2018 Paper 1 (HL) Robots

In January this year (2018) a new kind of shop opened in Seattle. Amazon Go’s ‘just walk out’ convenience store made it possible for customers to walk in, scan their phones, pick up goods, and walk out, with a receipt popping up on their phone shortly thereafter. It was said some a triumph for consumers, who benefit from lower prices and avoid the inconvenience of queuing. Others were less sanguine. The shop relies on invasive surveillance to avoid shoplifting, only those who own smart phones can purchase goods, and jobs are lost. But, whether you like it or not, this is only the beginning of how new technologies and intelligent machines are being used to quickly transform social life. If the experience of globalisation is a barometer, there will be winners and losers in the latest industrial revolution. Make no mistake, automation will lead to dislocation and, arguably, conflict.

The Paper 1 HL examination (texts A and B) was, then, timely in its choice of texts, both of which focus on robots and artificial intelligence. Text A is adapted from Science News, published in 2016.Text B, published in 1913, is an extract from L. Frank Baum’s The Little Wizard Stories of Oz. There is a suggestion, it seems, that human interest in the disruptive impact of technology is hardly new.

The following student response is very competent. It reveals the importance of ‘getting it’, and in comparative textual analysis understanding the significant similarities and differences between the texts. You may wish to consider, however, whether the textual analysis is sufficiently detailed, and whether (or not) the understanding of linguistic and stylistic features is adequately explicit.

Sample Response

 Sample Response

2018 Higher Level Paper 1 Response

Text A is an online article from the magazine Science News, and Text B, is a story from the “Little Wizard Stories of Oz”. Both texts deal with the topic of robots and certain abilities they should have in order to work properly alongside humans. In text A, this is related to adding senses to machines so that they can be more perceptive, picking up “cues from the environment”, in order to eventually perform tasks such as “caring for the elderly.”  In Text B, Tiktok needs to “render his thoughts more elastic and responsive” in order to function properly. Both texts stress the need to humanize something that is artificial. Text A states that “artificial intelligence is more than just brains”.  “Getting physical is essential”, it claims; according to the article this involves perception. Similarly, Text B seems to prove this argument, as it shows that Tiktok brings about his destruction through “unwise speech. Had Tiktok’s thoughts been in good working order, he would have said something else.”  Speech and thought are both intrinsically human activities which Tiktok cannot achieve. Both mechanical creatures need improving and cannot fully function without humans intervening.  Robots in text A “aren´t there yet”, and Tiktok is “far from perfect.” This is interesting in view of the context of production of both texts: although 100 years have passed between the writing of the story and the article, both texts show robots that need human intervention to achieve their potential.

 This 103-years gap in context of production (1913-2016) is present in two main aspects: the concept of robots, which has gone from being something abstract and fantastic to almost an everyday reality, and the images and language used to describe them. In 1913 the idea of robots in a human world was only possible in fiction. The pictures and language in Text B reflect this: a “cleverly constructed” Clockwork Man, made up of clockwork “machinery” that needs to be manually “wound up“. Tiktok looks like a gentleman with a moustache and a hat. When Tiktok is smashed, “hundreds and hundreds of wheels, pins and springs” fall to on the floor.  Electronics was out of the picture in those days and the idea of a robot was an imitation man “made entirely of metal” and mechanical pieces: clockwork was considered the symbol of precision and perfection.  Contrastingly, Text A shows images of a “surgical robot” which does not try to physically resemble humans at all; the “bot” is equipped with a “3-D camera and near infrared imaging, plus preprogrammed surgical knowledge”. This conception of what a robot looks like and how it functions is characteristic of our times and differs from the idea of robots in Text B.

