Tutors aren’t mind-readers… not yet, anyway

By November 7, 2011New Media

Groundbreaking research on BCI’s–“brain-computer interfaces” has stirred up a lot of excitement in the science world.  The possibility of technology that responds directly to your brainwaves is nearer within reach than ever before.  Of course, many people are frightened by the prospect that somebody, say, the government, could actually begin reading their minds, but the real question, as we all know, is: what does it mean for tutoring?

Great question--maybe we should take a look at whether your thesis is specific enough.

Great question–maybe we should take a look at whether your thesis is specific enough.

Cue the black screen.  Ominous music: brass instruments and strings, building steadily.  “In a world,” begins a deep voice, “where mind works seamlessly with machine, a world,”–pausing dramatically–“where your thoughts are no longer yours alone, what role is left for tutors?”

To answer our basso profundo friend up there, I think mind-reading technology might actually make tutoring easier.  Nowadays, DePaul’s writers are still big fans of face-to-face tutoring: there’s been about 1500 of these appointments so far this quarter alone.  Maybe this is because writers feel it’s the most straightforward way of communicating with tutors, but imagine the possibilities when a cybernetic connection has wedded their two consciousnesses together in a single, gloriously collaborative union?  At the least it would save a lot of time:

Writer: “Do you need me to explain the assignment?”

Tutor: “No, it’s all good. I’m taking a look at your memories from class right now, and I already know it.”

The only pitfall I can see for tutors is if word processing technology gets a jump on us.  A version of Microsoft Word that will create completed documents from scratch, simply by reading the minds of its users, might go some way in putting us out of work.  Does that seem unlikely to you, or do you think we should get started looking for another job?