Bridging the Gaps

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Multiple Intelligences, Future Minds and Educating The App Generation: A discussion with Dr Howard Gardner

Theory of multiple intelligences suggests that we should not consider human brain as one big computer that is either slow or fast, either good at everything or bad at everything, instead we should consider human brain as a collection of multiple computers, some performing well and some performing not very well. This theory identifies seven distinct intelligences and highlights that learners possess different kinds of intelligences, and minds, and “therefore learn, remember, perform, and understand in different ways”. The theory challenges the notion of an educational system that “assumes that everyone can learn the same materials in the same way and that a uniform, universal measure suffices to test student learning”. Dr Howard Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences in 1970s. In this podcast Dr Howard Gardner discusses, in detail, the origin and development of this theory. Dr Gardner discusses different aspects of this theory, defines, for the listeners, different kinds of intelligences, and touches upon the implications of adopting this approach for teaching and learning practices. In his book “Five Minds for the Future” Dr Gardner outlines the kinds of mental abilities and competencies that will be critical to success in 21st century work environment. And in his book “The App Generation” Dr Gardner discusses the expectations and characteristics of 21st century learners. This podcast touches upon all these concepts.

Dr Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Dr Gardner is also an adjunct professor of Psychology at Harvard University and is a Senior Director of Harvard Project Zero. He is the author of twenty-nine books, translated into thirty-two languages and has published several hundred articles.

I start this podcast by asking Dr Gardner what is intelligence and how should we define intelligence. Dr Gardner divides intelligence into three primary categories, these categories are: ability to create effective products or services; a set of skills to problem-solve; and the potential for finding or creating solutions for problems which involve gathering and developing new knowledge. Dr Gardner discusses these categories of intelligence in detail.

The theory of multiple intelligences outlines a number of intelligences such as musical–rhythmic and harmonic intelligence, visual–spatial intelligence, verbal–linguistic intelligence, logical–mathematical intelligence, bodily–kinaesthetic intelligence, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligences, naturalistic and existential intelligences. Dr Gardner defines and discusses in detail, these intelligences.

When Dr Gardner originally presented this theory in 1970s, it was presented as research work in the area of psychology, and this research was mainly for psychologists. However educators expressed substantial interest in this theory. Dr Gardner explains why, in his view, educators were more interested in theory than psychologists?

Like any new research, any new theory, this theory also received its share of criticism. One major criticism of the theory is that it is ad-hoc: “it views and presents concept of intelligence differently and it uses the word intelligence where other researchers have traditionally used words like “ability” and “aptitude””. Dr Gardner expresses his views on these criticisms in detail.

This theory leads to, and suggests, a number of ideas to improve teaching and learning practices in schools. An interesting question that arises at this point is that is there an implementation framework that puts this theory to practice. Dr Gardener answers this question and highlights two concepts, firstly individualisation and secondly pluralisation of education that are relevant to putting this theory to practice. At this point I ask Dr Gardner that is there any research or systematic study that shows the effectiveness of this theory and the usefulness of the practices based on this theory. Is there data, based on experimental studies, available that shows the impact of putting this theory to practice in teaching and learning environments?

At this point in the podcast, we move onto the ideas that Dr Howard Gardner presents and discusses in his book “Five Minds for the Future”.

In his book “Five Minds for the Future” Dr Gardner writes that in our “rapidly changing world new challenges and opportunities will emerge in near future and it is hard to imagine these challenges and opportunities now”. He further suggests that in this rapidly changing world “five minds encapsulating skills, values, attitudes and knowledge are crucial”. According to Dr Gardner these five minds are:

  • The Disciplined Mind: the mastery of major schools of thought, including science, mathematics, and history, and of at least one professional craft.
  • The Synthesizing Mind: the ability to integrate ideas from different disciplines or spheres into a coherent whole and to communicate that integration to others.
  • The Creating Mind: the capacity to uncover and clarify new problems, questions, and phenomena.
  • The Respectful Mind: awareness of and appreciation for differences among human beings and human groups.
  • The Ethical Mind: fulfilment of one’s responsibilities as a worker and as a citizen.

Dr Gardner discusses the origin of the idea of “ five minds for the future”. I ask Dr Gardner that is the idea of “five minds for the future” a progression and evolution of the theory of multiple intelligences, or is this a different and a new concept?

