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From WMUR found in Washington D.C. the future of another in a series of discussions of alternative futures. Your moderator is Joe coach of the world future society. Mr. Coates Good evening. This is Joe coach of the world Futures Society presenting another in a series of discussions of alternative futures. We have good news tonight for philosophers educators know the serious students of world affairs Plato lives he's been resurrected on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. And we have with us two doctoral candidates from that campus to describe this latest wonder of modern science and what the implications may be for the future. We have a student will be studying political science communication engineering and Valerie Lamont who was also a graduate student in political science. Well how do you go on about resurrecting Plato on the campus to it.
Well the PLATO system at the university was designed and built by a professor of electrical engineering Donald butts are right he's always played a lot of you know Adam Atronics Yes. When I was a teaching computer and by that I meant it I kind of a timesharing computer in which there are many terminals all hooked up to one computer and a student sitting at a terminal. What's the terminal look like it. Well it consists of a television screen and a typewriter keyboard. Plato writes messages on the television screen which the student reads and then types in his responses on the keyboard and the student has the opportunity to ask questions. And Plato immediately tells him whether or not his answer is correct or incorrect. And if it is incorrect gives him the opportunity to ask for additional help people you're going to know how that's. How it actually teaches what to do. What's the rest of the physical set up. You have a school teaching unit and there's a computer somewhere.
Yes well at the present time there are several terminals in a room. There are several different locations on the pleasant present system. The present system has 70 terminals located around the University of Illinois campus and in the Champaign Urbana community only 20 of those can be operated simultaneously but the students go into the room sit down at a terminal and their terminal may be remote from the central computer and if I never see the computer can they also do it with each other. Someone like Frank give me a hand I'm stuck on this problem. That's certainly a possibility at the present time. There are not very many programs that are written for that kind of an interactive communication among students. There is of course the possibility that students can get up from their terminals and go across the room and talk to other students. There's certainly nothing preventing that. Is this an experimental setup were is this a major teaching tool on the campus.
To what extent is the present system is definitely experimental. The primary reason being that the equipment is very expensive. There is a system which has been designed and it and the construction is now beginning. That's the next phase of the PLATO system the Play-Doh for system and that system has been designed expressly to be economically viable. It's my understanding that there are no economically viable educational teaching computer systems in the country or in the world at the present time they're all experimental models. But the press Play don't force the system when it is completed which is scheduled to be in 1074 1975 will operate 4000 terminals simultaneously. So that's the equivalent to essentially a small college. Yes and you couldn't principal get all your education and all of that one computer at any time of the day or night. It's possible but it's not intended to work that way. In other words Plato is intended to be a part of an educational experience where those educational activities which
require a great deal of practice and drill Valerie Stewart have either you ever gone through a course on this or are you researchers who have never been at the receiving end. Oh well I have had an opportunity to go through part talk of different types of courses such as a biology one which I learned about the evolution of mots over here period and there are a number of psychology experiments on system too. But I have never gone through and through a course myself. Maybe you have still don't know why. I've worked through parts of a very large number of programs and perhaps I should clarify some of us in just a minute earlier and that is that your computer should not be thought of as simply a drill. Kind of a device and it's much more flexible than that. At least the PLATO system is the range of lessons that can be programmed on the system is really quite varied. Programs which are already operating on the system now are things like French
differential equations of physics laboratory maternity nursing but only things relatively rigidly programmed. Don't the students going to going to going to go after one that hasn't been the experience is going to be programmed you know I don't I wouldn't say that there are many opportunities for branching and for asking for additional information before jumping ahead when you feel that you're quite familiar with that part of the program such that. It's really a good deal more flexible than it might seem something to talk about. The programmers themselves develop a very general framework as they're you know dealing with a particular subject. But the programs also have a built in evaluation mechanism so that if students do find Dell or difficult at different points along the way the computer itself or the program itself can pick this up and programmers can look at individual inputs find out where there are problems or where where it may be particularly rigid and then correct
this and so diagnosing this. That's right. That's well not so what I was saying to the extent that it's always monitoring the students performance. The instructor can find out very easily those parts of the lesson which are giving students the most trouble and can modify those to get was really to the point you can use some very literal sense of play with play doh. Can you do things in some very real sense not preprogrammed with your music. Can you make mistakes will Plato joke with you. Plato. No you're wrong. Yes essentially anything that a programmer can specify the system can do and now it does not have to be a rigid specification. In other words the programmer of the first program that I wrote was designed to be a very limited exploration of the future and what we did in that program was put in several social and
