Beat The Computers: Be Human

This post is part of a new series “If I Ran The People Zoo”, looking at the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on our spawnlings and their future.

 

So the last post in this series was a bit of doom and gloom. I pretty much said your spawnlings are going to be in the People Zoo for the Masters of the Robots: Either as exhibits, or serving coffee, or managing the elderly, or if they are really lucky – nail technicians.

I’m just a positive ray of Unicorn faeces.

Look, I’m not trying to be the naysayer of the future. Remember: I live here too! I love technology and opportunity and all the other sweet treats that feed my burning desire to take over the world and re-model it in a GREATER geeky fashion.

But I am thinking long and hard about the education of our spawnlings, and their entire generation. Because that’s what we should be thinking about if we truly want to prepare them for an ever-changing future.

Australia recently had its Federal Election, and this whole topic wasn’t mentioned. The United Kingdom had their own Brexit issues recently (still ongoing, I think) and again – no discussion about visions for the future employment and education. Well, at least not beyond “Don’t let the foreigners take your job”… I suppose automation and Artificial Intelligence could be considered foreign to most… Nope, still don’t think it registered on the UK political radar.

The United States is amping up to their election in November. No mention of future jobs and skill preparation. Has anyone heard anything from the Japanese elections?

The only people talking about it appear to be scientists (like Prof. Brian Cox) and a bunch of coding clubs like Code Rangers and Code Club Australia.

Don’t get me wrong. Coding clubs are pretty awesome. Teaching our kids how to code and program is becoming more and more like an essential life-skill. With technology stepping into every element of our lives, even our own generation should know the basics of computers. But let’s be honest – not every kid is going to be a programmer. And the competition in this particular field is becoming tighter every year.
It is, however, a Band-Aid solution. A quick-fix. It is catering to a small number of kids who might perform well in this small area, without addressing the majority of kids who will not be working directly in IT.

So what skills can we teach the spawnlings so they can beat the computers?

We’re talking creativity. We’re talking emotional intelligence. We’re talking the ability to correlate two distinctly different disciplines who can both contribute to a solution. None of these are directly addressed within the usual set curriculum at your standard school. You are at the mercy of the teacher.

At least one school has the right idea: Check out the Australian Science & Mathematics School in South Australia. It is a school aimed at senior students (years 10 – 12), with a really strong STEM focus. However, the subjects are allowed to mix together, reflecting real-world problem solving by working across multiple disciplines.

This is a school which recognises the need for enterprising skills; basic knowledge that will transfer directly to the real world. They even have the equivalent of a Science Fair: group assessment to come up with a product, develop it as a complete design, and then market it at the fair. The school brings in genuine business mentors to review the products, and possibly even offer some business advice to make it happen. Last year, two projects were considered totally marketable as billion dollar businesses. From a Science Fair. At a High School.

The thing is, it’s not just the STEM aspect that is being pushed here. There are a whole heap of ‘human skills’ being nurtured. Our education system cannot continue pushing “English and Maths” as the only subjects of importance, with a little computer stuff on the side to show how futuristic we are. It needs to encourage our humanity!

You want to beat the computers? Be everything that is GREAT about being a human.

For example: Improv. I cannot rave about Improv enough. I’m telling you, improvisation skills are the first key step in our spawnlings future. I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again – Improv builds resilience and creative thinking. It encourages spawnlings to not be afraid of the unknown. Instead, improv encourages them to embrace it. To say YES and see where it takes them.When I wrote about Improv previously, I introduced you to the awesome Stony Brook University (US). They have the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, and offer a grad course on improv to help fresh scientists express their ideas without sounding like a text book.

Now, imagine a school that combines both ASMS and the Alan Alda Centre…

THAT’S the school I would send our spawnlings too! The kind of school that blends disciplines within a STEM focused environment. The kind of school which encourages thinking across multiple fields to find the solution.

When I think of THAT kind of school, I remember a study years back—tracking the migration of whale sharks. Seems like fairly standard marine biology research. And yet, when they hit a snag with how to track whales through markings on the skin, the researchers turned to … Astronomers? You bet! They used the same algorithms from the Hubble telescope for starscape surveys to track individually marked whales. Creative alternative human thinking.


That’s the advantage our spawnlings will have over computers.

Next post in this series, I’ll look at the impact of future AI on the humanities. Yeah, I wasn’t sure about that combination either, but cross-discipline development is the way of the future!!

And if you know of schools like ASMS, share them in the comments. 

 

Minion Musings:

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