In the book “The Five Minds for the Future” Dr Gardner highlights that how education might change due to globalization, the digital revolution, lifelong learning, and due to increasing knowledge of the mind, the brain, and human genome. The impact of globalization, digital revolution and lifelong learning on education are being widely studied; I ask Dr Gardner that how would, in his view, better understanding of the mind, the brain and human genome impact teaching and learning practices.

In his recent book “The App Generation” Dr Gardner discusses characteristics and expectations of 21st century learners. This generation of learners uses smart phones, uses ready-to-use apps on mobile devices and is connected almost 24/7. Dr Gardner discusses the impact of digital technologies on this generation of learners. He outlines that, from teaching and learning perspective, and from social and emotional learning point of view, how this generation is different. Dr Gardner explains terms such as “app consciousness” and “app worldview”, and discusses the notion of identity and the capacity, and lack of it, of this generation of learners to connect to others.

I finish this discussion by asking Dr Gardner that is he satisfied with the present state of our educational systems.


Gardner, H., & Hatch, T. (1989). Multiple Intelligences Go to School: Educational Implications of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences Educational Researcher, 18 (8) DOI: 10.2307/1176460

Howard E. Gardner (2000). Intelligence reframed: multiple intelligences for the 21st century Choice Reviews Online, 37 (10), 37-37 DOI: 10.5860/CHOICE.37-5804

Gardner, H. (2008). The Five Minds for the Future Schools: Studies in Education, 5 (1/2), 17-24 DOI: 10.1086/591814

Gardner, H. (2009). The Five Minds for the Future Harvard Business Review Press

Gardner, Howard, and Katie Davis (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world Yale University Press

By |July 26th, 2015|Podcasts|

New Horizons’ Pluto Flyby with Dr Mark Showalter

After traveling three billion miles, over a period of almost ten years, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on its way to Pluto to perform first ever Pluto flyby. In this podcast Dr Mark Showalter, senior research scientist and principle investigator at the SETI institute, describes in detail the nature of this mission and what to expect in terms of scientific findings. Dr Showalter describes different features of the spacecraft, talks about the instruments on-board, and discusses the challenges involved as the spacecraft approaches Pluto.

Dr Showalter works on some of NASA’s highest profile missions to outer planets. He has been a member of Cassini Mission Science Team for nearly a decade, and is involved in the observations of Jupiter’s rings using New Horizons spacecraft. A frequent user of Hubble Space Telescope, Dr Showalter has to his credit the discovery of Jupiter’s outer most ring, Saturn’s moon PAN, and two moons and two faint rings around the planet Uranus.

Pluto is an interesting and complicated alien world. The Pluto system has four moons that orbit around the central binary system, which consists of Pluto and its large moon Charon; Dr Showalter explains the Pluto system in detail. Dr Showalter discusses the duration of the flyby and how close the spacecraft will come to Pluto and its moons; he then touches upon the following points:

  • What are main observations that the scientists intend to make and what are main expectations that the scientists have in their minds as the New Horizon spacecraft is about to flyby Pluto.
  • The New Horizons spacecraft has the capability to fly beyond the Pluto system. After the Pluto flyby, what is next for the New Horizons spacecraft? Where will the spacecraft go from there?
  • Whatever direction the spacecraft takes after the Pluto flyby, for how long will the spacecraft be able to communicate? How much fuel the spacecraft has and how long will it stay in the communication range? Will this spacecraft follow the footsteps of Voyager-1 and Voyager-2 and will continue travelling beyond the solar system?

As the spacecraft approaches Pluto, Dr Showalter and his colleagues are getting ready to manage a number of crucial aspects of this mission. Dr Showalter discusses his role in this mission. An interesting question that arises at this point is that, as the spacecraft approaches Pluto, if an anomaly is spotted, would the team have enough time to send a command to the spacecraft from such long distance, and would there be enough time to get any such command executed on time to deal with any anomaly.

Dr Showalter talks about the “Our Pluto Campaign” launched by SETI: SETI has invited public to help name features on Pluto. I finish this podcast by asking Dr Showalter about upcoming space missions that are being planned, and about new developments in his area of research.

By |May 20th, 2015|Podcasts|

From Consciousness to Synthetic Consciousness: From One Unknown to Another Unknown with David Chalmers

What is consciousness? In this podcast David Chalmers starts addressing this question by saying that “being conscious is when there is something it is like to be that being”. This argument was initially presented by an American philosopher Thomas Nagel in an influential paper “what is it like to be a bat”. This paper was first published in the Philosophical Review in 1974.

