Artificial Intelligence | Real Opportunity

23 Jun 2017

Artificial Intelligence is nothing to be afraid of.

It’s being used all around us – from Facebook and Google to Siri and Alexa to Netflix and Pandora – and, Debate Mate is excited about revolutionising education with AI & Robotics. In recognition of this ambition we have been nominated for the inaugural Yidan Prize for Education Development – the so-called ‘Nobel Prize for Education’

We all understand Intelligence, and Artificial Intelligence is just that – artificial. The difference from human or real intelligence is that it is needed for programming and to solve complex problems quickly. So, AI comes down to maths and algorithms. In themselves they are nothing to be feared.

The potential of AI is amazing, but it can only work with what we give it. Our curriculum and teaching methodology are a complete change from the standard, focusing on skills and character development, which in turn grows intrinsic human capacity. The skills our programme teaches are critical and creative thinking, strategic teamwork, leadership and the ability to solve complex problems quickly. In addition, it develops resilience, empathy and, most importantly, core confidence.

There are Machine Learning algorithms which can work out patterns of how young minds learn and where they are struggling the most. They can tailor curricula and teaching styles to each individual student and ensure optimal learning environments are created.

It is commonly accepted that the skills Debate Mate teaches should be at the centre of modern education, so that young people get the education they need to prepare them for the workforce. The key issue with education is not the lack of technology, but the lack of understanding of what students need to be successful. This is where we have focused our energy, and why we have been recognised through the Yidan Prize nomination.

Debate Mate and AI are needed more than ever because of a critical, global teacher shortage. According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics nearly 69 million new teachers must be recruited and trained to meet achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.

The UK is heading for crisis, in everything from recruitment to retention to standards, and the US is short some 60,000 teachers for 2017-18. 263 million children worldwide are currently out of education. This is a seemingly overwhelming and unbreachable gap.

But all is not lost. Educational Technology (Ed Tech) is increasingly being used to fill the gap. We at Debate Mate are building a revolutionary online platform that will, in a few short years, have at its disposal everything from remote training capabilities, to Virtual Reality platforms, to integrated AI that helps students everywhere develop self-efficacy and self-sufficiency, and learn in the best way for them.

The Yidan Prize is a multi-billion-dollar fund founded by Chinese entrepreneur and philanthropist Charles Yidan. We were nominated by Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner-Centred Design at UCL’s Knowledge Lab and a world-expert on Artificial Intelligence in education.

As pointed out by Professor Luckin, self-efficacy and self-awareness are premium skills, and AI can unlock this potential within our young people, providing tailored learning that works hand in hand with teachers in the classroom. We are in charge of the world of work not a slave to technology – young people with our skills will succeed in the new world of work and indeed be those that are shaping it.

Intelligence is only as powerful and the person using it. In the hands of people like Charles Yidan and Bill Gates, it’s a force for good. When used for malevolent reasons traditional intelligence is clearly a force for evil. Artificial Intelligence is the same. We needn’t worry about the ‘rise of machines’ and instead focus our energy on harnessing the enormous power it wields, and use it for the most benevolent of reasons, namely educating our young people, all over the world, starting now.

Remember, artificial intelligence provides a real opportunity.

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