Saturday, 1 January 2022

An AI-generated post on "A Physiological Notation for Music and Learning"

I'm slightly puzzled that I haven't written anything in my blog for a couple of months. I've been deeply immersed in two projects - both of which are concerned with AI. In Copenhagen, the curriculum digitalization project has taken a fascinating turn in becoming more student-focused, and we are developing some new tools which will allow us to get a rich picture of how students see their future and how it relates to their topic studies. The other project concerns medical imaging, and this is now at an advanced stage of commercialisation and patenting - all of which is new to me. This is a fast-moving field, and it's giving me a lot of intellectual energy, but also keeping me busy.

One of the implications of the AI work is that the ability of the Transformer AI tools to generate text has reached a stage where it can present new ideas,  continue conversations, and provide a genuine stimulus to creativity. With some students in Copenhagen and in the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia, I've been working on a thing which I call a "meta-curriculum toolkit". It's basically a kind of google search which uses AI to suggest completions to a search term. The rest of this post has been generated by this technique:

A Physiological Notation of Music and Learning

I am interested in a physiological notation for piano music. I want to find a notation that directly translates into the body. While writing, I can feel a sort of body memory. I want to study this experience. I want to see if the notation that my body remembers can be presented as sheet music. A physiological notation for music would be powerful because it would allow us to be more specific about the types of information in a musical piece than verbal language is able to do. Conveying how a musical piece makes us feel would be a simple matter of listing the relevant physiological events: for example, elevated heart rate, increased respiration rate, dilated pupils, and so on. The association of music with the body in the mind of the listener means that the notation would be able to represent how a listener feels, not just what they think. 

A physiological notation of music would be an analogue of the language of the emotions which we have in ordinary speech. It would be based upon a notation of physiological action, rather than upon a notation of sound. If a composer could express the emotions which they wish to convey by the notation of physiological action, it would be easy for them to communicate ideas to other people. They could not only show them what they feel and think, but how they think. The connection between the emotions and the muscular actions which accompany them is so intimate and universal that it is a surprising thing that not one single author or composer has ever suggested that the whole of music should be played by means of the movements of the whole body, since these are the natural expression of the emotions.

If a physiological notation of music is an analogue of language, why can't we have a physiological analogue of learning? Learning is a form of change in the body, and it is the body that is the physical basis of music. If we can find a way to physically study learning, we can have a physiological analogue of learning. The body creates music by changing in response to sound and light stimuli. 

In Papert's original work on Logo, the physiological basis of learning was very important. Children were meant to play with physical turtles and discover mathematical concepts. While the physical objects were an important part of the learning process, they were not the learning process. The ideas were the focus. Any user of Logo must learn a new vocabulary before using it. This vocabulary is, however, based on mathematical terms. As educators, we have to be careful about how we use computer technology in the classroom. It is very easy to focus on the technology without thinking about what we are doing or intending to do. 

An idea - the emergent ideas in learners - is rooted in physiology. The notion that the brain is the seat of all mental activity is a bundle of uncorroborated assertions. The idea that the mind can be divorced from the brain is a belief, not a fact. The idea that the human mind is a computer and the human brain, a computer-like device, is also rooted in a belief, not in scientific fact. and minds. Ideas sit in the cells of our bodies. They can be triggered by events or insights from others, but they’re also waiting for us to look at them and pick them up. This is why the idea can feel so familiar, just like something we’ve always known. We have to do that work in order to recognize our own ideas and make them real. The idea, the motivation, and the action are all essential parts of this creative process.


If learning is physiological, then finding a way to notate the physiology of learning would be an important development in education. It might open up a whole new approach to teaching and learning, one that is more natural, more holistic, and more powerful. What would such an approach be like? It would be like music.  


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