Lessons from a Machine: a Critical Look at Machines Teaching Children

By Promila Roychoudhury

This project looks critically at the ethical issues involved if we were to invite machines to teach children. My primary objective is to speculate on a future where machines are already instructing our children and have become part of daily life. 

The storybooks illustrate how the system might operate with three different families. They explore how the system interacts and gathers information from both the children and their surroundings. This gathered information helps the system to evolve and improve its teaching.

As part of school and home education, the system uses traditional social psychology experiments to understand, evaluate and teach complex human emotions. These include lessons on morals, building character, concepts of gratification and ethics. 

The films showcase the four psychological experiments I conducted to test out how a child and machine might interact – could the machine engage with and influence childrens’ development?

With this work, I wanted to raise concerns over the extent to which we are willing to introduce machines and technological solutions into children’s lives. Like any other technological solution, this system could be abused. If we eventually come to rely on algorithmic programs as a source for our beliefs, values and emotions, then could these be significantly manipulated?

Could an algorithmic model that has earned society’s trust through teaching also gain persuasive control over individuals?