Despite the attention that advances in article intelligence (AI) are receiving in the press at the moment, there has been very little comment on the implications of AI for the curriculum. To be fair, most of the press articles could be summarised as, “artificial intelligence/machine learning/deep learning is coming, be scared, let’s control it”. But deep down, we know that, “let’s control it” isn’t a particularly valid response. History shows us that trying to control the spread of useful technology is time consuming, labour intensive and ultimately futile. With the possible exception of nuclear weapons, which have limited (but deadly) applications, controlling technology advances is a non starter. We need a better plan. We need to avoid work that will be easily automated, but more importantly, we need to think of other ways in which humans can rise to the challenge of intelligent machines.
Despite all the aforementioned press attention, I have yet to see any consideration of how ‘human learning’ might respond to ‘machine learning’. Curriculum changes traditionally happen at a painfully slow pace, but we should be thinking about what we learn and when. To take one example, the incidence of software agents writing and disseminating information on the internet, so-called information bots, has been denounced as a threat to democracy by some writers. There have been calls to ban the bots and create institutions that fact check and arbitrate on the sole source of ‘the truth’. For my own part, I’m not sure that a Ministry of Truth is really the answer, but why are there futile calls to control a technology when a constructive response would attempt to educate the population, to make them more discerning about what constitutes the truth. Governments do have control over the curriculum, so a positive response would promote critical reasoning to the core curriculum rather than ban the bots.
What this case illustrates once again is that the technologies that impact our lives and careers are developing at a much faster pace than the education system. Its not enough to rely on university, much less school to give us all the skills we need to prosper in a modern job market. Fortunately, there are a huge number of resources available to provide an introduction to a topic or fill in the gaps, resources like Tutorhub, iTunes U, Coursera, EdX and Khan Academy. We have to change the way we think about education. Fifty years ago, it made sense to get the education over with at the start of your life, but from now on, education is never done.