The Future of Learning in the age of Artificial Intelligence

How do we educate children who will be living and working in a world where intelligence is no longer limited?

Despite a chaotic start, Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a boulevard of broken dreams. It is now far beyond 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.

AI will become part of our daily lives before we can even think about the consequences of this “rise of the machines”. 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? So what does it mean for human intelligence and the role of education?

Two fundamental questions arise: 1) how do we educate children who will be living and working in a world where intelligence will no longer be limited? 2) What should we learn today if the value of what we learn depreciates much faster as a result of accelerated technology disruption?

Up until now, every technological revolution has resulted in the displacement of jobs from one sector to another. This was a relatively slow and predictable process unfolding over one or two generations. With AI, many jobs, not only just the low-skilled ones, run a risk of being eliminated altogether at exponential speed. Indeed, 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, fund managers and brokers redundant?

Put simply, as an institution which is responsible for the lifelong transfer of knowledge and training, education in its present form is an outdated technology.

So what is the future of learning? What will we have to teach our children in order for them to flourish in this new world?

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

Beyond, focusing education on HOW we learn as opposed to WHAT is the key. Lifelong-learning and informal learning will soon become the two pillars of a new form of learning architecture. An architecture that harnesses the social reach of the internet, the ubiquity of artificial intelligence, on- demand education resources, and the use of neurosciences to deliver rapidly and effectively bite size personalised learning throughout our lifetime.

In this new world, the new teachers may take two forms. One could be software mobile companions or “bots” helping and encouraging humans to constantly upskill and earn Nano degrees in a race against accelerated skills obsolescence and job displacement. Another role could be the one of a “brain farmer”, moving away from managing and transmitting knowledge to using the fields of learning science to seed motivation for learning and creativity.

One thing is sure: education will change in the next 10 years much more than it has in the previous 2000 years!

Benjamin Vedrenne-Cloquet

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