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AI Is Good For Education — And Bad For Teachers Who Teach Like Machines

Despite fears of AI upending the education and the teaching profession, artificial education will be an extremely valuable tool to free up teachers from rote exercises to focus on the uniquely humanistic part of learning.


BOGOTÁ - Early in 2023, Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates included teaching among the professions most threatened by Artificial Intelligence (AI), arguing that a robot could, in principle, instruct as well as any school-teacher. While Gates is an undoubted expert in his field, one wonders how much he knows about teaching.

As an avowed believer in using technology to improve student results, Gates has argued for teachers to use more tech in classrooms, and to cut class sizes. But schools and countries that have followed his advice, pumping money into technology at school, or students who completed secondary schooling with the backing of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have not attained the superlative results expected of the Gates recipe.

Thankfully, he had enough sense to add some nuance to his views, instead suggesting changes to teacher training that he believes could improve school results.

I agree with his view that AI can be a big and positive contributor to schooling. Certainly, technological changes prompt unease and today, something tremendous must be afoot if a leading AI developer, Geoffrey Hinton, has warned of its threat to people and society.

But this isn't the first innovation to upset people. Over 2,000 years ago, the philosopher Socrates wondered, in the Platonic dialogue Phaedrus, whether reading and writing wouldn't curb people's ability to reflect and remember. Writing might lead them to despise memory, he observed. In the 18th and 19th centuries, English craftsmen feared the machines of the Industrial Revolution would destroy their professions, producing lesser-quality items faster, and cheaper.

Their fears were not entirely unfounded, but it did not happen quite as they predicted. Many jobs disappeared, but others emerged and the majority of jobs evolved. Machines caused a fundamental restructuring of labor at the time, and today, AI will likely do the same with the modern workplace.

Many predicted that television, computers and online teaching would replace teachers, which has yet to happen. In recent decades, teachers have banned students from using calculators to do sums, insisting on teaching arithmetic the old way. It is the same dry and mechanical approach to teaching which now wants to keep AI out of the classroom.

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How This Colombian "Throuple" Made Social And Legal History

The throuple of three gay men married together has challenged the standard vision of a family in traditionally conservative Colombia.

MEDELLÍN — In 1999, Colombians Manuel José Bermúdez Andrade and Alejandro Rodríguez Ramírez met and began a loving relationship. They barely imagined their soon-to-evolve couple would come to alter perspectives on what constitutes a family in their conservative homeland. In 2003, they met Álex Esneyder Zabala, and soon formed a ménage à trois.

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The arrangement was a working example of polyamory — a word unfamiliar to them in those years. In 2012, the trio became a quartet, as they opened their household to Víctor Hugo Prada Ardila. Sadly for them, Alex died a year later (or in 2014) of cancer, leaving again a family of three.

They recently spoke about their 20 years together in the Colombian city of Medellín. Manuel said that being older when he met Alejandro in 1999, he insisted from the start that he did not expect Alejandro "to deprive himself" of encounters.

Manuel says he has always been "very free in terms of sexuality... it seemed unfair he should deprive himself of the pleasures of the flesh" by being locked up in monogamy early in life. "Your body is yours, you can enjoy it, it's not my property. And if you meet someone and feel more than just desire, if it's love, we'll talk about it and see what happens," he says he told Alejandro.

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How Colombia's "Prosperity Preachers" Squeeze The Masses, With The State's Blessing

In traditionally Catholic Colombia, Protestant preachers have learned to effectively combine marketing and religion to make themselves enormously wealthy. And thanks to political lobbying and religious freedom, they are exempt from the law and taxes.

CARTAGENA — Outside the La Unción Christian Community Church, in this coastal city in Colombia, hundreds of believers gather to tour the city and bring their “message of salvation” to others. On a white crane, there are six speakers, microphones, recording equipment and about ten people identified as "STAFF".

A drone flies over and records the scene. When everything is ready, Pastor Esteban Acosta goes up to the platform and leads the chants.

The followers, of different ages and economic backgrounds, look animated, holding posters and colored balloons. They are spread out between the current location of the church and its new location, being built across the street. In the old structure, the prized Cartagena land, which cost "a million dollars in credit" according to the pastor, there is room for 2,000 people.

