Artificial Intelligence and the future of education

AI & he future of education
Artificial Intelligence and the future of education

By Rohan Roberts

We used to think only humans could do mathematics. Then we invented the calculator. We used to think only humans could understand natural language; then we invented smart agents, voice recognition software, and supercomputers than can read and understand human language. We used to think only humans could drive cars. Then we invented self-driving cars. We used to think only humans could recognise faces; then we invented facial recognition software. We used to think only humans could do a whole bunch of stuff: play chess, direct traffic, compose music, create art, write stories etc. Today we have A.I. that is capable of doing all this and these AIs are improving at an exponential rate.

Consider Google’s Deep Dream system that can create art. It is a program that adjusts an image to stimulate the pattern recognition capabilities of a deep neural network.  By running the image recognition programme backwards, Deep Dream was able to generate phantasmagoric pagodas, psychedelic dogs, alien-looking plants and so on – images that looked haunting and hallucinatory and not a little disconcerting when we realise that no human had programmed these systems to create art and we had little idea how the system was doing it.

We also have Deep Learning systems composing music. AIVA (Artificial Intelligence Virtual Artist) is a system that composes music for films. It recently released “Genesis,” its first album, and has officially become the first AI to acquire the worldwide status of Composer. It has even been registered under the France and Luxembourg authors’ right society (SACEM), and its work is copyrighted in its own name. The music AIVA has composed simply cannot be identified as having been created by an AI. The title track from the album is sublime and deeply moving. To think that a non-human could create something this powerful and emotionally moving is hard to believe. You have to hear it to believe it. And once you do, it will shake you to the core. (Discover it here on youtube)

In China, Baidu is the largest search engine. Their Baidu AI Composer is now using the world’s largest neural network to compose original music inspired by art. Using image recognition software, the system scans various images of art and identifies various elements of the painting: objects, colours, setting etc. Analysing tags that people have used for each painting, the system can also associate tone and mood with each painting. Baidu’s Deep Learning system then connects with a database of musical compositions that are divided up into musical units and itemised based on the moods and emotions they evoke. The AI Composer system then reinterprets the elements of the image as a series of notes, fits together bits of music based on the mood of the image, and ultimately creates a unique and original melody.

So, the big question – the urgent and pressing question, for everyone in the education industry to answer is this: if AI is set to do all these remarkable things that we used to think only humans could, then what is the purpose of education and what should be the focus of schools of the future?


Rohan is the director of the Dubai Science Festival.  He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of several global organisations including,  Intelligent Optimism, Café Scientifique Dubai and Awecademy.

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