Entries Tagged 'AA Human Nature' ↓

A.I. in our future

Our New Promethean Moment, (New York Times, March 21, 2023)

In his commentary about the future of Artificial Intelligence and its potential effects on humanity, Thomas Friedman wrote, 

We are going to need to develop what I call “complex adaptive coalitions” — where business, government, social entrepreneurs, educators, competing superpowers and moral philosophers all come together to define how we get the best and cushion the worst of A.I. No one player in this coalition can fix the problem alone. It requires a very different governing model from traditional left-right politics. And we will have to transition to it amid the worst great-power tensions since the end of the Cold War and culture wars breaking out inside virtually every democracy.

We already have the six-virtue definition of the educated person for “how we get the best and cushion the worst of A.I.” If schools based their curricula on the six-virtues, we would begin to see how to use A.I. in constructive, not destructive ways. Of course, that means educators would have to shift their improvement paradigm from a social scientific one — being more effective at teaching the answers to multiple choice questions; to an aesthetic one — bringing more beauty into their classrooms and the lives of their students. 

Which of the national great powers will lead the way to a brighter future with A.I.?

Why teach history?

I am reading Howard Fineman’s The Thirteen American Arguments (2009). His introduction points out that arguing (and arguments) rarely get a favorable review from authors like himself. Therefore, the purpose of his book is to explain that arguing has always been a vehicle for moving America toward its ideals; and that continues today.   

His first chapter describes the American argument about “Who is a person?” Reading about the answers to that question throughout American history prompted me to think about a different question. This one is related to my arguments in The Six Virtues of the Educated Person (2009).  

Whether or not you agree that Understanding, Imagination, Strength of Character, Courage, Humility and Generosity are the six virtues of the educated person, I want to know your answer to this question: From your reading of history, what conclusions do you draw about human nature? 

For example, reading the arguments over “Who is a person?” would prompt thoughtful readers to draw conclusions about human nature within the context of societies that have addressed that question. By learning how a society grants personhood, we learn about human nature more than we do about the distinctions in that society, although those may be points of interest. 

In Fineman’s chapter on American arguments about faith, he writes this about the founding fathers:

The focus of their intellectual, political and moral ambition was the world, history as it was lived, and the Enlightenment spirit of inquiry and science. (p. 64)

Evidently, our country was founded by men who drew conclusions about human nature from their study of history.

Fineman also writes:

Mixing faith and politics—souls and voting—can be uplifting, but it can be toxic, too. In the South, religion was a bulwark of slaveholding society, with elders interpreting the Old Testament view of chattel, including human chattel, literally. (pp. 65-66)

Can anybody understand that description of a historical period and not draw conclusions about human nature? This is just one example. Are social studies/history teachers asking students to draw conclusions about human nature? If not, why do we teach history?

Should we orient our lives toward happiness or goodness?

I recently read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, where he argued that a fundamental human goal/purpose is the pursuit of happiness. Therefore, it was interesting to read David Brooks’ take on human purpose in “Some People Turn Suffering Into Wisdom,” (NYT, 4/21/2022):

Suffering is evil, but it can serve as a bridge to others in pain. After loss, many people make a moral leap: I may never understand what happened, but I can be more understanding toward others. When people see themselves behaving more compassionately, orienting their lives toward goodness instead of happiness, they revise their self-image and regain a sense of meaning.

Although “orienting our lives toward goodness instead of happiness” conflicts with Aristotle’s happiness goal, he would probably agree with Brooks because he also wrote about the pursuit of virtue. 

Republicans Described (Maybe)

Thomas Edsall, (New York Times, March 30, 2022,) quoted Heather L. Ondercin, a political scientist at Appalachian State University who has written extensively on gender and voting issues: 

Regardless of identification as a man or a woman, more stereotypically “masculine” individuals (male and female) — aggressive, assertive, defends beliefs, dominant, forceful, leadership ability, independent, strong personality, willing to take a stand, and willing to take risks — tend to identify with the Republican Party. Individuals (men and women) who are more stereotypically “feminine” — affectionate, compassionate, eager to soothe hurt feelings, gentle, loves children, sensitive to the needs of others, sympathetic, tender, understanding, and warm — tend to identify with the Democratic Party.