In the new temple, with tinted windows and a marble floor, another 2,000 people will fit. Everything is financed by the "generous contributions" of the parishioners.

Esteban Acosta, a self-proclaimed apostle, and his wife, pastor Lisbeth Bello, convince their followers to make donations in exchange for religious favors, while they amass fortunes to afford a life of luxury. They use marketing strategies and a repetitive message with a simple promise: the more money they give to God through them, the more progress they will have on earth as a reward. They call it the "prosperity gospel."

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The Rise Of China Does Nothing To Fix What's Wrong With The West

The West and its brand of modernity may be waning in favor of an ascendant China, but is it offering anything besides replacing market forces with brute force.


BOGOTÁ — It's a bedlam out there. We can feel around us the dissolution of all that seemed, just yesterday, so solid and permanent.

Some say the West is in decline, in a process that began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the United States burst onto the stage before compounding its power after 1945. It put an end to the last days of Europe's imperial splendor.

Observing events today, we may feel that the American years were in fact the West's last, magnificent chapter, and the East is regaining a long-lost supremacy, reshaped this time by communist China.

The American Way of Life, as that shallow version of Western civilization is called, barely had time to mature and define itself. It simply appeared as the rule of materialism and economic power, with a motto to chase money at any cost, even at the expense of living a life.

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Julián de Zubiría Samper

Toxic Salsa: When Latin Romance Music Glorifies Sexist Violence

Male dominance and violence is often encouraged in popular Latin American music, and particularly in genres like salsa or bachata. The more memorable the songs, the bigger the harm they will have done to generations of women.

BOGOTÁ — In Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America, misogyny is often deeply rooted in culture — and that means in popular music too.

In the romantic world of Salsa music, lyrics can reveal sexist attitudes and provide clues as to what some men are thinking when they lash out.

Colombia's state prosecution service registered almost 48,000 cases of domestic violence in 2022, or 128 every day. These cases include 614 women murdered by partners or former partners — sometimes for having dared to reject them — as well as horrific acid attacks. They are the fruit of a culture that believes women do not control their own lives, but instead belong to men.

In a recent open letter to President Gustavo Petro, a group of artists called for socio-cultural change, focusing particularly on children and young people.

When we listen to music we love, we often barely listen to the lyrics and what they may teach. All our lives, we've listened and danced to so many songs without considering how they degrade women. As I have written before, critical reading of texts and discourses isn't our forte in Colombia. But we can and should start listening critically to many songs that should never have been written, sung or danced to.

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Juan Carlos Botero

The Venezuela Bogeyman, How Fear Of Socialism Thwarts Latin American Progress

Like fears of communist subversion during the Cold War, claims that the Left will destroy the economy and end freedom persist in Latin American elections, in spite of their ridiculousness.


BOGOTÁ -- It must be Latin America's favorite warning. Every time there's an election, conservatives warn "socialism" is coming — and not just any socialism, but the Venezuelan variety! A vote for this or that candidate, they say, will turn the country into a land bereft of freedoms and prosperity.

Claims like these helped thwart a first presidential bid by Mexico's Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2006. The opposition said he had contacts with Venezuela's then-ruler, Hugo Chávez, and even forceful denials could notdampen the fear of a communist president. The warnings were repeated in 2018 , to little effect as López Obrador was elected, and again in 2021, when former president Vicente Fox called him López Chávez.

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Lucas Marín Llanes

Colombia Pushes Coca Farmers Into Legal Crops — But It's No Clean Fix

Convincing coca farmers to plant legal crops is better than spraying poisonous pesticides to wipe out the plants. And yet it turns out these crop substitution programs are problematic, disrupting livelihoods and unintentionally causing violence and deforestation.


BOGOTÁ — Since cocaine was made illegal, various strategies have been implemented to control its supply. One such strategy involves the development of substitute crops for farmers and rural territories that cultivate the coca plant, who essentially rely on an illegal economy. This approach represents a significant improvement over established drug eradication policies.

Firstly, the policy understands that coca growers often choose the crop because of financial pressures and a lack of opportunities in the legal market. The policy also emphasizes protecting the human rights of people in areas with coca farming. While the development of substitute crops is far from perfect, it is a more efficient and cost-effective way to reduce coca cultivation, compared to trying to eradicate it entirely.

