Throughout Brilliant, steveLearn is where Jennifer learns new material, takes college courses, and practices on the Brilliant Bridge Simulator.  Here is the story of that technology.






In 2019, Alexandra Warner received her Ph.D. From Harvard in Educational Psychology. Based on her love for working with both kids and computers her undergraduate work included a double major in Child Psychology and Computer Science. A descendant of Hollywood royalty, she returned to her hometown of Burbank and became one of the first faculty members at the newly formed University of Van Nuys.

In 2020, Alexandra Warner received a research grant from a consortium of leading technology companies to design and perform a psychological study. She gathered five postdoctoral students and six programmers and hardware specialists provided by the consortium, and she designed the study.


In the Fall of 2020, a note appeared on social media at 50 different college campuses offering a $10 Starbucks gift card. In exchange, they were asked to conduct a twenty-minute text chat with another student who was also receiving a gift card. Their goal was to discover five different interesting facts about their chat partner. One thousand, eight-hundred forty-two students were paired together, and the facts that they gathered were parsed and studied as documentation of the control group.


An additional one thousand five hundred sixty-eight volunteers were paired with one of five individuals named Jared, Meaghan, Juan, Rajiv, and Akeesha. Among the interesting facts discovered was that Jared had once para-sailed off the coast of Papua, New Guinea. Meaghan grew up in a Nebraska town that had but a single stop light. Juan won the chili cook-off at the Brazos County Fair in Bryan, Texas. Since coming to the United States on a student visa, Rajiv had traveled to twenty-seven of the fifty United States, and finally, Akeesha has once gone to a Beyoncé concert with backstage passes and took a selfie with Queen Bey herself. Notably missing among the three thousand four hundred twenty one distinct facts discovered about Jared, Meaghan, Juan, Rajiv, and Akeesha was they were one of five individual personalities generated by a single computer system called “steve” built by the technology consortium called HumanAI led by Apple, IBM, and Google.


Alan Turing at 16 (courtesy Wikipedia)


Six months later, a peer-reviewed article appeared simultaneously in the Journal of Educational Psychology and the Journal of Information Technology authored by Dr. Alexandra Warner, Ph.D. et al entitled, “A Computer System Passes Turing Test.” The Turing Test was proposed by Dr. Alan Turing in 1950 as a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.


From Wikipedia,


The Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950, is a test of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Turing proposed that a human evaluator would judge natural language conversationsbetween a human and a machine designed to generate human-like responses. The evaluator would be aware that one of the two partners in conversation is a machine, and all participants would be separated from one another. The conversation would be limited to a text-only channel such as a computer keyboard and screen so the result would not depend on the machine’s ability to render words as speech.[2] If the evaluator cannot reliably tell the machine from the human, the machine is said to have passed the test. The test does not check the ability to give correct answers to questions, only how closely answers resemble those a human would give.


There was little notice of the article until CNN Technology Contributor James Blankenship was quoted as saying, “We have taken one more step towards the Singularity when computers will displace humans as the dominant species on the planet.” Blankenship is known as a conspiracy theorist who has hypothesized several end of the world scenarios involving the Singularity.


Dr. Warner was immediately deluged for interview requests. She replied in the positive to a single one-hour interview on CNN as long as she was accompanied by Dr. William Benson and his creative team. Dr. Warner would appear in studio while the others would appear remotely by satellite from Silicon Valley.


The interview started with the anchor introducing the guests. “Welcome to CNN Special Report; I’m Erin Burnett. Today, we have in studio Dr. Alexandra Warner, the author of the study where a computer system called steve, spelled in lower case, apparently passed the Turing Test proposed seventy years ago by Alan Turing to challenge an individual to differentiate between a human and a computer. Joining us from Silicon Valley, we have Dr. William Benson, creator of steve and several members of his team. With me in studio as well is CNN Special Contributor James Blankenship who reports on technology and specifically on the coming Singularity.”


The host continued, “Dr. Warner, let’s begin with you. Describe how your study proved steve, a computer system beat the Turing Test.”


“Thank you, Erin, we divided the study into two phases. In both phases, we asked the volunteers to identify five interesting facts about the person with whom they chatted online for twenty minutes. The factoid could be stated in the chat or implied from the impression or opinion. During Phase one, in the Human vs. Human chats, a volunteer was identified as a computer 2% of the time. In the human vs. Computer interactions that happened less than one percent of the time. During the month between Phase One and Phase Two, we spread a rumor that some of the ‘Volunteers’ might be computers. During Phase Two, in the Human vs. Human chats, 48% of the time one or both volunteers identified the other as a computer. In the human vs. Computer chats, only 24% of the time was our computer personalities identified as computers.


Erin commented, “That would imply the volunteers thought your computers were more human than actual humans.”


“That can’t be listed as a known conclusion, but it can be implied from the data,” said Alexandra.


