Preparing Kids for a Future AI Coworker

By Lynn Yen 2024-06-04 14:39:05

The future is right around the corner

Everywhere you go it seems, the topic of Artificial Intelligence is being discussed. At education summits, everyone is talking about integrating artificial intelligence into learning. At social dinners, the topic of artificial intelligence always finds a way to pop up in conversation. You hear it everywhere.

We are all still trying to understand the monumental impact that artificial intelligence technology is having on our lives, specifically in two main areas: education and the workplace.

The intense interest is justified. The AI revolution is set to be the biggest shake-up we have seen since the advent of the internet. It is generation-defining and full of possibilities, dangers, and unknowns. This revolution will change how we do things. Already there is AI software designed to answer emails. Or generate book reports like magic without having read the book.

Here, we will shed some light on the unknown and look at the impact artificial intelligence is already having on us, particularly in schools, the changes we see in the way we do our jobs, and ultimately how to prepare young kids today for the future work landscape they will one day enter.




AI in Education

The possibilities of AI are boundless. Artificial intelligence technology is revolutionizing traditional learning. Let’s dive in to see the ideal way AI can be used and is already being used inside schools.

In the not-so-distant future, teachers can use AI tools to personalize learning to individual students, increase efficiencies in their teaching, and improve the educational outcomes of their pupils. An AI teaching assistant will help teachers with time-consuming tasks like grading and help them generate learning materials and worksheets. With more free time, teachers can focus on higher-order tasks such as curriculum design, mentoring students, and fostering critical thinking skills.

Students can use AI chatbots to quiz themselves. Through online courses, virtual classrooms, and interactive tutorials, AI can enable students to learn anytime, anywhere, and at their own convenience. This flexibility in learning is especially beneficial for adult learners, working professionals, and students with special needs.

One key aspect of preparing kids for an AI future is focusing on essential skills that complement AI capabilities. While AI excels in tasks such as data analysis, pattern recognition, and automation, there are uniquely human skills that remain invaluable. Critical thinking, creativity, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence are areas where humans surpass machine capabilities. By nurturing these skills in children from a young age, schools can help them gain a competitive edge in the future AI-influenced job market.




Furthermore, introducing children to AI concepts and technologies early on can demystify the technology and inspire interest. Educational programs that incorporate AI education, coding classes, and robotics workshops, can help children develop a deeper understanding of how AI works and its potential applications. Hands-on experience with AI platforms can empower kids to harness the power of AI for problem-solving and creative endeavors.

While the potential of AI in education is vast, it is essential to address the ethical dilemmas that can arise. A complete AI curriculum must also include instruction on the right way to use this technology and point out the pitfalls of AI such as algorithm bias and plagiarism. Educators need to ensure that AI is used responsibly. This radical new technology calls for a reassessment of the foundation of what education is intended to do. The goal should be to use AI as a tool to get more done, rather than a crutch to be even lazier.

Our existing understanding of ethics can help to navigate the new world of AI. Ethics of plagiarism are more important than ever. It is important to talk to students about what is allowed and what isn’t allowed with AI use. Using AI to help with studying is a smart tool. Using AI to help you brainstorm is okay, but maybe you need to think of some ideas first before consulting AI. It isn’t just morals and right and wrong, over-dependence on AI is detrimental to developing the valuable human skills of independent and critical thinking, along with imagination and brainstorming. Skills that are ever more valuable in the world of AI.

Media literacy is also ever more important. The challenges of finding true information and deciphering between fake news and real facts are even more difficult to do with generative AI’s ability to create fake images, fake text, and fake videos. These are the new subject areas needed in education.




The New AI Natives
Generation Alpha, those born after 2010, are the new AI natives. While the digital natives that preceded them unlocked the capabilities of social media and created new industries like social media marketing, we are primed for an AI native generation that adopts the technology into their daily lives from an early age and creates new possibilities. Students today will graduate into a workplace of advanced AI counterparts, and they will need to communicate with AI.

In a Fortune article from July 2023, Bank of America research analysts observed that Gen Alpha “will grow up in a world where the norm will be AI assistants that learn and grow alongside children, slowly being tailored to their specific needs.”

The analysts go on to cite Timothy Papandreou, an advisor to Alphabet’s research and development organization, X (formerly GoogleX), who predicts that we will transition from the current generation of programmers into a generation of perfect prompters where kids learn how to optimally utilize generative AI as they grow up.

It’s the same as past generations focusing on Search Engine Optimization keywords, except now we will learn how to best communicate with AI assistants and how to best write our commands and questions to get desired results. There are already lists of tips and pointers for writing generative AI prompts such as being specific to set boundaries for your request or starting with the phrase “act as if.” Harvard University’s IT department gives the example of creating a better dinner recipe by starting with “act as if you were my personal trainer” to generate a healthier meal plan and telling the AI a list of ingredients you don’t want to include.


