Artificial intelligence


Alex Beard imagines a world without the school as we know it. Episode 2: Teaching
At a time when many parents unexpectedly find themselves taking on the role of the teacher, Alex Beard sets out to discover how teaching might look very different in the future.

We are used to a system of teachers who know and learners who don’t. The model of a large group of students sitting in rows, eyes trained on a single teacher, has proven remarkably resilient. But in today’s world, where new fields of knowledge are emerging rapidly and lifelong learners may not always have access to a dedicated teacher, is it time to rethink how teaching is done?

Artificial intelligence is already playing a significant role in education. Some edtech companies are developing technology which can track a learner’s progress by monitoring their heart rate and eye movements. But where does all this leave the human teacher? And how can new technology be harnessed in the best interests of teachers and learners?

Alex Beard used to be a teacher, and is now an education explorer, of sorts. In the second episode of this series, he observes teaching around the world, and talks to important thinkers in artificial intelligence, philosophy and pedagogy, to find out what role teachers will play in the Learning Revolution.

Presenter: Alex Beard
Producers: Dan Hardoon and Emma Barnaby
Executive Producer: Deborah Dudgeon
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Stuart Russell and Controlling AI

Artificial intelligence pioneer Stuart Russell on how to stop AI destroying the world.
Helen Lewis meets the writers and thinkers who are breaking new ground.

From politics to economics, from tech to the study of how we live, things are changing fast. Old certainties have not been under such challenge for decades.

So each week, we give the whole programme over to a single in-depth, close-up interview with someone whose big idea is bidding to change our world.
Helen’s challenge is to make sense of their new idea, to find out more about the person behind it – and to test what it has to offer us against the failures of the past.

In this episode, Helen talks to Stuart Russell, a pioneer of artificial intelligence, about how he has become increasingly worried that AI design is founded on flawed principles. And how, if we don’t rethink its fundamentals, the arrival of ‘Artificial General Intelligence’ could put humanity at terrible risk.

He explains how AI design creates in its products a single-minded drive to fulfil the objective we give it – but how, as the story of King Midas shows, that can go terribly wrong.

And Russell sets out three new principles which, if incorporated into AI from the very start of the design process, could ensure that humans stay in control. Otherwise, he says, we face losing all agency over our future, with potentially terrible consequences.

Producer: Phil Tinline