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Will AI take our jobs? The continued importance of computer literacy

By September 18, 2023No Comments

A recent fear – and misconception – is that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will soon replace software engineers.  This might be a fearful thought for STEM and code teachers, and those interested in computer science. The good news is, as AI becomes more sophisticated, the opposite is true. The need to understand computer science and technology will only continue to grow. Here’s why.

We need to understand how code works

Decades ago, when calculators were introduced, many students questioned the need to learn math manually, because the calculator made arithmetic and even advanced calculations quickly and accurately. However, educators understood that mastering math’s basics was essential for innovative problem-solving. Of course, we still spend time teaching the basics of mathematics today.

Similarly, understanding the foundations of coding and computer science prepares students for the unforeseen challenges AI might present. Some of those challenges, including ethical, practical, and security challenges, we’ll discuss below; others, we cannot yet imagine. Even those students not pursuing a tech career will benefit from a more comprehensive understanding of the inner workings of AI and how this technology impacts our lives.

AI presents ethical and practical challenges

For AI to be effectively integrated into society, without causing harm to people, it’s necessary to grasp its fundamentals and implications. Tech industry experts, like Timnit Gebru and other notable figures, have shed light on some of AI’s inherent issues, such as its potential biases. These biases can lead to AI systems that might not treat everyone fairly. We’ll need well educated and thoughtful programmers with diverse life experiences to work toward equality in technology.

We’ll also need new laws and regulations to address the novel problems that arise as AI becomes more ubiquitous in our daily lives. For the best outcomes, we’ll need legal professionals who are ethical and passionate about people, with a keen understanding of the law and how AI works. We’ll also need thoughtful, knowledgable programmers skilled in critical thinking, humanities, and computer science, to continue building robust systems and ensure that those systems don’t cause harm to people.

AI and security

As AI becomes part of the fabric of various sectors (health sciences, education, mathematics, business, and yes, coding), the potential to cause harm to people will increase, and the demand for cybersecurity specialists will surge. Malicious hackers, some even now harnessing the power of AI, pose threats to our digital landscape.

To counteract these threats, we’ll need ethical coders possessing both technical expertise, domain expertise, and innovative problem-solving skills to keep our society safe.

Preparing for an AI-Infused Future

Humans play a pivotal role in the digital era, even with the rise of AI. Many think that AI means that programmers will be out of their jobs, and soon. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! Cultivating skills in coding, creativity, critical thinking, and understanding societal implications of technology are critical in making the best use of the innovations that AI brings, and STEM educators are important leaders for our future.

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