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Cats and guacamole: a reflection on platform loyalty and information fiduciaries.

Jonathan Zittrain, Founder of the Berkman Klein Centre for Internet & Society, talks about a platform’s core purpose at EnlightED2019.

The conference was curated by Telefonica around the topic of reinventing education in a digital world. Gerd also contributed a talk on the future of education, which you can find the link to at the end of this article.

Zittrain's presentation was super interesting, so I've collected some of the juicy pieces for you below.

Talking in front of an audience of teachers, Jonathan asks about the core purpose of teaching and research in an era where the Google Search box is becoming a competitor to the teaching profession. When a tool becomes your friend – another way of saying that that the tool becomes natural – it is fair to ask something more from the platform provider than just mere data protection.

“When we use a platform to teach us, I’d like to know its core purpose: is it on my side or on somebody else’s side?…The core purpose should be one of loyalty to their users, and not catching users in a moment of vulnerability”

 In the second part of his presentation, Jonathan explains how machines think very differently than we do: a cat is very similar to guacamole, says Google. Don’t get that one? Fast forward to minute 25:25 of the video! 😉

“Technology will come up with correlations that we would never think of. One of the interesting hallmarks of our era will be access to knowledge with no theory that we can understand behind it. And how we will grapple with that as teachers and researchers is one of the big challenges of our time.”

To wrap up, Professor Zittrain calls for an integration of the great platforms as they reengage with academia, connecting in ways that are mutually reinforcing. If not, platforms such as Facebook are able to do experiments and build up knowledge that even the most powerful universities in the world do not have access to.


Guest post by The Futures Agency content curator Petervan

Gerd at EnlightED 2018






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