This Is the Most Important Issue in the History of Education

The AI of tomorrow will be less like a Google search engine and more like a vehicle. In short, people must actually learn how to “drive” it.
This Is the Most Important Issue in the History of Education
A smartphone with a displayed ChatGPT logo is placed on a computer motherboard in this illustration taken on Feb. 23, 2023. (Dado Ruvic/Reuters)
John Mac Ghlionn

“Education,” as Malcolm X so accurately noted, “is our passport to the future.” However, because of the rapid developments in artificial intelligence (AI), the future looks incredibly uncertain.

The education system needs to adapt to the reality of AI. Curricula need to be rewritten. Time is of the essence. There’s just one problem, and it's a big one: The people in charge of the education system don’t appear to have received the memo.

In short, we can't continue educating our children in the same manner. Why? Because the world of tomorrow will look so unfathomably different from the world of today. The skills required in 2023 may prove to be utterly useless five years from now.

After all, as a Goldman Sachs report recently warned, AI poses a direct threat to two-thirds of jobs in the United States and Europe. A staggering 300 million full-time positions are at risk of being automated. A more recent study suggests that, over the next three years, 40 percent of the global workforce (roughly 1.4 billion people) will need to reskill because of the effects of AI.
Dan Fitzpatrick, otherwise known as the AI Educator, is arguably the most knowledgeable man on the planet when it comes to identifying the gap between the skills required to cope with the AI invasion and the skills children are currently being taught in schools. Mr. Fitzpatrick is sounding the alarm, and for good reason. The author of "The AI Classroom: The Ultimate Guide to Artificial Intelligence in Education" has spoken candidly about the lack of AI knowledge in our schools, the lack of AI knowledge among teachers, and how this will affect us all in the not-too-distant future.

He told me that all schools “urgently need to upskill their teachers in AI, develop AI literacy curriculums for their students, and move away quickly from their educational silos.”

To be clear, Mr. Fitzpatrick is calling on educational leaders “all over the world” to actively seek out collaborative opportunities “with industry, government, and other educational sectors, to learn about the impact of AI, so that they can actually prepare their students for this new world and contribute to an ever-changing society.”

Mr. Fitzpatrick argues, rather convincingly, that droning on about the many ways in which AI-driven creations such as ChatGPT will make students lazy is an exercise in futility. AI is already here, and its presence is only going to become more profound. We must accept this reality, or suffer the consequences of our ignorance.

The academic Rami Gabriel recently compared AI to a vampire. However, instead of blood, artificial intelligence “sucks our thoughts, our hopes, and our dreams."

"It never dies, bloated with research money it drinks up the real world by taking in human history in its training phase.”

He continued: “Like a vampire, it lives on by sucking our intellectual and imaginative labor and making many of our jobs obsolete. While individuals pass away, our combined knowledge lives on in the 'blood' of the machine’s learned data set.”

The "vampire" walks among us, and no amount of garlic will change that fact.

 A keyboard is seen reflected on a computer screen displaying the website of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot from OpenAI, in this illustration picture taken on Feb. 8, 2023. (Florence Lo/Reuters)
A keyboard is seen reflected on a computer screen displaying the website of ChatGPT, an AI chatbot from OpenAI, in this illustration picture taken on Feb. 8, 2023. (Florence Lo/Reuters)

As Mr. Fitzpatrick said, a factor that often gets omitted from the AI conversation is the literacy side of things.

“To be good at using AI,” he said, “you need to be good at prompting (asking generative AI models what you need).”

And to be good at prompting, you must possess actual literacy skills—far better literacy skills than the average human currently possesses. When it comes to AI generation, as obvious as it sounds, the quality of the input dictates the quality of the output.

To be truly AI proficient, Mr. Fitzpatrick said, “students are going to need a new host of skills.” The AI of tomorrow will be less like a Google search engine, which anyone with a few neurons can use, and more like a vehicle. In short, people must actually learn how to “drive” it.

Mr. Fitzpatrick, not one to mince his words, warned: “If we do not start teaching our students specific skills urgently, then instead of them mastering AI, AI will become their master. The most important thing we can do to maintain autonomy is let the AI do the doing, so we can do the thinking.”

This seems like a pressing issue, I said, arguably the most pressing issue in education. Mr. Fitzpatrick agrees.

“There has never been a more pressing issue in the history of education,” he responded. “For the first time ever, the traditional education system is about to start knowing what it’s like to be in a highly competitive market. Private online education companies have been gearing up for growth for a few years, and now with the power of AI, they will offer real competition to how we’ve educated our children.”

In this hyper-Darwinian world, he added, “it’s adapt fast or die.”

According to the entrepreneur and author, the ways in which we design curricula and operate schools “needs a complete overhaul.” As the education system can't keep up with the rapidly increasing changes in technology, “a change of culture needs to change in education.”

Two to three decades from now, I asked, what will the world of education look like?

Mr. Fitzpatrick said: “[Thirty years ago,] Microsoft released Encarta, a new way to find out information about our world. Just look at the technological distance we’ve traveled in these three decades and how we now access the information we need from our devices and the Internet.”

“It’s 1993 for AI,” he added. The modern form of schooling, he suggested, “will likely be gone, in favor of a more diverse education offering a ‘menu’ of options where parents and students can create their own learning experiences.”

Should we be concerned? Mr. Fitzpatrick said he thinks there's more reason for optimism than pessimism.

“Broadly speaking,” he said, "the current education system turns our children into robots. It teaches them how to be cogs in the machine. A lot of employment also operates this way.”

Although AI will bring a great deal of “short-term pain,” Mr. Fitzpatrick predicts: “AI will alleviate us from the mechanisms in our lives that turn us into robots. The ‘doing’ of AI will cut us free and allow us to be ‘more human’, to connect with others and develop skills that bring us to life.”

Will Mr. Fitzpatrick’s predictions prove to be accurate? In truth, only time will tell. What we do know, however, is this: The current education system is ill-equipped to deal with the impending AI reckoning.

In Mr. Fitzpatrick’s words, we must “adapt fast or die.”

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others.