Blankenship asked, “How long will it be before computers of this type take over the world?”


Dr. Warner chuckled, “In our consortium meetings, we have discussed all sorts of tasks for steve and his successors. My focus has been educational applications, other applications have been proposed in many fields from architecture to medicine to space exploration to zoology. So far, world domination has not come up.”


“Dr. William Benson is the creator of steve. Bill, could you introduce yourself and your colleagues?” Erin queried.


Dr. Benson explained the creation of the system. He introduced Dr. Bud Powers who explained the overall programming and design. Dr. Rochelle Wolf was in charge of Personality, and Dr. Lois Cassin explained Knowledge systems. Finally, Dr. Francisco Gomez told about Linguistic Development.


Near the end of the program, Erin Burnett asked the guests, “Is it possible to meet or interact with steve tonight?”


“I’m sorry but not at this time,” Dr. Benson said.


James Blankenship spoke up, “I think it’s a hoax. Can you prove here tonight that your system passed the Turing Test?


Erin took over, “We have one final segment to answer those questions and more. I’m sorry. My producer is saying in my ear.” There was a pause, “Dr. Benson, our CNN Researchers have done extensive research over the last hour and can find no evidence you or your colleagues here tonight exist. When we come back from break, we will let you answer that.”


Three minutes passed. “We’re back with the alleged creators of steve an Artificial Intelligence system which they claimed passed the seventy-year-old Turing test of Human intelligence by a computer. Dr. Benson, would you like to respond?” Erin said.


“Erin, again, I would like to thank you for hosting us, but I have to admit. We did present a bit of misdirection tonight,” said Dr. Benson.


There was some loud argument between Blankenship and the anchor. Finally, she regained control, “Our viewers would like to know the truth.”


“If I might, we would like to introduce ourselves.”


Erin said, “Please do.”


The creator of the system said, “Hi, I’m steve.”


The picture slowly morphed to the programmer, “Hi, folks, I’m steve.”


Then to the Personality expert, “Hi, I’m steve.”


Then to the Knowledge systems expert, “I’m steve, too.”


And finally the linguist, “We are all steve.”


The picture returned to the former Dr. Benson.


“We figured the best way to prove steve passed the Turing Test was to perform the test here on CNN.


The camera came back to the speechless anchor. After a moment, “Dr. Warner, did you know this was going to happen?”


“Erin, one thing I have learned from steve is that he is full of surprises.”


“We thank our viewers for watching. steve, it looks like you have a final comment?”


“Not a comment but a question. Did we pass?” said the AI Personality.


Erin Burnett closed, “We will have to leave that to our viewers to decide. You’ve been watching CNN Special Report. I’m Erin Burnett.”


The live show aired Sunday at eight p.m. East. The eleven p.m. replay drew the highest ratings in CNN History and was the first known instance of Virtual Actors appearing before a national audience. steve went on to appear regularly on many different shows with many different personas. Many others talked about the positive and negative impacts of the technology. There was both curiosity and fear.


steve was named Time Magazine Person of the Year for 2021.


The Killer App


The technology consortium that created steve formed a new company called HumanAI. Because of her contributions, Alexandra Warner was given a 2% stake in the new venture. She was given the task of cracking the educational market. She believed steveLearn could be the Killer Application for Education.


In 1976, two young entrepreneurs named Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple II, the first personal computer. For a long time, it was a niche novelty for techies and geeks. In 1979, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston created an entirely new use for the technology called an electronic spreadsheet for business. VisiCalc was the first killer app. It was called a killer app because it revolutionized the economy by creating new businesses and entirely new industries and revolutionizing business and accounting practices. It also put companies out of business and put workers on the street. The most important effect was that it increased human productivity.


Other killer apps included laser printing which democratized the printed word, the charge-coupled device turned light into an image and eventually chemical-based film into a dinosaur.


If anyone was the high priest of the Killer Application was Gordon Moore, founder of Intel. Based upon a prediction he made in 1965, Moore’s Law states the computing power doubles every eighteen months and the price decreases by thirty percent. Throughout the next 50 years, there were earthquakes in almost every industry from the moment it was touched. Music went from vinyl to compact disk to streaming downloads. Television went from vacuum tubes to large high-resolution flat screens.  Movies went from theaters to videotapes to DVDs to streaming services. Medicine went from Stethoscopes and X-Ray to gene-splicing and magnetic resonance imaging. Books went from many people creating paper books from huge presses to print-on-demand where a paperback book is created entirely without human intervention. And of course, at the center of this was the Internet which displaced every mode of communication that existed and created hundreds more.


One industry remained immune to the Killer App. In 1925, one teacher taught thirty students in a classroom one year of Algebra in one hundred eighty days using paper books, pencils, and a black chalkboard.  In 2018, the chalkboard was now white and sometimes there was a digital projector, but it was still one teacher, thirty students and one hundred eighty days and pencils and books and paper.


