From STEM to STEAM: A journey to finding the soul stone of STEM, and avoiding the rise of soulless machines.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

“Men seek out retreats for themselves in the country, by the seaside, on the mountains… Nowhere can a man find a retreat more peaceful or more free from trouble than his own soul.”

— Marcus Aurelius

I spent all my high school and engineering studies trying to get the best mark in maths and science.

I was eager to specialize all my stem cells into STEM masters.

Stem cell, an undifferentiated biological cell that can differentiate into specialized cells.

Source: Wikipedia

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

I think STEM is a great education system and tailored to fit the needs of industrial development.

Yet the question remains: is STEM the correct answer to the 4th industrial revolution?

Source: Wikipedia

1. Terminator 2 and the story of machines with no soul.

The movie Terminator 2 is the best one, for me, when it comes to the trilogy.

And the subtitle of the movie, Judgment Day, echoes my fears regarding the technology we are feeding to our machines.

Indeed the initial code of all machines has been implemented by humans. Therefore, this source code is closely linked to the people who have written it.

We are talking a lot about A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), M.L. (Machine Learning), or DI (Deep Learning).

We are naturally seeding all our biases into the machines we are coding today.

We are feeding those machines with partial data that does not include all shades of people and things today.

Indeed, most of the available data today is mainly in English, written by White people and primarily reflecting today’s dominant civilizations, i.e., Western civilization.

What is the danger of such a trend, and why should we care?

The answer is in one word: Soul!

In French, the soul translation is “âme.”

And there is a French saying which goes like this: “Vendre son âme au diable.

In English, it means selling our soul to the devil.

And we are doing this right now when we only focus on STEM when it comes to education or our industrial needs.

We are building biased, soulless machines, and we expect them to solve Humanity’s problems.

Yet, as human beings with souls, we are struggling to fix our world and our planet.

And we lure ourselves into thinking that those machines will achieve where we were unable to deliver.

We need to put some kind of soul in the machines we are building to serve us if we want them to do it with inclusivity and equal opportunity.

2. Let’s bring some STEAM in STEM.

In movies, we often represent the soul as steam leaving the body when the person dies.

We need to be able to translate that human aspect into a tangible action into the STEM system.

If we want the 4IR (Industry 4.0) to serve us and not the opposite, we have to act now.

What can we do concretely?

STEAM adds the “Arts” into STEM. And art is the soul of STEM.

When I was in high school in Dakar, Senegal, we had limited resources. However, teaching science and math was accessible.

Technology and engineering studies were quite challenging because we did not have the right ecosystem.

We did have some “art” classes. By art, I mean “drawing” and “music” teachers.

Our teacher just spoke to us for an hour about drawing and then gave us homework to draw something on A4 paper.

The music session only consisted of learning the introductory notes and reading a partition. As a result, we never had an instrument to play with or practice.

We were facing a lack of resources and also a lack of strategy.

Both could have been fixed simply. Just create a dedicated class for students who want to do those activities and make sure they have all the associated resources.

Be it at high school or in the most prestigious universities, STEM is the go-to for parents, teachers, and the professional world.

We forget to embed Arts in our basic education system.

Many children are cast out of the education system because their gift is in the STEAM and not in the STEM system.

Parents all around the world are putting pressure on their children to enroll in the STEM system.

GAFA (Goole, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and all other big tech corporations are pushing for more STEM without any soul.

Maybe we need to add a fourth rule to the Three Rules of Robotics:

  1. First Law: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. Second Law: A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. Third Law: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The fourth rule must be put in humans, and it should precede the three rules above.

The Genesis rule of Robotics: A robot must operate in an inclusive environment with all humanity, and it is up to humans to code it into its BIOS (Basic Input Output System).

Next time your little one comes back home and says: “Mommy, Daddy, I hate school.”, maybe you need to investigate further.

Maybe that little one is just saying that STEAM is what they need and not just STEM.

Maybe the likes of your little one are those who will code the soul of humanity into the 4.0 industry.

So let them be and let them save us from the obliteration of a STEM society without a soul.

Why is STEM an incomplete system?

What can we do about it in our education system?

How can we avoid a fourth cataclysmic “revolution”?

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Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

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