Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Education…

I offer this blog post as a cautionary note. I firmly believe that the way in which K-12 and higher education is preparing our children for the job market of the future needs to be dramatically changed. Much has been said during the past several years about the pending explosion of artificial intelligence, robotics, and its impact on the workforce of the future. The question is, are we preparing our children for that challenge?

Joseph Aoun has written that higher education (and, by implication, K-12 education), must adapt its teaching methods to prepare the students of tomorrow for employment that does not yet exist. In fact, it is estimated that 65% of students entering primary school today will work in jobs that have yet to be created.

This is not revolutionary. When I entered kindergarten in 1955, computers, the Internet, solar power, and electric vehicles did not exist. These “modern technologies” existed in the minds of science fiction writers and fringe futurists. The learning curve was often difficult. It built problem-solving and critical thinking skills, not to mention resilience. We learned to use our college degrees in unexpected ways. We adapted.

It is true that literacy in the areas of technology and data management are critical job skills. It is also true that human literacy skills are critically important. In fact, critical thinking, problem-solving, oral and written communication, entrepreneurial, interpersonal, and cross-cultural skills are critical to success in the workforce of the future. The latter skills are traits and characteristics that will separate humans from artificial intelligence and robots. In short, robots cannot think in context. They cannot assess or sense the very human intricacies of interpersonal interaction. Humans can, and do.

The overarching skill that will transcend all of the skills noted is systems management skills. The ability to manage the complexities of an organization – corporate, education, government – will become paramount. Human beings must and will fulfill this workforce need.

The question, and the challenge, facing K-12 and higher education in the United States is, how best to expose students to the teaching and learning methods that will prepare them for the future. Absent this, the students of tomorrow will be ill-prepared to face the challenges of the future. Maybe equally important, the role of the United States in an increasingly globalized world will be dramatically diminished.

Computers will undoubtedly grow in sophistication to the point where they may take on “human” characteristics like critical thinking, problem-solving, even cultural dexterity and adaptability. What a computer will almost assuredly never develop is the very human characteristic of understanding situations in context and subsequently arriving at the very human decision-making process.

Desh Deshpande, founder of Sycamore Networks, has stated, “There are three types of people in the world. There are some people who are oblivious to everything, some people who see a problem and complain, and some people who see a problem and get excited to fix it.” If we, as a nation, want the students of today to fit into the latter category, we will need to fix what is wrong with the way we educate our children.

More on that in a later blog post…

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About Dr. Ralph G. Perrino

Biography: Doctorate, Education, George Mason University, 1998; Masters Degree, Public Administration, George Mason University, 1980; Graduate study, Sociology, University of North Carolina 1971-74; Bachelor's Degree, Sociology, Catawba College, 1971. Associate Professor, Sociology, Northern Virginia Community College, 1984 - present; Founder and Director, Northern Virginia Tutoring Service, LLC, 1995 - 2018; 35 years teaching, coaching, mentoring, and tutoring experience with elementary through college-age students. Founder and Board President of Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (1986-1998); Board President, Residential Program Center (1998-2009); Chairman, Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce (2009-2011); Vice Chairman, Fairfax Partnership for Youth, 2010 – 2016, Board Member, David M. Brown Planetarium, 2010 – 2018; Advisory Board, David M. Brown Planetarium, 2018; Board Member, Creative Cauldron Theatre Company, 2012 – present; Co-President, Faction of Fools Theater Company, 2016 – present; Board Member, The Hub Theater Company, 2018 - present; Washington Independent Services for Educational Resources (WISER) past president and Board member, 2001 – 2015. Outstanding Citizen Award, Arlington County Public Schools, 1992; Nominated for Outstanding Citizen Award, Arlington County Public Schools, 2005; Arlington School Administrators 2006 Civic Award; Arlington County James B. Hunter Community Hero Award, 2009; Northern Virginia Community College Outstanding Service to the College Award, 2012; Jean C. Netherton Award of Excellence, Northern Virginia Community College. 2016.
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2 Responses to Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, and Education…

  1. Avatar Eric says:

    Nice article Ralph.  The seismic shifts in technology are dramatically changing the job landscape of the future.  Classic curriculum must be married with STEM and be ready for consisitent changes in that as well!  

    • Avatar DrPerrino says:

      Eric,

      Thank you for the feedback. I agree that the STEM fields should mesh with classic curriculum to produce a truly qualified, well-rounded individual equipped to confront the inevitable artificial intelligence and robotics of the near future. However, I also believe that it is the individual who is capable of managing the process – the systems manager – who will have job security in the future.  People in STEM fields such as mathematics, chemistry, physics, even engineering, may find that their jobs will be in danger of being supplanted by robots and artificial intelligence unless, of course, they prepare themselves with the broader human skills that robots will never be capable of duplicating.

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