Synthetic Governance: How Datafication and Artificial Intelligence are Shaping Education
From Claire Sowton
Science fiction tales about Artificial General Intelligence eclipsing humanity are still, for now, fantasies. However, many AI experts are “spooked” by the prospect of AI outpacing human cognition this century. Amidst this condition of uncertainty regarding the futures of AI, we argue it is now necessary to undertake speculative inquiry into its possible impact on education, and specifically education policy. Focusing on how datafication and artificial intelligence are changing the conditions for education policy and governance, we argue that that governments are increasingly turning to synthetic governance as a strategy for optimizing education. This mode of governance arises from the synthesis of (1) human rationalities, values and practices; (2) new data analytics approaches; and (3) the spread of algorithmic decision-making, including artificial intelligence. This synthesis of human and machine cognition may dramatically alter the way we think about educational problems and their solutions. We will also map some political strategies for responding to changes wrought by algorithms, automation, and data science in education. New strategies and new politics are required to move us beyond debates about datafication and digitalization that sustain distinctions between humans and machines, or education and data-driven rationalities.