As children across the UK head back to school this week, a fascinating call I had with a client over the summer on the impact of AI on the job market gave me pause to consider my own children’s academic and employment future.
According to a survey of professionals by Thomson Reuters published last week, 67% of respondents believe AI will have a great impact on their profession in the next five years, while more than half predict the technology will create new career paths.
But the expert I spoke to believed that the pace of change brought about by AI could potentially mean that we will move towards a post-resource economy in which no-one needs to work! This prompted a minor existential crisis on behalf of my children.
Was there any point in them going to school?! How would their experiences of GCSE / A-Level or degree choice be different to mine and how could I support them? Would they be better considering more artisanal career paths that are less likely to be touched by automation?
I did manage to get a handle on my minor panic and rationalise my fears, but the topic also prompted me to consider the wider impacts of technology on our children’s lives. Even just this summer as my eldest prepares for secondary school, we’ve been introduced to biometric-enabled lunch payments in the school canteen (no more shake downs for lunch money!) and bite-sized, app-enabled language learning by the pool on holiday.
Presumably it will only be a matter of time until we have AI-assisted teachers in classrooms, and immersive learning experiences that expose students to every sight, sound and smell of the topics they’re covering in the classroom.
Despite working in tech and being exposed to all manner of amazing technologies which impact our lives in one way or another, it is the scope of technological influence on my children’s lives and learning journeys that leave me most amazed.
I have now reconciled myself to the fact that there is probably no longer such a thing as a future-proof career for my children, and that they should continue to engage with the things that make them happy and keep them interested. Perhaps what is most important is their ability to learn – and to constantly learn in order to adapt to changing circumstances.
And as they squabbled over who got the blue controller on the Switch, and who got more runs in their game of garden cricket, I was also reminded of the social importance of being in a school environment – in a group with their peers, learning societal norms and (hopefully) polite interaction skills that they certainly don’t practice on each other! Bring on the start of the new school year!