Education in the age of Artificial Intelligence

Despite a chaotic start, Artificial Intelligence is no longer just a boulevard of broken dreams, says Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet

It has now well passed the “gimmick” stage and is already able to perform prodigious feats: the Google Car drives more safely than any human driver; Watson, IBM’s expert system, can analyse hundreds of thousands of cancer research papers in only a few minutes, whereas an oncologist would need 37 years to read them all… AI is now performing more and more tasks better than we do and this is just the beginning.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will become part of our daily lives before we can even think about the consequences of this “rise of the machines”, what it means for human intelligence and the role of education. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and Space X, predicts that those of us who show the most empathy towards AI will become its pets. So how do we prevent this prophecy of technological slavery from materialising?

It starts with an in-depth reflection on the subject of education in the AI age: how do we educate children who will be living and working in a world in which intelligence will no longer be limited? Up until now, every technological revolution has resulted in the displacement of jobs from one sector to another. With AI, many jobs, not only just the low-skilled ones, run a significant risk of being eliminated altogether; not simply displaced. What does the combination of the Google Car and Uber mean for taxi drivers? How might Machine Learning impact the roles of teachers, scientists and researchers? Will the generalisation of Electronic Traded Funds make City traders and brokers redundant?

So what will we have to teach our children in order for them to flourish in this new world? As an institution which is responsible for the lifelong transfer of knowledge and training, education in its present form is an outdated technology. We will therefore have to rethink the role of the three pillars of education: content, methods and teachers.

Content: The attempt to compete with machines in the technical and scientific fields will become rapidly pointless so it may be necessary to rehabilitate humanities, social skills, creativity and general culture at the heart of our education system.

Methods: The personalisation of teaching with respect to each student’s cognitive skills seems to be the way forward.

Teachers: Teachers may have to reinvent themselves as “brain farmers”, moving away from managing and transmitting knowledge to using the fields of learning science, neurosciences and information technology in order to nurture content resources, stimulate individual growth and harvest data on efficacy and outcomes.

Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet is co-founder of EdTech Europe.