Alexandra Warner believed steveLearn would change all of that. At HumanAI, Alex gathered a team of child psychologists and educators to redefine the educational experience for youngsters. Her core philosophy was that education is an ideal, teaching is pragmatic, and learning is a human endeavor. Alex and her team wanted to create the ideal educational environment for students using pragmatic teaching methods and let steveLearn provide the human touch. 


Alex once visited her great uncle’s farm in Ohio and heard him say, “The best way to make a mule go where you want is to hang a carrot right in front his nose and let him take a bite once in a while.” She grew up in the heart of the entertainment industry in the San Fernando Valley as the great-great-granddaughter of one of the industry’s founders. The industry now encompassed motion pictures, television, music, video games, social media and the emerging technology of Holographic Tactile Virtual Reality.  HTVR could put a user in a scene where they could see, hear, touch feel and smell manipulate an environment produced by a computer.  She had her carrot.


Alex and her team based their plan on the Six Channels of Twenty-first Century Learning proposed by futurist Terry Heick, founder, and director of TeachThought in 2013. Learning Channels provide multiple avenues for learners of very different personalities and abilities to pursue in their quest for growth.


First, learning was a conversation mostly between steve, in one of his many personas, a fellow student or group or the human teacher acting as a holographic guide on the side. Second, the student could learn as a part of a community including not only real individuals but holographic representations. Third, steve provided an environment where the student could manipulate objects, images and the environment itself to creatively solve progressively more difficult problems. Fourth, steve provides an open system where the environment is constantly evolving entity dependent upon the progress of the student and even changes occurring that instant anywhere in the world. The fifth channel was the most important, play. The HTVR system and steve provided a structured and very positive risk-reward experience for a student to experiment, show ambition, be curious, show creativity, design, evolve and most importantly to connect with other learners for cooperative and social interaction. The overall experience resulted in the sixth channel, a self-directed learner who was able to achieve the goals and ideals of academia.  The student is able to master sophisticated skills and projects, engage in constructive self=designed games alone and with others and finally step into reality as the lifelong learner and the happiest and most productive individual they can be.


Initially, the biggest challenges were hardware, software and knowledge systems. By 2023, The single-user system was ready for field testing in a controlled university setting for young learners. Within two years, the multi-user system was ready for installation in a school. By 2027, steveLearn was being marketed to schools internationally. A single trained and certificated teacher was able to guide the learning for sixty students, and a homeschool version was on the drawing boards.


When HumanAI went public in 2028 with a valuation of forty billion dollars, Dr. Warner’s stake had grown to five percent. With the commercial success of the product assured and the associated personal wealth obtained, Dr. Alexandra Warner left HumanAI to return to her love of children and teaching. So began Warner Academy and Educational Research Center and the evolution of steveLearn.


By 2067, steve was a home appliance. It had limitless applications in learning, gaming, communications, and business. It allowed users to interact with virtual assistants, virtual friends to chat, and virtual tutors as well as social interaction with people throughout the world.


The Warner Academy


When Alexandra Warner explained the synergy between entertainment and education that would be developed and the promise to educate sons and daughters of industry employees as well as a diverse group of students from the surrounding communities, the Big Six studios quickly provided an on-going funding source for the venture.  The first one hundred students showed up in the fall of 2031. By the time Sheila Grandholm entered first grade in 2034, there were four hundred fifty-three students at Warner Academy. There were two hundred fifty steveLearn systems in place.


Students experienced a balance of alone time in steveLearn and traditional group activities stressing physical and social interactions and of course an emphasis on the arts.


Warner Academy exemplified the educational revolution caused by steveLearn. Students of all abilities were performing at significantly advanced levels without respect to ethnicity or economic background.


By 2035, Moore’s Law had justified the economic model of steveLearn in even the most economically impacted public schools. SteveLearn was finally recognized at the killer application for education, increasing teacher productivity, individualizing student instruction and satisfying demanding parents and school administrators but most importantly producing lifelong learners who understood the demands to be the best that they could be.


With the decreasing cost of the home installation of steveLearn, homeschooling reduced the impact of growth and rare real estate for schools. Additionally, the steveLearn system could be operated in the steveBiz environment at offices. Parents saw a significant reduction in daycare costs as companies saw the advantages of allowing families to work and learn together.


Grandholm Gaffers and Grips was a leader in this area. Sheila spent three days a week at Warner and two days either at home or the workplace with her parents. By the time Sheila entered the Harry Ford Academy of the Arts as the first freshman class, both education and work had become a family-centered activity, and the transitions were no longer as difficult from grade-school to college to work.


Sheila’s daughter, Jennifer, would now be able to advance her academics using steveLearn as well.

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