The students in Whelanâ€™s class are all using the same program, called ALEKS. But peek over their shoulders and youâ€™ll see that each student is working on a different sort of problem. A young woman near the corner of the room is plugging her way through a basic linear equation. The young man to her left is trying to wrap his mind around a story problem involving fractions. Nearby, a more advanced student is simplifying equations that involve both variables and fractions.
At first glance, each student appears to be at a different point in the course. And thatâ€™s true, in one sense. But itâ€™s more accurate to say that the course is literally different for each student.
But can machines be expected to be fully empathetic? Signs point to no. It is relatively easy to create a learning brain but we donâ€™t yet know how to create a heart or a soul. In a recent talk at the New Yorker festival MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito asserted that â€œhumans are really good at things computers are not.â€