Lessons from a machine - illustrated stories
The storybooks illustrate how the system might operate with three different families. They explore how the system interacts and gathers information from both the children and their surroundings. This gathered information helps the system to evolve and improve its teaching.
Andy and Julia
Andy, 8, and his sister Julia, 6, live with their parents in an ordinary, suburban house. Andy and Julia’s parents use the system and allow it to enhance their lives by assisting the upbringing of their children. They see it as a way of bringing the family closer, not disengaging them from Andy and Julia. They are interested in the way that the system rewards the children for engaging with school and social ideals.
Sc1: Every morning the system resets the free time monitor to zero. They are able to monitor the children’s daily successes and reward them with the allotted absolute free time. By trusting the system to calculate their children’s development Andy and Julia’s parents can gage their children’s learning and understand the development of their social etiquette.
Sc2: The system helps Andy develop academically. The Greenspoon Effect is a teaching programme that aids children’s learning, it uses a reward system but unlike the marshmallow test, it does reward with material goods. Andy is asked to recite types of words – plurals, verbs, adjectives – the system rewards him with praise when he is right but responds discerningly when he is wrong.
Sc3: Julia attends a nearby nursery. Her engagement with the system is a lot less than Andy’s. In nursery, the system encourages tactile play and allows Julia to choose her own learning. She responds well to clay and its pliability. She does not enjoy playing with water or sand, as they cannot be built with so easily. For Julia, the system is more of an encourager than an instructor and it relays her play interests to her parents.
Sc4: Their parents encourage both Andy and Julia to involve themselves in organised playing activities. It is important for their children to have human contact away from the system.
When Andy and Julia are doing this, the system watches and monitors but does not instruct. Andy attends fencing classes while Julia enjoys her ballet lessons.
Sc 5: At home, their time is divided between schoolwork, relaxing and family time. This is a schedule drawn up by the system. The first thing to be done is homework, this is supervised and aided by the system while Andy and Julia’s parents prepare dinner. Julia, whose homework is minimal, is able to play with her toys – this is monitored by the system that uses her play tendencies of nursery to suggest ways of playing at home.
Sc6: Andy is rewarded, for his good behaviour and results in the marshmallow experiment, with 35 minutes of absolute free time. In this, he is able to play games independently of his parents but also the system. The video games that Andy, and others in his class play, are similar to the structure of life under the system. Their lives and actions are monitored and achievements rewarded. Their progression in life is like that of a game.
Sc7: Once Andy’s homework is completed, the family sit down to eat. The system has told the parents that family time like this, and also reading to them and playing games, is good for Andy and Julia’s development. The parents do as suggested without question. The system informed her father to read to her before bed, as her reward for the day.
They have placed absolute faith in the system, believing what it tells them about their children’s progress. This allows them to focus on work and keeping the house in order without having to monitor Andy and Julia. They are detached but believe that their family unit is a strong one. The emphasis, provided by the system, on timed family activities is strong. Without the system’s instructions they would not know what to do.