So, my wife and I were visiting another family’s house to pick up our seven-year-old son from his play date the other day. The adults were chatting a bit before the handover as the kids wrapped up their activity, which happened to be playing Minecraft, a popular videogame where you create your own worlds.
Then I noticed the kids ran into some kind of challenge in the game, and this is what I overheard…
Human child #1:
“How do you build the portal to the End in Minecraft?”
Human child #2:
“I don’t think my mommy knows how to do that…”
Human child #1:
“Don’t ask my mommy. Ask Google Home. Maybe… Siri.”
(They didn’t have an Alexa in this particular home. But I don’t want to leave Amazon out of the conversation.)
A.I. Always has an Answer
All right. Let’s pause right there to discuss the significance of this interchange. A couple of seven-year old-boys have decided to bypass their parents (moms) and go right to today’s A.I. to solve their problem.
Hey, it’s not like I don’t Google questions all of the time at my computer, but I was a little shocked at how flesh and blood parents were suddenly and completely eliminated from the equation.
Now granted, in this particular situation, these adults wouldn’t have known how to get to the ‘End.’ So, you’ve got to give the kids some points for their instincts.
(That night, after Googling ‘the End,’ I learned that it’s the third and final dimension in Minecraft.)
Okay… the kids were trying to figure out a shortcut to the end of the game.
(Is that cheating? Or is it simply being innovative… like beating the Kobayashi Maru test?)
Google Home couldn’t articulate a useful answer, but the young hackers-in-training got some traction with Siri on the resident iPad. Siri opened up a wikiHow page for them, which held some key details.
Apparently, getting to the End requires you first to go to the Nether.
(I have no idea what I’m talking about.)
The Lesson of the Journey
Guess what… their little online research project worked! The wikiHow page contained instructions on how to build a portal to the Nether, which the kids promptly executed.
I heard… “OMG… we’re going to the End! This is so great!!”
For the record, their progress halted at the Nether. The map to the End remained out of reach. But my son was super excited by the prospect that they were moving in the right direction.
(He really loves exploring this vast digital world. He also enjoys reading Minecraft adventures in physical books and looking through how-to-build Minecraft books.)
To be honest, I felt a little schadenfreude to observe their quest for the End not end in total success.
Because as a parent of a seven year old, I thought Daddy was still perceived as all knowing. Did you notice that neither boy even mentioned his father during the tech query?
No… I didn’t have the answer. And I don’t think the other daddy would have had it either… without Googling a bit.
(That said, he’s very much at home with his tech.)
And no… this is not a gender thing about why the kids bypassed their daddies.
It’s a species thing about why the human adults were circumvented to quickly get to preferred artificial intelligence.
And that seven year olds already expects today’s A.I. to be able to correctly answer any question.
What’s the Truth?
I suddenly realize this is going to require some immediate focus as a parent.
Because even though yes… there’s an answer to any question you pose to a search engine, there’s actually a thousand answers, if not more.
As an adult, it’s your job to figure out the ‘truth’ on any number of topics.
(And that’s harder today than ever.)
And that’s going to remain an ongoing challenge for every human for the foreseeable future.
For an elementary school-aged child who can now simply project a question into a room, and an A.I. enabled speaker immediately responds, that’s a resource that really needs some adult-level perspective.
Otherwise we won’t have to wait until advanced artificial intelligence or the singularity arrives for humans to hand over all of the keys to knowledge and independent understanding.
I’ve got some work to do.
Daddy (human) is on it.