How Parents Can Help
It can be bewildering as a parent, trying to set limits on how your child uses generative AI technology, especially if you don’t understand the technology yourself. Older generations have been taught to do research from books then websites and research article portals. When we were in school, we were drilled on plagiarism and copying. But now with AI chatbot tools, it can seem like the rules are all being thrown out. The old structure and ethical guidelines are being questioned and turned irrelevant. Therefore it is important for parents to train themselves in using AI, like one parent I heard at a recent education symposium, who schedules 15 minutes a day for her kid and herself to study AI. The more parents know and understand about AI, the better they can relate to their kid’s AI use and help them to use this technology in the best way.
The Future of Work

When I was a student, I was told by teachers, “The job you’ll have in the future probably doesn’t exist yet.” Such is the rapid development of technology that, try as we all might to prepare kids for the future, we don’t have a crystal ball to know exactly what the job market or the very nature of work will look like in 20 year’s time when kids today will start their careers.

That doesn’t stop us from guessing though, and asking, which job fields to pursue. Which will be in high demand? What jobs will automation replace? These questions are particularly important to parents of young kids, who are trying to set their children up for success.

Let’s take a look at what current industry leaders think about the big AI-led change. The World Economic Forum gave their predictions from 2023 that outline the major changes AI will have on work in the near future.

According to the WEF, AI will drive growth in AI-related roles in the next five years for jobs like data scientists, big data specialists and business intelligence analysts. The automotive and aerospace industry will see the biggest initial growth, followed by research, design and business management services, information and technology services and electronics sectors. On the other hand, real estate, media, entertainment, sports, and production of consumer goods industries are predicted to see decreases in employment.

But the research out there isn’t conclusive. Due to the incredibly fast pace of AI development still to come, there have been studies predicting that low-skilled labor will be replaced by automation and technological development. While on the other end of the spectrum, other studies predict that instead, it is highly educated professions that are likely to be most affected by AI. Contradicting views exist that say AI will boost technology sector jobs like coders and data scientists. Others say these are easy to automate and already are.

A Forbes article titled “How AI is Changing the Future of Work,” queries experts who say that AI will empower one person to do the work of many, and in the longer-term view, fewer work soldiers such as coders and data scientists will be needed, as AI will be able to take over their tasks.

Automation has already started, and we are sure to have even more automation from AI and robots. Technology creates work efficiencies, and this new technology revolution will be another big leap forward in timesaving. But what will be left for humans to do?




Tailoring Job Skills for the Future

The fact is, AI will be better at doing things than humans. They don’t get tired, they don’t get sick, they don’t have interpersonal problems that humans do.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said, “A lot of people working on AI pretend that it’s only going to be good; it’s only going to be a supplement; no one is ever going to be replaced.” But, he adds, “jobs are definitely going to go away, full stop.”

So it seems that humans are left with specializing in human-centric tasks.

The World Economic Forum’s 2023 Future of Jobs report that surveyed 800 global business leaders said that for the present time until around 2030, AI and big data rank behind only analytical and creative thinking skills as most prioritized. Only information gathering and simple decision-making are likely to be fully automated, while the need for leadership and imagination skills will be largely unaffected by AI. Therefore, human skills of analysis, creative thinking, leadership, and imagination still reign supreme over automation and indicate the areas where humans are still needed in the job market.

Many articles have been published touting the need for more human skills in the face of AI adoption. Like a story from Wired aptly titled “The AI-Fueled Future of Work Needs Humans More Than Ever,” wherein CEO of LinkedIn Ryan Roslansk says, AI is ushering in a world where people skills like problem-solving, empathy, and active listening are more important to career success.

Roslansk argues that “AI doesn’t replace people, it allows them to do their job more effectively, leaving them time to focus on the more valuable—and more human—parts of their jobs. For instance, a software engineer can have AI help with the more routine or repetitive coding that’s regularly required, giving them more time to innovate on new ideas.” 

This is great news for liberal arts and art students, as well as parents who can be skeptical of the career prospects and earning potential a drama degree provides. But ultimately how AI shapes the future is determined by how we let it shape our world.


Challenges of AI and Reigning in AI

The Hollywood actor’s and writer’s strikes in 2023 were fought in large part to protect the creative industry from the encroachment of Artificial Intelligence. Technology can now mimic a human’s likeness and voice. Want a song sung by a famous artist? You can now import their voice, and have it sing the words you write and in the tone and style you want, eliminating the need to spend money and arrange the time for hiring the artist. Movie and television scripts can be written by AI, eliminating the need for hiring so many writers. Famous actors or background actors can have their likeness scanned and reused forever in films.

We already have a difficult time determining between what is real and what is AI-generated. Images and videos can be created that are historically inaccurate or totally make-believe. There is a rise of deep fakes, propaganda, and copyright and intellectual property infringement.



The need for laws and regulations regarding the ethical use of AI is essential. On a personal level that means teaching and practicing good digital citizenship, or the ability to use technology responsibly, safety, and respectfully.

AI is still so new. We are still trying to make heads and tails of it and set up best practices. It is challenging our morals and requiring the establishment of new guidelines. We still don’t know how it will truly impact everything. In the near future, many jobs are under threat of becoming partially or even fully automated, and it makes us rethink the very purpose of work for humans.

Like other technology revolutions in the past, there is a mix of both excitement and fear. Just look back to the Y2K problem of the last internet revolution, when we feared all the computers would stop. How silly it can all seem, now that we are safely on the other side of the year 2000. AI and automation also hold their own combination of excitement, fear, and hope. In 20 years, we may just look back at this time and laugh about it.