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article imageQ&A: Is Gen Z afraid of AI? Special

By Tim Sandle     Aug 29, 2018 in Technology
With AI courses becoming more common in universities, how will this subject impact on other types of education? Moreover, what do Generation Z make of AI? Expert Tom Hebner offers some answer.
In the past ten years AI has rapidly expanded in education, transforming from sparingly offered classes to majors to full blown dedicated universities. Due to the rapid growth of AI in the education space at advanced levels, there is reason to believe AI will soon have a major influence on the grade school curriculum.
However, it remains uncertain how this will this impact Generation Z. Will AI education begin in grade school? How can we prepare the next generations for jobs we don’t know exist yet?
To assess these points, Digital Journal caught up with Tom Hebner, who is the Worldwide Leader of the Cognitive Innovation Group at Nuance Communications.
Digital Journal: How important is digital technology becoming in education?
Tom Hebner: Digital technology is not something that’s new to students in school today – it’s something their generation has grown up with and integrated across much of how they socialize and interact, both with their friends and families and even with their favorite brands. As more and more job opportunities arise that require deep skillsets in technology, education on it is only bound to grow.
DJ: How about AI in particular, what are the possibilities?
Hebner: What will be interesting in the future is how much education starts to shift to enable students to learn not only how to build and create technology applications but how to interact with technology, especially artificial intelligence, in a way that will help them optimize what they are doing and streamline tasks.
We are seeing a boom of students who in the past would have been “computer science” majors wanting to focus on AI. Universities are quickly offering these experiences as a result of that demand so they can recruit the best.
DJ: Is an education in AI important for tomorrow’s students?
Hebner: AI is such a general term, and in a lot of ways many students are already interacting with AI in their everyday life – talking to their car and asking their bank’s virtual assistant to make a transfer – but as AI advances and becomes more integrated to enable humans and machines to have intelligent dialogue, new areas of study are likely to emerge and that’s important.
So much of what is behind AI is manual and humans need to be involved to make sure that the power of computing is balanced with the pro, human skills of empathy, emotion and understanding of right and wrong.
DJ: What impact will these new technologies have on Generation Z?
Hebner: Generation Z should be called the “AI” generation, since so much of the things they interact with each day are powered by machine learning. What will be interesting is watching as this generation understand the limits of AI as it stands today – debunks the hype and starts to focus on how we can really make technology work for us.
How can we leverage conversational AI to actually change how we approach everyday tasks – going beyond simply asking Alexa to play a song? This generation will be the ones to help solve that and bring us into a new reality where AI is hugely powerful
DJ: Will AI impact on every subject taught in schools or will it remain a niche area?
Hebner: I think the future will see AI and machine learning start to infiltrate every area of education – it’s possible that machines can help us better understand and analyze everything from mathematics to literature and history. While the study of AI and how it works will likely remain niche, it’s impact will be felt far and wide both in education and in the world we live in.
DJ: Will learning AI help with future job prospects?
Hebner: Yes – AI is going to become the basis of most every kind of technology in the next ten years, and those that understand it – where it is powerful, where it has limits, and where there’s room to evolve it – will see themselves with job prospects coming out of school. It’s worth noting though that these jobs are not necessarily IT/developer jobs. Conversational AI, for example, is an area where pro skills are needed.
Conversational designers and voice user interface designers not only understand the ins and outs of AI but they also understand how humans have conversations and what makes a successful engagement vs. a poor one. Those kinds of jobs are not going anywhere and students who study those areas of AI are going to find themselves with opportunities.
More about generation z, Artificial intelligence, machine lea, Education
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