What If Your Teachers Were AI?


Have you ever had a teacher that was just, well, kind of boring? Maybe even a little, robotic? We've all been there. Let's face it, it's hard to learn when you're being put to sleep. But what if we found a completely new way of learning? Could a robot be a better teacher than a human? How might education can change with AI? What are the pros and cons?

Here’s what would happen if your teacher was an AI.

Schools all over the world are experimenting with new ways of teaching using technology. As our population reaches critical mass, we may not have enough teachers for every child on the planet. Could robot teachers be a solution? Or could it turn into a scary crisis for our species? Whether you're for it or against it, scientists believe artificial intelligence in the classroom is not far off. That is, of course, if classrooms still exist. So what would happen if we replaced all our teachers with AI? They may look like us, or they could be entirely virtual, like an avatar on the screen.

Regardless of what it looks like or sounds like, AI in education will simplify administrative tasks that eat up a lot of time. Grading exams will be automated, learning interfaces will become smarter with interactive textbooks, and people with learning disabilities or different learning styles will be better accommodated. Everything will be standardized and customized to help students learn more effectively. Students could even choose to focus on more specialized subjects based on their interests, which could help them discover their passions, or quirky, nerdy obsessions, earlier in life.

According to a 2016 UNESCO report, an additional 20.1 million teachers are needed to meet the goals for equal access to education by 2030. Many schools are already looking into advanced systems to help close this gap. For instance, automated services like “Bakpax” use algorithms to read children's handwriting and to grade tests and assignments. In China, AI is used to create personalized tutoring lessons, surveillance and even brain wave trackers to keep an eye on classroom progress. Futurists believe education is moving towards highly individualized curricula, allowing students to learn at their own pace without having to hold back others.

With the proliferation of the internet on a global scale, the limitations of education are becoming a thing of the past. Teachers are experimenting with virtual classrooms, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside this personalized data availability, university and college admissions might become automated as well. Even job recruiters could potentially use this data, which may tailor candidates to available positions. Also, greater access to education worldwide would mean much higher competition for jobs. And with a more educated population, technological developments will rapidly advance. But this new way of learning could come at a price.

So, what exactly are the risks?

If all our teachers were replaced by AI, we would have to be extra careful about security. Just as the media is plagued with fake news, we would be at risk of having our education systems hacked to spread false information or propaganda. Whoever rules AI holds the power to manipulate the entire world. This new way of learning might also affect children's health, with too much screen time being a known cause of obesity, sleep disorders, and a lack of interpersonal development. So, maybe try not to binge-watch too many Netflix videos. We would also need widespread internet, Wi-Fi networks, and electricity to power all these devices, which could come at a great cost to our planet. And, if artificial intelligence becomes so advanced that it gains self-awareness, or sentience, our species might run into some problems.

Currently, our AI is in the category of It can perform tasks using human-like capabilities, but it can only do what it is programmed to do. With limited memory systems, it can learn and improve on basic tasks, but we're far off from a truly independent artificial consciousness. Let’s just be extra careful though and try not to kick them around too much. I'd prefer to stay on their good side.

We still cannot authentically program empathy, which is an important component human teachers have. For many kids, teachers act as guidance counselors, role models, coaches, and even surrogate parents. And we need teachers now more than ever. As of 2016, UNESCO has reported that 263 million children and youth are out of school and more than 70% of them live in impoverished areas of Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Many teachers in these areas are with little to no access to educational resources. Having consistent, easily accessible AI-enhanced education online could change these numbers drastically. Perhaps, our next phase of human evolution is dependent on a global AI school system.

But if all our teachers can be replaced with artificial intelligence, could other jobs suffer the same fate? Do share your thoughts in the comments below.


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