A letter on education and AI to fellow scholars

The following is the letter that I wrote to the fellow speakers (internationally renowned scholars and university professors) at the last year’s Shanghai University conference on artificial intelligence.

Dear all,
Hope everyone is safe and healthy! 

I recollect participating in Shanghai conference on artificial intelligence. Thanks to Prof. Tugrul and Ryan! It was an honour meeting everybody and learning from other participants and the audience.

I remember, in one of the sessions that I was attending as a speaker, there were discussions on whether we should consider evolving our education system so as to make it completely dependent on AI system or AI-oriented and devoid of any personal connection. I also remember that some of my fellow speakers who are eminent scholars highlighted that students are in great need of professors teaching in person, for there needs to be a personal touch when it comes to imparting education. According to them, the whole process of education is enriched when a professor, in person, is involved. There were also discussions as to whether equipments like laptops and phones should be allowed (to operate or to be used) in the class.  

I did firmly but humbly opposed the stance and argued in favour of completely shifting our education online. Not only that, I advanced arguments in favour of making the education system devoid of any ‘mandatory’ human-interference or supervision or interaction. This could entail all steps from content conception to imparting education or making that content available to the audience/students.

In my opinion it becomes more and more important that we shift education system completely towards not only non-human interface but also non-human academic content creation. The latter, on a large and comprehensive scale, may seem to be a little far-fetched. However, the chances are bright that it will start being thought of as plausible in the near future. 

One of the most important reasons for the same is that human beings are incapable of objectively approaching any field of knowledge and thus are likely to condition the students who are very vulnerable to any such endeavours. Another reason is being highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. Now all the classes, as has been pointed out by Professor Yuval Harari, have shifted online. I do acknowledge that there is still some personal touch when the professor is interacting with students online but it is only a matter of time that this will also change. 

The education system itself has been brought under scrutiny by the fact that those who have been thrown out of the supply chain will be replaced by robots and blockchain technology in future, for the economy cannot afford to take one more chance with supply chains breaking down. More and more jobs will be taken by technology and AI, henceforth. Therefore, the question is not only related to the disruption in education system caused by rapidly advancing technology, it also ushers in some sort of speculation as to the relevance of the contemporary education in the evolving (or, narrowing?) labour market that is likely to have more jobs for non-human entities. Will everyone become a computer scientist or a spiritual healer? (as Elon Musk pointed out in his one-man-show debate with Jack Ma)

Hence, it becomes important to understand that we have to actively move towards transforming our education system so that it educates our coming generations in a way that is more pragmatic and relevant in the changing times.



Paramjeet Singh Berwal

Paramjeet, a lawyer, an invited lecturer, and AI research and policy consultant, is the Director of the Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Technology Law at Sulkhan-Saba Orbeliani University, Georgia. He is a Global Panelist with MIT Technology Review. He is frequently invited to deliver talks and presentations on various topics pertaining to AI. His research includes how AI will influence human existence, especially in the context of economy, work, law, society and its institutions, business management, social behaviour and policy making. He may be contacted at berwallaw@gmail.com

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