What Google and Alexa Can’t Do for Our Children
By: Roozbeh Aliabadi
In the past two years, I have been asking friends, family members, students, and colleagues about their views on Artificial Intelligence. By and large, they have told me about their experience and frequently struggle with Google Home, iPhone — Siri, Amazon Alexa, and self-driving cars like Tesla. And in every instance, after a few minutes of interaction, the topic of the conversation typically would shift to sports or politics.
Artificial Intelligence is unquestionably more than just Google Home, Amazon Alexa, iPhone Siri, or Tesla vehicles that we notice on our roads. It is a revolution of immense magnitude. AI and its capacity to crunch numbers in a split second, examine and learn, and variety of other jobs indicate that AI is starting to outperform us and surely our children and grandchildren in many sectors of work and life.
It is true, like any massive scale change, there will be winners, and surely there will be losers. There certainly will be a rise of new industries and the fall of others. It is also true that in various fields, there are often heated discussions about AI, jobs, future of work, intelligent machines in different industries, and certainly the risks that are associated with technology and AI in particular. But all around the world, there is not enough discussion also more important action on AI education for our children — the very first generation that will be most impacted by AI. Although we often talk about how AI will disrupt the job market dramatically, and today’s children will be affected, we don’t ask the tough questions: How will AI change education? What should we do about educating our kids in the AI era?
AI displacement of jobs is just starting but will accelerate in the next decade. It will impact today’s children. I often tell parents that for younger children, career choice is far less critical than developing critical thinking and creativity. I firmly believe that when we are trying to teach AI to children, we should encourage curiosity and the pursuit of deep understanding (always ask “why” or “why not”). That is an essential part of AI education.
In the AI era, it is also essential to go beyond coding and AI concepts in teaching AI. It is necessary to focus on having high emotional intelligence, which is near impossible for current AI technologies — learning empathy and genuine concern for others. Today’s AI curriculum should cultivate practicing communication, persuasion, collaboration, and teamwork.
We must support our children to develop and grow skills in areas where AI is weak, like; creativity, critical thinking, learn new skills independently, ability, kindness, empathy, and understanding. And if the child shows promise in some field, we must support them to go deep, and start early, and never give up.
AI education should help our children find passion and enthusiasm. Passion is highly correlated with motivation and accomplishment. Doing something children are passionate about is most likely to lead to a sustainable job, as well as a fulfilling life.
The reality is that our education system was not designed for the AI era, nor is it likely to catch up quickly. Therefore it is even more critical that we spend more time as parents and educators connect to our children, not only to help them access the latest information but also to develop a strong parent/educator-child bond. Let’s not forget that Google Home and Alexa can’t create such human bonding.