Education In An Age Of Artificial Intelligence

Rohan Roberts, Innovation Leader, GEMS X, addresses the areas where AI is making the greatest strides.

We live in a world of accelerating change. Due to exponential growth in emerging technologies, we’ve seen more change in the last 100 years than we have in the previous 1,000. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman points out that whatever can be outsourced and automated will be outsourced and automated. Kevin Kelly, the founder of Wired magazine, agrees: “Whatever can be done by artificial intelligence will be done by artificial intelligence.”

The significance of this is best summed up by Peter Diamandis, the co-founder of Singularity University, who says artificial intelligence (AI) will have a bigger impact on the human condition than the invention of electricity and the discovery of fire. What we are now witnessing is widely described as the “cognifying revolution”. What this means is that everything that was formerly electrified will now be cognified. In other words, everything that is powered by electricity today, will have some form of artificial intelligence tomorrow. How this will impact human society is anyone’s guess.

GEMS X, the future-focused research and development arm of GEMS Education, holds monthly ‘Futureproof Talks’ in an effort to prepare students, teachers, and parents for this uncertain future. The aim is to highlight the impact of exponential technologies and promote discussions on how we can adapt and thrive in this world of accelerating change. The sessions feature videos from Dubai Future Talks, an initiative of Dubai Future Foundation that gathers a global community of visionaries, change-makers, and pioneers who work to promote strategic collaboration between government and individuals in order to co-create the framework for the advancement of humanity.

Multiple intelligences
One of the first GEMS X Futureproof talks focused on the impact of artificial intelligence on education, in which the views of Howard Gardner, an American developmental psychologist and Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard University, were discussed. Gardner is best known for his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, which he proposed in 1983 to analyse and better describe the concept of intelligence.

Gardner says, “Intelligence is the ability to find and solve problems and create products of value in one’s own culture.” The Theory of Multiple Intelligences suggests that there are a number of distinct forms of intelligence that each individual possesses in varying degrees; there are different ways of being intelligent. In its essence, Multiple Intelligences considers the ability to sing and dance, play music and sports, sympathise and empathise, reflect and introspect, and role-play and emote as different ways of being intelligent.

Keeping this perspective in mind, we now see that we have AI systems capable of doing things that we once thought only humans were capable of:

Linguistic Intelligence (“word smart”) — IBM Watson recently beat the best human contestants in a game of Jeopardy, which requires complex use of language. It did this by reading and understanding all 30 million pages of Wikipedia and making intelligent connections. Other
AI systems are now writing poetry and news reports.

Logical-mathematical Intelligence (“number/reasoning smart”) — AlphaGo recently beat the best human contestants at the game of Go, a highly complex game that requires both logic and intuition.

Spatial Intelligence (“picture smart”) — Google’s Deep Mind and many other AI systems are now creating art. In fact, the first AI-generated art piece was recently sold at Sotheby’s for USD51,000.

Bodily-kinaesthetic Intelligence (“body smart”) — Boston Dynamic’s Atlas robot is able to climb stairs, open doors and even do somersaults and backflips.

Musical Intelligence (“music smart”) — AIVA is an artificial music composer that is creating sublime music in the classical
and symphonic music genres.

Interpersonal Intelligence (“people smart”) — People are having extended conversations with their smart agents and digital assistants such as Siri, Cortana, and Alexa.

However, there are still three intelligences for which we do not yet have an AI. Ironically, these are also the three intelligences we focus on least in schools:

Existential Intelligence is ascribed to those who think philosophically and involves an individual’s ability to contemplate values and intuition to understand themselves and the world around them. People who possess this intelligence are able to see the big picture and ask the big questions. They are able to see the interconnectedness of different aspects of life and wonder about the complexity
and diversity of the universe.

Intrapersonal Intelligence is the ability to reflect, introspect, contemplate the self, and indulge in metacognition — thinking about thinking.

Pedagogical Intelligence requires modelling of other minds and involves the ability to teach and transfer knowledge and understanding from one brain to another.

Currently, schools focus on pedagogical, existential, and intrapersonal intelligences only in the most cursory way — if at all. However, in a world of increasing automation and ubiquitous AI, where machines are taking over from humans and superseding us in almost every domain, what we need more than ever is balance. Balance and harmony between all the multiple intelligences.

The GEMS X Futureproof talks are held at GEMS World Academy — Dubai. Visit for further details.