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Taking Control of the AI "Situation"

I have a $10 bill on my dresser. Technically, I owe it to my son. But I refuse to accept it, so it is still sitting on my dresser.

Way back in October, at his annual check up, I learned that my thirteen year old son was a mere two inches shorter than me. At nearly 5’10”, I am not short…but, apparently, neither is he. I asked him when he thought he’d be taller than me, and we set a wager that if he was taller than me before the end of the school year, I’d owe him $10.

And then he had a sudden growth spurt. And (I haven’t admitted this to him yet, but…) he was taller than me by winter break. 

So now it’s a bit of a running joke in our house with my saying that the only reason he seems taller than me is because of his fluffy hair, and his asking everyone who walks into our house to judge for themselves who is taller (thankfully, I have very loyal friends and family who publicly state that I am taller and then wait until we are alone to share the actual truth). 

I know that my son is taller than me, so why don’t I admit it, give him the $10, and move on?

I don’t like change. I don’t like being wrong. I don’t like shifting my worldview. 

So I resist.

Seth Godin shares: 

“Life can be irritating. And sometimes, we can make a choice. The thing that’s vexing you: is it a situation or a problem?

Problems have solutions. If we care enough, we can find a way to solve a problem, but it might cost more money, require more effort or involve more risk than we’d prefer. If we’re ready to ease some of the constraints, that problem might go away.

Situations don’t have solutions. That’s why we don’t call them problems. There might be constraints we are not prepared to confront, or the structure of the situation may simply make it impossible to change.”

The fact is that my son being taller than me is a situation I need to accept. And my reluctance to accept that is the problem I need to solve. 

I see the same thing happening all around me when it comes to accepting the “situation” of artificial intelligence (or AI).

The situation of our current (and future) world is that AI is very prevalent and becoming more powerful and pervasive. The situation is that AI is having (and will have) a profound impact on education and what it means to prepare our students for their future. The situation is that AI is bringing into question what it means to be human.

There are no “solutions” here because none of this describes a problem. It describes our reality. 

And the situation is leading to problems, including:

  • Our teachers are using assignments and assessments that can easily be done with AI.

  • Our students don’t know how to use AI ethically and responsibly because many of them are making it up as they go.

  • Many of our schools haven’t considered how AI can be used as a vehicle towards accomplishing their goals. 

These are all problems because they have solutions, but as long as we’re stuck in the world of situations, we can’t be problem solvers. And staying stuck in situations is a choice many are making, whether they consciously realize it or not.

Seth Goden explains:

“The intentional, noticed choices are obvious. ‘Vanilla or chocolate?’ But most of the choices we live with are unseen. They’re expensive, challenging and invisible.

When we plan an event with an outdoor component, we’re choosing to be anxious about the weather in the week leading up to the big day…

Invisible choices are all around us, often hidden by forces that would rather we didn’t think about them. And it’s usually easier to simply look the other way. But they’re still choices.”

Not embracing AI is a choice. Not educating yourself and your community about AI is a choice. Not shifting how and what you do, gradually becoming obsolete, is a choice. And we are all accountable for our choices.

Author Brian Moran elaborates:

“At the heart of accountability is free-will choice. We account for that which we choose. The very nature of accountability rests on the understanding that each and every one of us has freedom of choice. It is this freedom of choice that is the foundation of accountability.

In its purest form, accountability is simply taking ownership of your actions and results. When you develop an owners’ mindset your set-backs will be temporary, and your growth will be lasting.

In this way accountability is incredibly empowering. It is a life stance that is no long victim to external events and circumstances. It is the realization that even though you don’t control the circumstances, you do control how you respond. Accountability is the understanding that you always, always, always, have choice.”

You always have a choice. So what are some simple steps (simple isn't necessarily easy) you can take to empower yourself in the AI "situation"?

  1. I need to give my son his $10, buy him longer pants, and move on. School leaders need to accept the reality of an AI world and deal with the associated “problems.”

  2. AI is not a problem; it’s a situation. Not having relevant assessment in plae is a problem. Not having a guiding document is a problem. Not integrating AI literacy for students and teachers are problems.

  3. Once the problems are defined, coming up with solutions is easier because there are actual salutations that can be worked towards. AI just going away can’t happen. Redfiniging assessment can happen. Not letting AI impact you can’t happen. Creating policy around how your organization approaches AI can happen. 

Every day that the $10 bill sits on my dresser, I am choosing not to accept reality and to fight the situation. It doesn’t really impact me on a daily basis, and there aren’t any major consequences (other than fake fights with my son) that come from my not accepting the situation. The school year is over in a coupe of weeks, anyway, so I’ll be forced to deal with it then.

But AI is different. Every day that we fight the situation instead of focusing on the problems, we’re doing a disservice to those we serve. We risk falling further behind. And we miss out on the incredible benefits AI has to offer, from which we could benefit if we chose empowerment.

That’s way more important than $10. What will you choose?

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