Does anyone else read the description of the stereotypically “masculine” voter and see a person who is aggressive and deeply insecure about his/her assertiveness, beliefs, dominance, forcefulness, leadership ability, independence, strength of personality, willingness to take stands, and willingness to take risks?  Maybe I have taken too many psychology courses.

Hate and the 1st Amendment

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

Yesterday tech company executives were once again grilled by members of Congress. Evidently, we can no longer find the line between yelling fire in a crowded theater and protecting free speech. The internet has changed everything.

Today’s NYT had an article about Google podcasts promoting violence and spewing misinformation and hate (https://nyti.ms/3ffm4Fi). As I read, I thought, “We should just let podcasters have their say. It is only ignorant, unimaginative, weak, truth-fearing, proud and selfish people, who would listen to them. Everybody else knows those programs damage our lives. So, why would anybody listen?”

Then I thought, “Oh–I forgot. Thirty years ago, public schools started focusing on improving test scores. Now we have a whole bunch of adults who are ignorant, unimaginative, weak, truth-fearing, proud and selfish.”

You gotta love those annual school goals of having students correctly answer two more multiple choice questions. Way to go, educators. I know–you were just doing what politicians told you to do. If you had an alternative definition of the educated person, however, you could have argued against the stupidest idea that ever became the goal of education.

Capitalism at work

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.


Florida company accused of steering vaccines to rich donors

No surprise here. Unchecked capitalism at work–donations put them in the front of the line, don’t they?

Remember–that $30,000 gift. When do I get vaccinated?

So what if a few front line nurses have to wait a few more weeks? What do they contribute to our economy? Some of them are probably socialists, anyway—trying to make life better for others, instead of themselves.   


Let’s play Whataboutism:


Workers at Elite Medical Centers Are Vaccinated Out of Turn

Why the six virtues?


Slur, Surfacing on Old Video, Alters Young Lives and a Town


Read this NYT story https://nyti.ms/3rxt184 (12/27/2020), then think about what the principal should have done, instead of nothing.

Mr. Galligan (a mixed-race student) showed the clip (of the student using the N word) to the school principal, who declined to take action, citing free speech and the fact that the offensive behavior took place outside school.

If the school had defined the educated person as one who demonstrates the six virtues, the principal would have been expected to educate the girl, who posted the slur, about the importance of being understanding, imaginative, humble, and generous. (The first amendment does not say public schools cannot teach the six virtues of the educated person.)


the district in August released a plan to combat systemic racism. The move was followed by a formal apology in September for the district’s history of segregation.

Ironically, the school district’s failure to adopt a virtue definition of the educated person was costly to both the girl who posted the slur (and was therefore denied admission to UT-Knoxville) and to Mr. Galligan, who was subjected to years of discrimination in the school district.

Education policy makers go to great lengths to avoid defining the educated person as one who develops the virtues we want in all citizens. How is that other definition working — the one about getting correct answers on standardized tests?


If you want to know why the district’s “plan to combat systemic racism” is unlikely to be educational, read this editorial by David Brooks:


Once again, the failure of educators to adopt an inspiring, useful definition of the educated person means we fail to educate. How could it be otherwise?

Jesus demonstrated the 6 virtues


This column in today’s NYT discusses our uneducated nature and our educated nature (represented by Jesus). Was this idea part of your moral/religious education?

BTW–I wrote about this in the AC-T back in 2004.


Mitch knows best

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

I hope Progressives don’t try to de-fund the police. Mitch McConnell is already doing that as he turns down a bill that includes recession relief for state and city governments.

Mitch objects to the bill because it does not include immunity from prosecution for businesses and industries whose employees were treated unfairly or injured during the pandemic. Evidently, Mitch has no faith in our legal system. Either that, or he knows corrupt lawyers will bring nuisance suits to the courts.

You gotta love how Republicans get conflicted as they try to find what is most in their self-interest. Is it business and industry? lawyers? or police? Evidently, the most campaign funds come from business and industry.

All you need are the headlines

Today’s Asheville Citizen-Times front page headline:

The Big Thanksgiving Day paper

Above that:

Your complete Black Friday shopping resource!

Our local paper nailed America in two headlines–the quintessential American holiday and the quintessential American obsession. (I had to go back to put the exclamation point after the shopping resource! headline.)