In 2018, I was regularly blogging about issues with the American school system. I was also keeping up with advancements in Artificial Intelligence that were seen, at that time, as new tools that teachers and industries could use. As I learned more about AI, as I read Yuval Noah Harari, Max Tegmark, articles in Wired Magazine, and reviewed dozens of other credible sources like 60 Minutes which give insights into the present and future, I became convinced that we had to re-focus on education for the students’ future and not what we assumed was right based on our outdated antiquated system. The world has changed and there is no going back.
The past may be prologue, but if the future is so radically different than almost anything that happened to or for students prior to the age of AI, there is no recognizable prologue. The reality that I had to deal with is that the nature and extent of knowledge is now the domain of machine intelligence. This new form of intelligence is capable of analyzing most all, if not all, of human knowledge in a heartbeat.
Devices are already in homes and workplaces that can almost instantaneously provide answers to simple and complex questions—answers more complete and valid than anything human beings have ever been able to gather. How will that access to information be utilized? Will AI be used as a force to elevate humanity or subjugate it?
In our past, the majority of students were programmed to provide predetermined answers to facts that some organization or well-meaning groups of philosophers, scientists, and thinkers had identified as important. (Remember the rise of popular books like Hirsch’s Cultural Literacy?) All schools had textbooks and syllabuses that guided thinking, and were based on the partial knowledge available at that time. AI has changed the paradigm.
By 2020 there was no doubt that machine intelligence upended almost all of our previous assumptions about education. AI will continue to amass competencies that human beings assumed were unique to them. In 2023, the dangers inherent in AI have finally entered the national conversation. The education system has to transform to incorporate machine intelligence and teach students the new skills needed to partner with it.
AI is developing into an omnipotent and omnipresent life form. This knowledge is unacceptable to those who describe God in these terms. Those concerned began to ask if decisions made with access to all knowledge about the human species will be based upon man’s darkest nature or qualities of love, dignity, empathy, humor, and beauty.
What should be happening now is that we design ways of educating our children that give them the skills necessary to survive in their future. Collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking, and an ethical partnership with machine intelligence are all vital components of an education system rebuilt to handle future needs.