Artificial Intelligence to change Higher Education

Artificial Intelligence to change Higher Education

Arts-based, & not the knowledge-based approach is the key

While we are still grappling with the challenge of industry-academia void, there is a new elephant in the room. It is Artificial Intelligence (from herein referred to as ‘AI’). Hitherto, the educational system of the developing world had set its objectives to work towards graduating students who can hit the ground running. The goal of producing employable graduates who exhibit in-demand skills for the industry is to be gradually changed. AI is a field that creates machines that are intelligent, can replicate, learn and think. The AI that we currently see is a ‘narrow AI’ since it is designed to perform small tasks (Apple has SIRI, software recognizing our face etc). However, the real challenge is the advent of ‘General AI’ that would beat us in every task requiring human cognition.

From self-driving cars to chefs, the humans will be replaced. The drone postmen and the manual labor in heavy industries, AI will replace us. Telemarketers, Book-Keepers,  Receptionists, Proofreaders (already software like Grammarly in the market), robots will do better than we can. On top of that, they won’t be tired, won’t ask for sick leaves or vacations, won’t make unions and demand rights. They will be cheaper than humans. So much so that even wars can be fought using Robots, which can threaten jobs of defense personnel as well.

In the world’s largest techno conference in Portugal, a humanoid named Sophia shocked 60,000 strong audiences when it addressed them saying ‘We will take your jobs’. The challenge is their power to learn new things without human help. Their ability to learn from their mistakes makes them somewhat akin to humans. For Instance, Go is the most complicated board game of our times. An AI program understood it on its own and achieved the world champion level in mere 3 days. After that, it played against the previous AI program that was taught by a human and beat it with the score of 100-0, which proved that it can devise strategies which humans can’t. No wonder why the Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said ‘It’s hard to overstate that how big of an impact AI is going to have’.

There is no way that AI revolution can be reversed now. The worldwide spending on AI will be $46 billion which is 768% increase from what it was in 2016 ($5.3B in 2015; $7.8B in 2016; $12.5B in 2017; $19.3 in 2018; $29.8B in 2019; and $46.0B in 2020). This demonstrates that research on AI is not just out of curiosity or simple experimentation. It is a technology spreading way faster than we can imagine. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), most of the spending has happened in the diagnosis and treatment systems, automated customer service, fraud analysis, and investigation. In the next few years, the focus will be on financial services, manufacturing services, retail and again the healthcare industries. At the same time, it is making successful inroads into the fields of economics, law and technical processes like verifications, validity, security, and control. What is worrying is that the race for automated weaponry has already begun.

Now the moot point is that if we can not fight AI- which is a wastage of time, what can we do to ensure our jobs are not lost to it. Andrew Kuchreiavy- Founding CEO of Intechnic opines that to get educated about the AI is the first step we must take. You don’t have to have a technical background but a knowledge of its functioning in your area of expertise is indispensable. If you are an expert in your own field and understand the future role of AI in your industry or domain, you will be the natural choice to train and manage AI when it comes, and it is coming very soon. The experts suggest that we all must read books, articles, take online courses and webinars about AI and its applicability to your industry or business. How can then our higher educational system not pay heed to its inevitable coming?

Jack Ma, who is the founder CEO of Internet giant Alibaba, warns that If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years down the line we will be in trouble. The things we teach our children are things from the past 200 years- it’s knowledge-based. And we can not teach our kids to compete with machines, that are smarter. This man is a big employer and his assertion on what the employers would need in the near future is credible enough, at least to me. As I said earlier that there’s no way we can compete with AI when it comes to efficiency, knowledge, accuracy and incessant replication; how else can we beat it? The answer is Arts. By Arts, I don’t mean the traditional arts stream is the only way forward. What is meant by it is the ‘Arts-based education’. No matter what you teach, Creative problem solving, Collaboration, Resourcefulness, Leadership, Resilience, and Empathy- which are exclusive human traits- need to be inculcated in students. As Jack Ma puts it, ‘Independent thinking, Teamwork, and Care for others will not just set students apart, they will ensure students can be valuable contributors to the society in a way that makes them irreplaceable’. These are the only things that these machines would not exhibit. And so clearly, it is the only option for us to be trained in and differentiate ourselves from the machines. This won’t just give us an edge to survive but we can continue managing them and employ them to our benefits, rather than being thrown out of the job by them. Everything valuable that sets us apart from the machines, is the future. 

Let’s stop asking questions testing the memory of our students. Let’s devise a curriculum that brings in the more human side of them so that machines can’t replace them. The google is already there to give them knowledge, facts, dates, and names as and when they need it, let’s give them skills to interpret these, and use their creativity to put it to use. Not being metaphorical but if it’s to be tersely put, in this war of machines and humans, let humanity prevail. That would be the only answer to Sophia.