AI and Early Childhood Education

In Richard and Daniel Susskind’s new book ‘The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts,’ the father/son authors claim that:

“We are on the brink of a period of fundamental and irreversible change in the way that the expertise of these specialists (professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc) is made available in society….in the long run, we will neither need nor want professionals to work in the way that they did in the twentieth century and before…we (the authors) anticipate an ‘incremental transformation’ in the way that we produce and distribute expertise in society. This will lead eventually to a dismantling of the traditional professions.”

This is nothing new to many of us as we all know that robotics and AI will permeate wide segments of daily life in the coming years. However, have we ever stopped and thought, “Are we teaching our children the right stuff?”

Since I left Samsung a couple of years ago, I have been working with various AI entities, including JPL and other ‘big data’ and ‘data analytics’ companies focused on helping big corporations eliminate professional jobs using a broad set of AI technologies. Then sometime last year, over an elaborate sushi dinner, I began to realize that early AI can have a massive effect on early childhood, not only on speeding and improving conventional education but, unavoidably, changing the way children think and understand the world. Moreover, I’m now convinced that AI can help change the way children will see the world and understand themselves, but rethink the way we are as human beings.

So I decided to look for a platform to test out this thesis, and before I had a chance to indulge on another crazy sushi dinner, I ended up acquiring an established ed-tech company to challenge the way we prepare our children for the radically changing world. With this new company — to be renamed Aicon — we plan to challenge all aspects of early childhood learning models, including uni-directional transference of knowledge, learning by age, and others, with a view that we can leverage AI technologies to help our children to cope with the presumed changes.

How will we do that?

FmWith recent advances in deep reinforcement and unsupervised learning with bigger and more complex architectures based on various interchangeable modules/techniques, we will be able to interpret brain activity in a way that can decipher intent of rapidly developing brain, enabling children to overcome physical and communication challenges. Moreover, by taking full advantage simple AI interfaces that are more personal and context aware, we can ensure that parents can help children get the individual attention they need to accomplish tasks or to get the information they need. In some cases, it can even spark an interest in coding or computer science and see that empathy is good, which can give them a distinct advantage.

In a ‘AI-first’ society, increasingly capable machines will take on many of the tasks that have been the historic preserve of the professionals, such as lawyers, doctors, and accountants. We can clearly see that ‘incremental transformation’ will eventually lead us to a dismantling of the traditional professions. Indeed we are on the ‘brink of a period of fundamental and irreversible change’ in the way that even the professional experts will nit be able to escape the changing tide.

Over the last six months or so, I have met many experts focused on how AI can make it easier to teach children, starting with the youngest children first, with these ‘AI-first’ thoughts in mind. They are all convinced that such a transformation is already under way as evidenced by new labor models and newly required skill sets.

With Aicon, I’m excited to join them on their effort to address the growing gap between changing societal needs and preschool education.

It should an interesting ride.