Artificial intelligence (AI) is very much in the spotlight. Is it cool or is it scary? You hear opinions from both perspectives. I think it’s cool, and important to follow the thoughts of both camps. Camps of supporters and opponents, enthusiasts and ‘inhibitors' and utopian and dystopian stories. Some think that we can hold back artificial intelligence. That it is something for the future.
I use AI every day. Probably you do too. And so do our government, our security services, our pilots, our banks and our service providers. The navigation that shows me the way based on the most up-to-date traffic information. The information I’m shown in the social media feeds I use. Yes, even on LinkedIn. The virus scanner on my computer. The special ‘tailored-just-for-me’ suggestions on the booking site, online shop, chatbot or online video service. The search engine that presents me with the most relevant results first. The auto-correct function and spell check when I write this column. The presentation software that thinks along with me and makes suggestions when I insert an illustration. Even when it comes to learning. The app that presents me with every afternoon, at 3.00 pm, ‘the best new sources of the web’ about the subject of my choice. The platform that indicates the most effective and efficient route for my online learning journey. The perfectly timed repetition of crucial knowledge that I want to train so that I can master it during the exam for my certification. All personalised. Just for me. To make my life, my work, my learning journey more relevant and easier. Cool. Super cool.
Drawbacks? Yes, of course. There are those too. Personalised also means ‘filtered’. AI filters out content that is less relevant. AI filters out perspectives that are not to my taste. AI filters out people who are working on completely different things, use different approaches and have different perspectives. That’s a pity. A real pity. AI traps. AI organises self-confirmation. Intelligent navel-gazing, echo chambers. Eli Pariser calls it ‘online filter bubbles’. The time that the internet was an open online library where you can find everything is long past. Today, everyone has their own internet. Because of the filter bubbles. If both you and I enter the same term in our search engine, we’ll get different results. Is that the idea?
What are we supposed to do with these filter bubbles as learning professionals? Can we do anything with it at all? You can no longer ignore it, now that you’ve read this. But then what? First: know that they exist. Investigate whether we are unconsciously pressurising other professionals into a filter bubble with our products and services. Research whether we think that's a good idea. Research what the alternatives are. That sounds trend-catcher defensive, a bit cowardly. I want it to be more positive and proactive. The opportunities that arise around the filter-bubble phenomenon. Do you remember when the world became more international? When ‘intercultural communication’ became a hot topic around which we did a lot of very useful work? Now there are new opportunities. Inter-bubble communication. Inter-bubble teamwork. Of course, we can help professionals learn how to work with ‘other types of bubble professionals’ despite their own very tight filter bubble. Bubble filter communication styles would also be great. Preferably with a colour test.
But perhaps, we should approach it in a different way. More thoroughly, more actively, courageously, meaningfully and sustainably. We can make the difference. We can leave a legacy. Let us puncture as many bubbles as possible. Make them burst, explode... like soap bubbles. Removing digital blinders. Breaking through online tunnel vision. Colouring outside the lines again. We, learning and development professionals, can do society a favour. We can give a good example. We can develop methodologies to free other professionals from their restricting filter bubble. Teaching them how they can best do it for themselves. Creating digital cookie monsters. But sensibly and in balance. Using the benefits of AI to the maximum and with all due thought and resolutely minimising the restricting filter bubbles. You and I can perform an important duty. Can I count on you? Let’s take up the challenge - as Bubble Busters!