Context also influences an aspect of the content:  the relationship between humans and robots. Text A presents them as ideally complemented. The subtitle talks about robots “working with humans”; this idea appears in the main image which shows friendly physical contact between a human and a robot and alludes to the famous painting of the hands of God and Man, which speaks to readers about a good relationship between the Creator and his creature. The article speaks of robots “in our home, interacting with us” and “perhaps even caring for the elderly,” which reinforces the idea of humans and robots as ideal collaborators.  This is very different in Text B, where Tiktok needs to beg the king’s favour to get the parts he needs and the King is seen as an enemy with a “menacing growl”, who ultimately smashes him to pieces. This idea of robots as enemies of humans was common in the 20th century, when people feared the potential of technology, but may seem outdated to modern audiences who are used to robotics.

As regards language, there are many differences which can be attributed to purpose and audience. Text A is clearly informative and targets an audience of adults interested in Science and Robotics: the article can be found in the online Science News Magazine, which seems to aim to make scientific topics interesting to “the public” as it states in the subtitle.  This is evident in the language used: scientists quoted keep the language colloquial and easy to understand as when they state that intelligence is also “walking around and opening doors and stuff”.  Text B seeks to entertain an audience of children and to also teach a lesson, as most children’s stories do. In this case, that we must take into account other people’s feelings and also must think before we act, for fear of doing something terrible like the Nome King did. Although the plot of the story is simple, as   it was written in 1913, there are old-fashioned expressions (It so happened that…)  and long and complex sentences which would be completely simplified if it had been written today, when books for children use colloquial language and simpler sentences. An example of this old-fashioned and rather formal sentence structure is “The skillful little wizard...responsive.” (lines13-16).

Text A complies with the conventions and stylistic features  of  informative articles with a catchy introduction full of imagery (“the thin pink tissue dangles like a deflated balloon”) to grab the attention of readers, quotes from experts such as  a “Cornell Computer Scientist” to provide credibility,  short, clear paragraphs, similes (“like babies first grasping how to squeeze a parents finger”) to appeal to emotions and ensure readers can connect the text with aspects they are familiar with, and images that add metaphorical meaning, like the main one, or are detailed and technical like the ones in the “Delicate Touch” section, which allow the reader to visualize the process which is being explained.  Text B, on the other hand, follows the conventions and stylistic features of children’s narrative: an  initial exposition where the Nome king is characterized as “unpleasantly angry” and Tiktok’s problem  is explained, the use of dialogue to make the story more vivid and entertaining for children, polysyndeton (“he roared and raved and stamped”) , which captures children´s imagination and adds humour,  warnings and  foreshadowing (“be careful what you say to the Nome King. He has a bad temper and the least thing makes him angry”) to increase tension, as well as drawings which by illustrating literally the words of the text help with characterization and allow children to visualize the story.

Although separated by more than a century, and in spite of their different context, purpose, audience and genre, both texts have similarities in content:  the robots in text A and Tiktok can be said to be in a “fledgling” state and need to “awaken to the world around them” if they intend to interact properly with humans.

Teacher's Comments

Criterion A: Understanding and comparison of the texts – 5 marks

The analysis should show an understanding of the similarities and differences between the texts. The analysis should show an understanding of texts, their type, their purposes, and possible contexts. Claims should be supported by well-chosen references to the texts.

5 out of 5: There is excellent understanding of the texts, their contexts, and purposes. There are well-chosen references throughout to support claims made.

Criterion B: Understanding of the use and effects of stylistic features – 5 marks

The analysis of the texts must show an awareness of how stylistic features, such as tone, style and structure, are used to construct meaning. A good analysis comments on effects of these features on its target audience.

4 out of 5: There is good understanding and illustration of the use of stylistic features. However, the discussion lacks a little detail, and the possible effects on readers is not fully explained or explored.

Criterion C: Organisation and development – 5 marks

The analysis must be balanced, containing arguments that are well-developed. The analysis must be organised effectively.

5 out of 5: Well balanced and effectively organised.

Criterion D: Language – 5 marks

The language of the analysis must be clear, varied, and accurate. The register of the analysis must be appropriate, meaning it contains formal sentence structure, good choice of words, and effective terminology.

5 out of 5: The language is very clear and effective. There are a few glitches of register, but these are minor errors that do not detract from the precision and accuracy.

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