technological developments which might come about at some time in the future. Like the use of air cushion vehicles on a large scale a thirty two hour work week personality control drugs the use of communication satellites to construct an electronic world university or something like that. And then the individual could make an investment. That would vary between say 1 to 100 units that which was just an indication of desirability on his part whether he does thought it was desirable or undesirable. And this would change the probability that this development would come about in the year 2000. Then at the end of the program or periodically throughout the program Plato would print out a little message saying that by the year 2000 there will probably be. And then list a certain set of developments genetic manipulation. It's a three dimensional color TV with the bases of the players we have and on the basis of the probabilities which were influenced by the player's investments which when in the case of
desirability. So in other words this scenario which the computer described. It was influenced by his expression of the desirability the various developments. Then of course each development had secondary effects which were put into the computer by the programmer such that if he designed if he decided that he would like a large number of people on the planet by the year 2000 then a computer would automatically raise the level of pollution and lower the amount of calories per individual. What would have happened if you said I don't like any of this stuff. Point there is a comment other than Mike's and which the player has just exactly that opportunity. And there's a place in the world and one is a matter of fact I do have a little. There's a there's a sub sub routine in the program called the doom sequence and that is if the probability of nuclear war. Well nuclear or chemical are like massive large scale chemical biological warfare is in the program and it has a set
probability and at the end of each cycle of periodic Leigh there's a you know a random calculation and if it comes up wrong why then you jump into the dim sequence and there is a flash on the screen a little message saying. Please turn to such and such a frequency on your radio you know the federal government would like to give you the following mess. You know rather than a message that drops off and the screen goes blank. It sounds as if this kind of programming where you're evaluating people's judgments could also be used for psychological evaluation as well as for teaching. Are people using it in a diagnostic way. Yes they are not too familiar with all of the programs that have been written on Plato for psychological tests and that there have been several things that were trying to come up with its estimates desirability with respect to what people would like to say we haven't done a great deal yet. Valerie you've had some experience in using Plato in a different way.
Yes I have. Right now I'm working on developing a number of programs for the champagne Urbana community. And in this way I'm using the PLATO system not as an educational device for students in the university but perhaps as an educational device for the people in the community. Specifically I took a social issue which was common to both of the cities and get you. And this was I don't I'll tell you the name of the program it's called the boneyard creek and. Yeah this was a little stream that runs through champagne a day in the area and it was quite polluted and the towns are responding to the situation by the creek. But anyway this came up as an issue during the environmental crisis period and I collected information on it and wrote a programme on this and the programme was presented to people in the champagne Abana community in the first phase I've had a number of decision makers
in such as the mayor and the councilmen types and various civic leaders who go through the programme and I present a number of alternatives. What can be done with the creek and they can make their own judgement as to what they finally want done with it. But presumably what you do. They knew the consequences and then give them a chance to make another kind of decision. Again that's right that's right and they also have an opportunity to present their own alternatives too. But I tried to list as many as possible and various consequences associated with each in terms of aesthetic values in terms of monetary terms that you could use to other people or experiences. People accumulate so the program in some sense as well certainly as each person goes through the program. I can obtain immediate feedback on their responses throughout the whole thing. But I like to follow this up with a meeting of the people who came in at that particular
time so they can interact with each other. But when I do have a large number of comments for example or you know decisions made I can go to various people I can invite people in from the community such as the mayors and say well this is what some of the people you know think about you know various aspects of the problem. How do people respond to this. Do they like laying there. I think they have a lot of fun with it. One of the accounts that I've heard from people who have been teaching children with computer assisted learning techniques is that it works fine with children but adults. You'll pardon the expression people over 30 are reluctant to get involved with this kind of new technology. Well of course this is something completely new to them because they are involving themselves personally they actually interact with this technology and this is something that is very different to them you have radio and television and of course they interact in no way directly with
these two mediums but with a computer they can and I'm sure that there are a large number of people who are a little put off or a little scared by this simply because they are unfamiliar with it. But so far I've not had that problem because the people seem to concentrate on the program itself and involve themselves with the program rather than the technology or the system. Do you know what I would be nervous anxiety. Well I would say that I would say about a half an hour right in my own particular program I have a set of directions and actually they only have to use about two or three buttons throughout the whole program. And so this isn't too difficult on her part they they know where the buttons are and they you know just for some purposes. Could we pick up a different point here since or seem to the evening really is the future of communications beyond television. You made a remark or two about characteristics telephone television. Maybe we could well on the moment Stuart the hallmarks of TV and radio.