David Chalmers is an Australian philosopher and a cognitive scientist specializing in the area of philosophy of mind. He is professor of philosophy and a director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University. He is also professor of philosophy at New York University. In 2013, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. In this podcast Chalmers discusses the nature of human consciousness, its place in nature, artificial intelligence, and the concept of singularity.

In his paper “Consciousness and its Place in Nature” Chalmers describes some aspects of consciousness as easy problems and then discusses the hard problem of consciousness. In this podcast Chalmers explains in detail this approach of describing the challenge of understanding consciousness. Chalmers discusses the easy problems of consciousness and the hard problem of consciousness. An intriguing question is would we ever be able to solve the hard problem of consciousness? Some consider it an unsolvable problem and they give two main reasons for this: (1) inability of our brain to process the complicated information that would lead to an understanding of consciousness, and (2) as we all are conscious and do not have the ability to observe consciousness from outside, we cannot solve this problem. Chalmers shares his views on these points.

Another question is does consciousness have boundaries? One view is that consciousness is a fundamental property of matter that exists at different levels, and is perhaps connected at different levels. At each subsequent level, it becomes collective, and more complex, consciousness for that level. For instance, perhaps sub-atomic particles are conscious, then perhaps atoms and molecules are conscious, and then we experience consciousness at human level. If we continue extrapolating, it can be said that consciousness exits at the universal level as well. This leads to another question: does the universe create consciousness that we experience, or the universe is just a physical and mechanical entity, and it is something in this universe, perhaps us, the human beings that create, and then experience, consciousness?

Chalmers also discusses the relevance, and irrelevance, of artificial intelligence to the phenomenon of consciousness. If we assume that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon – a property of system is said to be emergent if it is in some sense more than the “sum” of the properties of the system’s parts – then as the processing power of computers is increasing, can it be said that one day consciousness may emerge in machines. One fundamental question is “what happens when machines become more intelligent than humans”. Chalmers says, “One view is that this event will be followed by an explosion to ever-greater levels of intelligences as each generation of machines creates more intelligent machines in turn. This intelligence explosion is now often known as the “singularity””. In this podcast we discuss these questions in detail.

But is consciousness necessary; can a universe exist without consciousness? If we manage to make a machine, that can store and process information the way we store and process information, and if this machine can replicate our emotional behaviour as well, but it is not conscious, then a collection of such machines can live and function in a universe that does not have consciousness. Is it necessary to have consciousness in such a simulated world? A number of fascinating questions that arise at this point are:

  • Will such machines live in a world that does not need consciousness? A world that can exist and function without consciousness.
  • Will the machines of future be just super intelligent or will such machines have machines-consciousness?
  • Is it possible that the consciousness that we experience is not real and it is just an illusion and is it possible that we are living in a simulation?
  • Is it possible that in a universe where “they” have achieved singularity, perhaps “we” are artificially intelligent machines, living in a simulation, in a matrix?

Chalmers suggests in his presentations that there is more to consciousness than just physical processes in the brain and that neuroscience alone is not enough to understand consciousness. So how should research on consciousness be conducted? Using neuroscience scientists are trying to map human brain, and are trying to find neural correlate for all brain activities and for all experiences; will this research one day lead to the discovery of neural correlate of consciousness and will this / these neural correlate(s) of consciousness inform us where does consciousness originate and how does it functions? Chalmers touches upon these points in this podcast. Chalmers continues and addresses the questions that what type of research is required to get to a theory of consciousness – a theory that can explain relationships between objective data and relevant subjective experiences? Is there a need for a new framework and perhaps a different scientific and philosophical model to understand consciousness? Finally, I finish this podcast by asking David Chalmers what are major developments and breakthroughs that he envisages in his area of research in the near future.


Chalmers, David (2010). The Singularity: A Philosophical Analysis Journal of Consciousness Studies, , 17, 7-65

Chalmers, D. (1995). The Puzzle of Conscious Experience Scientific American, 273 (6), 80-86 DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican1295-80

Nagel, Thomas (1974). What is it Like to Be a Bat Philosophical Review DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107341050.014

By |March 14th, 2015|Podcasts|