母担心极了。父母要控制自己的孩子的每一个方面，可是老师只有一双眼睛。因此，每天放学时，父母都问老师许多问题，比如，“今天他又睡觉了没有？” 或者 “他跟他的同学不停地聊天儿吗？” 现在，每一个星期，父母能取得算法分析孩子行为的数据。
Artificial Intelligence – one of today’s media’s most hotly debated topics
Recently, on Weibo, a photo has attracted lots of people’s attention. In a classroom, 30 students are sat facing the blackboard in what appears to be a normal classroom. But a few rectangles are superimposed over the students’ faces. For a student facing the blackboard, the inside of a green rectangle was written: “ID: 000010: Status 1: Concentrating.” For the student standing behind her desk, the inside of a blue rectangle read: “ID:00001 status 3: Answering Questions.” This may seem like a scene from George Orwell’s 1984, yet this nightmare has come true…
In May 2017, AlphaGo, an AI machine, beat the world’s best Go player. The victory for this AI computer, invented in Silicon Valley, spurred the Chinese government to close the gap between the US and China in terms of artificial intelligence. Consequently, the Chinese government published a 20,000 word white paper, detailing its AI research and development strategy. The strategy advocated the integration of AI into many industries, such as medicine, law, environmental protection. One other aspect was also included: “intelligent education”. In seven trial schools, in every classroom, a small white camera is put above the whiteboard and takes a picture of the students once every second. Then using algorithms, it can distinguish every student’s identity as well as categorising their behaviour into 5 types: listening, answering a question, writing, talking with other students and sleeping.
Chinese parents desperately wanted to understand their child’s performance in school. Class-time is the only time when children can escape their parents’ gaze, which makes parents exceptionally anxious. Parents want to control every aspect of their child’s life, but the teacher only has one pair of eyes. As a result, when school ends at the end of each day, it is quite common for parents to bombard the teacher with questions, like ‘Did he fall asleep in class again today?’ or ‘Was he talking with his friend non-stop today?’. But now, once a week, parents can access their child’s algorithmically analysed behavioural data.
Advocates of ‘intelligent learning’ maintain that this type of technology can help improve a child’s behaviour and concentration and ultimately improve their learning efficiency. The Chinese educational system attaches great importance to exams: test scores are the key to a child’s future, so this kind of technology should be used to help the students achieve success. But teachers and parents disagree: are the data collected reliable? For example, if two students are discussing a teacher’s question or helping each other, is it fair for them to be classified as ‘distracted’?
Moreover, people think that this kind of situation resembles Foucault’s panopticon: only one guardsman watches over the prisoners, but the prisoners don’t know when they are being watched which makes them behave as if they were always being supervised on. The cameras inside the classroom have exactly the same effect: students don’t dare snooze, crack jokes or yawn through fear of punishment. Also they don’t know the cameras are operating, so don’t concentrate more but do everything they can not to fall asleep. As a result, when it’s their break, they don’t go outside and play but rather doze off. On Weibo, one netizen wrote: “The monkey in the circus is smiling because it’s happy; it’s smiling out of fear”. In one school, at the end of term exams, the students rebelled and turned the cameras off.
The third issue is privacy. It is likely that the school did not receive the parents’ permission, so in the aforementioned seven schools, there are 28,000 students who are unaware of the fact that they are taking part in an AI experiment. This lack of permission might lead to an imbalance of power whereby schools have the power to punish and expel and parents don’t dare stand up against this and run the risk of ruining their child’s future. Consequently, students become pawns in an ‘AI monitoring rights’ game.
Yet AI in schools is not limited to inside the classroom. In the future, students will be able to use face recognition to buy lunch, borrow books from the library and buy drinks from the vending machine. In Guizhou, nowadays ten schools have now adopted ‘intelligent school uniform’, using electronic chips to monitor students’ positions, to encourage students to attend class more. In shops, cameras can identify customers, and can tell whether the customer is a frequent customer or not. Then, the cameras store the shopping history which helps the sales staff improve the customer shopping experience.
In addition, the police have also started to use AI. At the Qingdao Beer Festival, police used facial recognition to arrest 25 criminals. But when AI goes wrong, it can lead to untrue accusations, convictions and also theft and fraud. For example, in November 2018, a famous entrepreneur, Dong Mingzhu, experienced such a situation: a camera on the side of a street took a photo of her face, which was spray painted onto the outside of a bus as part of an advert, and identified her as a jaywalker.
From my point of view, firstly, AI can definitely make our lives easier and safer, but also restrict our independence. Finding the ideal compromise between will be polemic; I think that Chinese people are more accepting of AI compared to Westerners, since they are already more used to the omnipresence of CCTV cameras and very powerful state authority. Also, if a society’s education is rooted in test scores, and they only us statistics to determine a child’s intelligence, then of course more and more schools want to use algorithms to determine a child’s intelligence, behaviour and so on. But, I suspect that if students feel overwhelmed with pressure, then this could lead to some awful consequences, and not improve studying efficiency. Chinese children are already put under a lot of pressure, AI might just well be the last straw…