Well you might. I think it is useful that at least one way of thinking about computer based education was respect communications technologies. We're familiar with is to think computer based communications media which I think teaching computer it will eventually become as a kind of third generation mass communication system. If you think of radio as a first generation that just audio system you know just audio and television which is both audio and visual which are second generation that will be the second generation mass communication system and then the teaching computer which is it is at the present time it is print and visual and there and work is being done on introducing an audio portion so that you can listen information as well as having it displayed on the screen. But in addition the teaching computer or computer based communications media will allow the user or the student or the person saying to the terminal to. Get his responses to the information presented on the screen which then goes directly back to the computer
and then controls the next information he sees. This is what the cyber notices call feedback that's right. In other words it's a kind of mass communication system with feedback and system General Systems Theory cybernetics all indicators all tell us that any kind of regulatory system or monitoring system where we're regulation simply means doing what you want to do. You know like staying on the road rather than going off in a ditch or something that any kind of a system which has feedback is very much different from a system without feedback and to the extent that you can modify the feedback process or improve the feedback process there will be a very significant change in the performance of the system. That's kind of a big what what kind of change in the performance you mean. Well what would be a practical benefit that would flow from third generation equipment. One of the benefits I think would be that the decision makers or people in positions like to point to responsibility
would have at least the opportunity to get more information about what the public are at least what certain portions of the public. What wed like to see come about. In other words they will have the opportunity to present to the public alternatives which they are not able to resent at the present time largely due to the fact that the present communications media are somewhat passive and do not allow for constant reinforcement of what individuals see to the extent that they can. But the teaching of Peter says that you can present more complex abstract material on a teaching computer than you can either on television or even in a newspaper where you can be reasonably there would be two benefits. One that you could learn more complex things. On the one hand and secondly you could learn the things of given complexity faster. Yes. Would there also be an advantage. Let's say in the scheduling of your time going to change your lifestyle so you could go to school at midnight or go to school at 3:00 in the morning as you wish is that
a consequence. While both radio and television do present information at present time only at a particular schedule times as you have to have readers guide TV Guide or newspaper to know what time programs are coming on the radio or television or the teaching computer you can at least to some extent view the information at the time of day that you want. But even more important is that you can view the information at a rate which is suitable to your attention at the present time. For example when you're watching the news on television your mind may be diverted by a story which has just been on you and you start thinking about it as you're thinking about it you missed the next story that comes on and see what the teaching computer gives you the opportunity to do is to stop the machine while you sit there and think about it. Or as part of your information right you can ask also ask for that. Walter Cronkite's stop where you are and tell me more. That's what I want to know more about this and I'm not really that interested
in the subject. And that's the sort of thing that this kind of technology will give us the opportunity to do. There are presumably many other substantial innovations coming along aside from from this third generation extension to TV and computer learning. What are some of the other things that might have a major impact in the future connected with communication. Well there are many I think that's my own view that we're presently in the very early stages of a very significant revolution in communications technologies. And one of my specific professional concerns as it is that many social scientists are not as aware of these new communications technologies as I would prefer to think that they would be just to list a few of them. There is what you need before you go on with the list would you limit your major concern to social scientists What about political leaders. What about organizational leaders. What about people who are in unions or big businesses.
I think that the new communications technology will have an effect on all those people. And I think even greater then many of them presently perceive I think there will be a very significant Thanks and I'll be going to outline just just a few examples. But perhaps we ought to go through the list of you know I mean acacia technologies first we talk about consequences and let's do that. Well one of them that is that has received it more public attention recently than than some of the others it's cable television. Now what cable television does is it significantly increases the number of communications channels that come into the home at the present time we have three major networks and educational television and then you know sometimes some additional stations. But this is a rather small number and when you have a small number of channels they tend to compete with each other for the largest segment of the audience. However cable television will increase the number of channels to between 20 and 50. As I understand it and this will make possible special
audience programs such that it will be possible for. Almost any special interest group to have its own programs are you cannot has a gun smoke then for French for if you choose right or you can pass up French for guns for which you have a life but the problem with that is that it is that the predictable result is an atomization of society whereas mass a mass communication system with a small number of channels tends to produce a rise of nationalism and of a shared experience on the part of the population as a whole. But with a population of very many varied interests it may be that this instance of a nation will share less and less in terms of common experiences and go with that notion the cable-TV may atomized. I am afraid to some extent I do simply because a stupid pointed
out various minority groups are any type of special interest groups would have access to their own particular channel. And right now I think that people you know view the world a specific way and they tend to look at things that reinforce their views of the world. And so this just might make them more firm in their beliefs rather than looking at a variety of alternatives or different points of view they might just select out those things which are best they feel best most comfortable with. So you may get reinforcing your prejudices. Let's go to what you already have it in terms of the print media now and also in terms of films like many of the people in the older generation tend to go to the sound of music. I think that was the film. Many of the younger generation attend films like The Graduate training mission so that they can to watch TV programs is also the print medium where the kids are reading ramparts and I was in the free press and our fathers are reading BusinessWeek and U.S. News and World Report.
