There is a lot of uncertainty about how artificial intelligence might develop in the future and whether it will be a force of good in society. Some people even speculate that machines will eventually pose an existential threat to humanity. One thing we do know for certain is that if artificial intelligence doesn’t kill us, it will definitely take our jobs. Boston Consulting Group predicts that by 2025, up to a quarter of jobs will be replaced by either smart software or robots, while a study from Oxford University has suggested that 35% of existing UK jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years. One of our duties as educators is to prepare students for the future. But how schools and teachers prepare students for a world where many jobs are at risk of being taken by artificial intelligence?
The problem is that is not just unskilled jobs that are at threat from intelligent machines. According to Professor Andre Spicer, from Cass Business School, A. I will “quickly replace many forms of complex knowledge work ranging from lawyers to librarians, professors to policy analysts”. This sentiment is echoed by founder of Google, Eric Schmidt, who explains that machines can now even do healthcare work better than a human being can: “Recently we [tested] diabetic retinopathy, where your blood vessels change shape in your eye, causing blindness,” he says. “We can diagnose it more accurately than an ophthalmologist.” Why? “Because we see more eyes, we see a million eyes and an ophthalmologist may see 10,000.” Even jobs that require specialist knowledge and years of study look as though they may potentially be taken by artificial intelligence in the future.
It is therefore no longer enough just to train somebody to be a lawyer, a healthcare professional or a journalist. We must also teach our students to be able to do things that machines can’t. This is the only way we can make the students of today employable tomorrow. Machines will never be able to think creatively and innovatively, communicate effectively and persuasively, demonstrate compassion and emotional intelligence. These are the qualities that we must develop in our students in order for them to have a value in the job market and gain competitive edge over machines.
These soft skills are difficult to measure or quantify; it would be very difficult to mark or grade these things. But this does not mean that we should neglect them in schools. At Cardiff Sixth Form College, we have a super curriculum of classes that complement their studies and prepare them for their future careers. Effective communication teaches our students how to talk persuasively in front of an audience. It develops their charisma and ability to respond to questions. The TYF Industry Challenge placed students in the position of engineers in the manufacturing industry. They visited a factory and were asked to think critically and creatively in order to come up with some ways to improve the factory’s eco-efficiency. The solutions that the students came up with were so innovative that some of them were implemented by the factory owners.
Competitions like NASA (Space Settlement Design Competition) encourage the entrepreneurial culture of teamwork. Whichever career students choose to pursue in the future, it is important that they learn to collaborate with other people to facilitate each other’s success through creating constructive and mutually beneficial working partnerships. This is also where the students’ creativity is challenged to its extreme limits.
We believe, that multiple experiences in different contexts, at different levels of complexity foster the development of an innovative spirit and creativity. These skills are best developed when integrated into the context of various situations so that students see the relevance of what they are learning. Opportunities for independent research and intellectual risk-taking provide ideal environment for new ideas to come to life.
As students develop creative thinking skills, they learn how to approach tasks in an unconventional, flexible, and original manner. Yet, this innovative energy needs to feed from an equally powerful source of knowledge. We believe that future professionals and innovators will require both academic excellence and ability to think creatively and spontaneously.
Instead of giving students pre-packaged answers that they can rote learn and that they can reel off in an exam, we teach them thinking skills and improve their ability to react to unseen material. This further develops students’ creativity and teaches them to think for themselves. This is essential in a society where jobs that don’t require creativity are increasingly being taken by artificial intelligence or being outsourced to countries where people can do them more cheaply.
Developing creativity in aspirational students is fundamentally important because they will be agents for change in the future. These students need to be able to come up with creative solutions to the problems we face as a global society: global warming; overpopulation; economic instability; social injustice; prejudice in all its forms. Artificial intelligence is a useful tool as long as it serves us. But machines will never be able come up with imaginative ways to tackle some of our most pressing problems. Uniquely, human beings are able to imagine a world that is better for everyone and create in order to build it.
 Intelligent Machines: The jobs robots will steal first, Jane Wakefield, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-33327659
 Man vs machine: A.I. could put you out of a job, Luke Graham, http://www.cnbc.com/2016/03/17/man-vs-machine-ai-could-put-you-out-of-a-job.html
 Google’s Eric Schmidt: There’s no question AI will put jobs at risk, but it’s natural, Madhumita Murgia 13 MARCH 2016 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2016/03/11/googles-eric-schmidt-theres-no-question-ai-will-put-jobs-at-risk/
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