Message from Tanella Boni on Education during our webinar 3 of June 3rd on the theme: « In the age of Artificial Intelligence, which educational orientations for the construction of the Human ».

Being educated to be human, to remain human

Education and otherness

Conceiving education as a compass, at a time when many activities are based on the use of artificial intelligence, is a real challenge. We should ask ourselves what we mean by « education ». We should also think about the difference between artificial intelligence and human intelligence. Because it seems to me that there are many challenges to take up in order to remain human. Because we do not live alone in the world, from the moment we are born, we are confronted with otherness.

Education as a means to learn about our places

The question of education becomes obvious as soon as we become aware of the necessity and the need to live together, on the same Earth, the one we inhabit with other living and non-living people. Now, learning to live in a family and in society means knowing the social rules and moral laws that delimit our territories, ways of being, ways of moving from one place to another. (The example of « wild » children, raised by animals, shows how necessary it is for humans to be educated by humans). ) Thus we learn the essentials of the mythical, familial, historical, social – and all citizenship – ties that form our belonging and identities, always in motion as long as we are able to learn.

Education: complexity of a notion with multiple entries

The question of education has multiple entries and it does not lack complexity.

I take the example of formal education in formerly colonized countries where all teaching is provided in the dominant language (in Francophone Africa, for example). In such a context, all learning takes place in the presence of several languages and several ways of thinking. Every learner, child or adult, must make the effort to tame languages, knowledge and beliefs that are far removed from the universe in which the founding stories and rules of life are transmitted. The socio-cultural context in which formal education takes place is therefore of great importance. The question that remains is how to avoid conflicts between a universalist conception of education and that anchored in a given culture.

A « well-made head » in an unprogrammed world

However, if we start from the idea that all education (formal or informal) aims at making a learner a « well-made head », according to Montaigne’s beautiful formula (Essays, I, 26), universal principles and particular rules – valid in a given context – must be able to come together in order to form critical minds, conscious of their own vulnerabilities. I will evoke here the « school of the chameleon », the school of wisdom, of knowing how to behave and of know-how, as Amadou Hampathé Bâ referes to it (see Sur les traces d’Amkoullel l’enfant peul), which shows to what extent what counts in the framework of any education is not so much accumulated or memorized knowledge, but rather rules of life and values (for example, tolerance, prudence, perseverance…) that one learns through experience, in a world full of surprises. A living, moving world, a non-programmed world where nothing is given in advance. In such a world, humans adapt, they show resistance.

From this point of view, an intelligence worthy of the name cannot be satisfied with accumulating and then distributing knowledge within the reach of the first person to come. In a real (and not virtual) world, any knowledge, far from being easily acquired, can only come at the end of the effort and the test.

Because human intelligence is far from being an « artificial intelligence » that requires external intervention (manufacturing of this intelligence, programming, storage of information…) Human intelligence is not only capable of grasping and understanding what is outside of it, but also of manufacturing and controlling sophisticated technologies that can be at its service in many fields. But what are the limits of this control?

This is where many questions arise and challenges must be met in order for humans to remain above all « human », in the age of machines and supposedly intelligent robots. This is where we must insist on the necessity of education. If we educate a human, we do not educate an artificial intelligence or any machine. If humans learn, through experience, that they cannot live outside the world and apart from others, they become aware that an education worthy of the name is an apprenticeship in life, a training in citizenship, inventiveness, creativity, an acquisition of knowledge, but above all a quest for meaning and values. The question of education is therefore raised at the same time as that of otherness and that of the preservation of the links between humans and all living beings.


Is it not by listening to other humans or other living beings, by thinking, by acting, by sharing, by forging links that we preserve our humanity?

We must therefore conceive of education as a privileged way to share knowledge and know-how, in order to preserve our humanity. The sharing I am referring to here is not the division or distribution of any object or good, but rather the equitable participation in intellectual, artistic, technological and scientific production and in the circulation of knowledge. The assumption is that humans meet in some way (not only virtually, online or on social networks where « friends » who « like » are far from being « real friends »). What I call « encounter » here is the process by which a reciprocal exchange of knowledge is made possible, as well as a recognition of the diversity of cultures, thoughts and ways of life present. From these experiences, we can ask ourselves: how do we connect and what is it that binds us? A well-known literary text seems to summarize in a few paragraphs what encounter, sharing and connection are all about: The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry. A luminous story about meeting, friendship, learning, love and separation. Neither the aviator nor the Little Prince are artificial intelligences, even if they are « paper beings ». An « other » and a « human » who talk to each other, ask questions, tell stories. A story that makes them so human, both of them, forever.

Tanella Boni

Poet, novelist, philosopher
Professor at the University Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Member of the ASCAD (Academy of Arts, Sciences, Cultures of Africa and African Diasporas)
Member of the IIP (International Institute of Philosophy)
Member of the Steering Committee of the FISP (International Federation of Philosophical Societies)