Right. But those generational differences may or may not be the special interest groups because you know what they tell us about some other developments that are coming. Well certainly one of them is. The casket videotapes trying video recording the possibility of recording many television programs and then playing them back it at the time that you want that standard technology to television that we have present time. Another one is communicating the cost of that if you ever drop to the point where it will become as commonplace as TV itself it's scheduled to it's my understanding that the cost will be reduced. Something I would say partly because I want to record players. It's a charming expression reminiscent of a brave new world which is on its schedule. If you're the reason.
What I'd like to be quite interesting what else is coming. Well of course the communication satellites and that this will I suspect bring about a kind of situation in many countries that the United States is presently going through in terms of generation gap problems in the process of industrial development to the extent of the countries want that and choose to engage in that kind of development pattern communication satellites will certainly make people in the less developed countries where to a greater extent than they are today lifestyles and the more developed countries. So maybe this will marginalize the world. I think that's already happening and with respect to the student movement to the extent that many students identify strongly with the students in Europe and Japan possibly more than with their parents in some cases the. Well whether that's good or bad I suppose the future will tell a sport to what the economic structure to that you know you mention it's like the US. Do we have
something in the international sphere like the networks growing up. Yes was my understanding that by 1968 ABC control either directly or indirectly 64 television stations in 27 Latin American countries but an estimated audience of 80 million people. Those figures come from the article an atlas magazine. Such that you have the possibility in the US that all countries in this case Latin America have a large American corporation having a great deal to say about the kinds of images that are distributed to the population. Needless to say there are some people in those countries who would prefer that a different set of images be conveyed to the people. And there are even people in this country who would prefer a different set of images that seem to say to you. And so I think that there will be a good deal of struggle here politically economically and in any way the
struggle using that this is over these new communications media so that they can have that the different schools can have more to say about the direction of these countries will develop and of course international relations. That's an interesting new form of imperialism I suppose you could literally call them. Many people would say so I think you haven't mentioned anything about simulation no surprise that you haven't seen major developments in simulation from this new computer technology. Well. There is a good deal being done in simulation and in fact there is a group of people in the United States at the present time who are beginning to think. About the possibility of a world simulation. But Mr. Fuller has for some time been working on and on a world game it's my understanding that that is does not involve the extensive use of computers. It certainly may at some time in the future. I think that what he's trying to do is to get people to think about the development of the world
and the disparity and the distribution of resources and people around the world in other words people tend to be concentrated in somewhat different locations than the industrial facilities production of food etc. and Buckminster Fuller at least sees technology as a prime mover and correcting that burning distribute acacias point of view you know this is the means of bringing people to think about the largest problem the globe itself. Yes and this is one reason why I think that a world simulation will be significantly different from our classical simulations of physical systems whether they're airplanes or slow patterns of the blood in the circulatory system of the body that these are problems which tend to be solved by creating some kind of the mathematical model of the system that we want to study. Whereas with social systems every decision maker which means
every individual has a model of the world in his head. Every individual has to have a model of the world in order to produce the consequences of actions which he thinks he might take and actions which he thinks that his national leaders might take. And to the extent that we can inject more information into people's into people's heads or at least make them aware of different information through the media or whatever about how the world is operating I think that we will be able to at least bring their mental models a little bit closer to reality. So make it one world so to speak. But I mean you hear many different. Well let me ask you a very brief wrap up question. What's the single most significant benefit that you might see coming to me from this new technology. Well they have come close to the implications. Well you're talking about a homo Janae excuse me. You know what.
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Series
The future of
Episode Number
22
Episode
Comunications - Beyond Television
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
AAPB ID
cpb-aacip/500-tq5rd61c
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Description
Description
No description available
Date
1971-00-00
Topics
Social Issues
Media type
Sound
Duration
00:30:25
Credits
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 71-7-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
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Citations
Chicago: “The future of; 22; Comunications - Beyond Television,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 19, 2022, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tq5rd61c.
MLA: “The future of; 22; Comunications - Beyond Television.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 19, 2022. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tq5rd61c>.
APA: The future of; 22; Comunications - Beyond Television. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-tq5rd61c