Academics María Alejandra Vélez and Estefanía Ciro, among others, point to a major problem: the policy is still based on the idea of eliminating coca cultivation. While seeking in theory to resolve the structural factors that push people into the coca economy, it has yet to be proved as an effective method of curbing cultivation.

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food / travel
Julián López de Mesa Samudio

Big City Chefs Rediscovering Local Ingredients, Colombia-Style

Top chefs in Bogotá and other big cities in Colombia are rediscovering and updating the country's traditional fare to celebrate local ingredients.

BOGOTÁ — Travelers to Paris, Tokyo or Madrid aren't expecting to eat hot dogs when they visit those cities. Food is an essential part of any travel experience, and more so if you are eating for fun, so your menu really must be a typical, intrinsic part of the local landscape.

When people visit Colombia they are not looking for high-end salmon or French-style foie gras, because these are not the local fare. If you find them here, they were imported, and even if someone is producing them, you can't find the same quality, or those essential, cultural and environmental ties between any traditional food and its place of origin.

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Julio César Londoño

An Atheist's Prayer For Holy Week

Atheists may not have been blessed with faith, but God has graced them with a mischievous wit and a love of the arts that has led to some of the most beautiful depictions of religion.


BOGOTÁ — It's the culmination of Holy Week, the most sacred period in the Christian liturgical calendar. Like a religion, atheism has its sects: there are the pious atheists and radical atheists. The latter are its guerrillas, such as the French novelist Émile Zola, who declared civilization would peak once the last stone of the last church had fallen.

Or the German writer Friedrich Nietzsche, who "rushed" to cleanse himself every time a religious man rubbed against him.

The Greek philosopher Epicurus speculated that if God wanted to but could not prevent evil, He was not omnipotent. And if He could but would not, then He was plainly mean! Where does evil come from, he asked, if God is willing and able to stop it, and why call Him God if He cannot, or will not?

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Julián de Zubiría Samper

What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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Héctor Abad Faciolince

Earthquake Warnings And Risky Buildings, From Turkey To Colombia's Ring Of Fire

Colombia has a history of earthquakes, yet many of its buildings are not designed to withstand even moderate tremors. As Turkey and Syria reel from disaster, will other countries around the world learn any lessons?


BOGOTÁ — As someone here in Colombia said last week, cutting your pinky finger is more painful than 100 people dying in an earthquake quake in Turkey. I imagine the Turkish people in the region of Antakya, which was hit by a devastating earthquake, likewise care more about a bleeding finger than any deaths in faraway quake-prone regions of Colombia — even if they have such quaintly Asiatic names as Armenia or Antioquia.

Indeed, Antakya and Antioquia both recall the ancient city of Antioch and, distance aside, people everywhere on the planet tend to be self-involved and oblivious to the plight of others.

Perhaps because my finger was feeling fine, I was sickened by the news of 20,000 or more people dying in the quakes in Turkey and Syria. But as we only truly are moved to sympathize when we are drawn close, a Colombian must see last week's event in terms of the Armero (volcano) disaster, which killed 23,000, or the 1999 quake that killed almost 2,000 people, around the Colombian city of Armenia.

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Julián López de Mesa Samudio

Time To End The Western Witch Hunt Around Food

Social media hype and the "obsessive-compulsive" tendencies of younger generations are demonizing some basic foods, like bread, that have fed humanity for some 8,000 years.


BOGOTÁ — We largely owe our triumph as a species to gluten (a composite protein found in cereals like wheat). The domestication of the big, gluten-filled, cereals, paved the way for the rise of ancient civilizations, from Mesopotamia to Iran and the Mediterranean cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

Wheat, barley and rye made large-scale agriculture possible, which fueled steady population growth through better nutrition. The rise of complex agricultural systems in turn led to the division of labor, consolidation of political systems and the state concept itself. So for more than 8,000 years, a great part of humanity has grown with the help of foods that contain gluten.

Yet today, these foods have become unspeakable villains to a growing number of 'foodies,' health enthusiasts and devotees of gastro-political and spiritual causes.

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