Rethinking Education to Stay Relevant in the Age of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

A digital evoultion is taking place and our education systems need to be updated desperately.

Imagine the world in twenty years? What do you see? Perhaps climate change hits the point of no return and continues to alter the earth? Maybe cryptocurrency replaces traditional currencies?

One thing we do know for certain, artificial intelligence is here to stay. The Terminator-esque scenario of man versus machine won’t be such a violent clash, but it’s a battle that has already started.

What if I told you this article could have been written by artificial intelligence? Would you believe me?

The long-held belief was that A.I. wasn’t really capable of producing creative work. We’d relegated its potential to factory work, repetitive tasks, and, essentially, as a tool to replace manual labor.

But A.I. has quickly advanced beyond what many of us imagined it would become. When Jeff Bezos bought the The Washington Post for $250 million in 2013, he implemented algorithms — like the ones Amazon uses to sell books — to enable A.I. to begin writing articles for the newspaper four years later.

In a letter to his shareholders, Bezos explained his reasoning for using artificial intelligence as a means to remain relevant: “Over the past decades, computers have broadly automated tasks that programmers could describe with clear rules and algorithms. Modern machine learning techniques now allow us to do the same for tasks where describing the precise rules is much harder.”

It’s no longer speculation that A.I. will replace human jobs. At first, it seemed that blue-collar jobs like factory work and truck-driving would be the first to go. However, we are now witnessing white-collar jobs being taken over by sophisticated algorithms — even creative occupations that seemed untouchable previously .

Surely, there’s one job that is safe from machine-takeover? If you think it would be the one that controls them, you’d be incorrect in that assumption. The A.I. that these high-demand tech stars are building will ultimately replace them.

Cambridge University and Microsoft have already produced AI that can program by stitching together existing code. It is not completely independent yet, but through a positive reinforcement loop, it produces better code, which in turn produces better, smarter A.I.

Now, the future isn’t necessarily going to end up being a dystopian sci-fi-like world in which mankind is subjugated beneath the wills and whims of our robot masters. In fact, many experts predict that this fourth industrial revolution will actually create jobs, but we have to be prepared.

So what does this preparation look like?

For one, it’s a massive overhaul of the current educational system. As it is, academia is putting students on a collision course with A.I. Humans cannot compete with machine learning and artificial intelligence at rote memorization and repetition. Unfortunately, so much of the current curriculum is still designed around the Prussian model of education, which was meant to prepare students for the repetition of factory work.

In spite of the fact that creative jobs are not excluded from the potential of becoming obsolete, it will still be more difficult for A.I. to replicate complex creative works — arguably, the byproduct of human emotion. For this exact reason, we need to embrace the humanities and encourage divergent thinking above all else.

Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) had been favored by schools for decades, but the STEAM movement, which picked up an “A” to include arts, has become the new educational ideal. The creative thinking taught through art allows students to effectively mobilize the components of STEM. The humanities serves to connect the other more strictly analytical areas to help people fit the demands of the 21st century world and economy.

Creativity and divergent thinking are the one advantage we have over A.I. The key to remaining relevant in the age of machine learning and new technologies is, ironically, to behave oppositely: We have to become more human.

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