What should students, parents, and teachers know about AI?

AI education will help people understand the risks, limitations, and opportunities

Back in 2011, former judge Kay Firth-Butterfield began to think about how humans might live and work with artificial intelligence (AI). She’s a senior research fellow at the University of Texas, investigating tech (AI) use and governance. She became the world’s first AI ethics officer (at Lucid Holdings LLC) in 2014 and is a leading expert on responsible AI. For more than five years she led AI and Machine Learning at the World Economic Forum, where she was charged with helping to steer nations and businesses towards a responsible use of the new technologies. She sits on a council and advisory board for the US administration and UNESCO respectively.

Today she’s chief executive of the Good Tech Advisory, which works with government, charities, businesses and academia to help implement responsible and productive use of AI while remaining legally compliant. Long recognised as a leading woman in AI governance, she received a TIME100 Impact Award in February of this year.

She spoke to BOLD about the challenges faced by schools and universities, students and teachers as they grapple with the advance of AI.

Helena Pozniak: Is the use of AI within education inevitable?

Kay Firth-Butterfield: Yes – you can’t step back from it now. Students are going to be using it for their homework. We must focus more on how we can make it safe for them to use rather than banning it. Generative AI is making information on the internet more accessible. As it gets better, it’s effectively the brains sitting next to you. But getting it right is critical – our children need to be educated to work and live with artificial intelligence. It’s humans who should be in charge. There’s much bias in large language models. It’s essential that all users are trained to understand what the machine can do for us – and its limitations.

HP: What are the dangers of AI for children?

KFB: One of the things I worry about is that children form their beliefs, values and attitudes before they’re seven years old, so we must think carefully about policies for the early years.

We really need to understand the impact of educational toys we give them. Computers are arguably better at influencing, nudging and manipulating behaviour than are humans. We also must know where children’s data are, whether devices can be hacked, and whether children can be identified.

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