May 23, 2019 | Updated: 11:35 AM EDT

How to Prepare Students for the Rise of Artificial Intelligence 

May 13, 2019 02:55 PM EDT

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The impact of artificial intelligence or AI on society and the labor force have been studied and reported extensively for years. In a recent book, AI Superpowers, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China, wrote that 40 to 50 percent of current jobs will be technically and economically viable with AI and automation over the next 15 years.

Artificial intelligence is computer systems that interpret, collect and learn from external data to achieve a specific goal and task. Artificial intelligence is demonstrated by machines, unlike natural intelligence that is displayed by humans and animals. This has raised concerns and questions about the ethics of artificial intelligence because of its impact and decision-making in the workplace.

The computing power has increased rapidly in recent decades and so does the capabilities of AI. Vincent Muller, a philosopher of the Eindhoven University of Technology, and Nick Bostrom, a philosopher at Oxford University, conducted a survey in 2016 about the future potential of artificial intelligence.

The survey respondents said that there is a 50% likelihood that the capabilities of AI will exceed human intelligence by 2040 to 2050. Other technology leaders have said that this will happen much earlier. Since artificial intelligence learns and improves continuously, a new form of AI may emerge beyond human intelligence.

The question now is, how are universities responding to this challenge? Do they prepare the students for the changes in the workplace?

Most teachers and deans are concerned about the disruption from the perspective of skills that students should be learning to adapt to AI in the workplace. The traditional learning outcomes, especially in engineering programs, have included a strong knowledge base, design, problem analysis and the use of engineering tools, among others.

Engineers today have a growing demand in their professional lives. Non-technical skills are very important to be able to work effectively in a business environment, these include project management, communication skills, life-long learning and the interdisciplinary impact of engineering on the environment and society.

One way that universities can respond to this changing environment is by mapping the learning outcomes throughout the curriculum to make sure that all of the graduates will have the desired set of graduate attributes.

Students can also be required to take complementary study courses in other disciplines such as humanities to be able to raise awareness on their role and impact on culture and society. A change in higher education form what students are taught in the classroom to learning outcomes instead and graduate attributes will become important with the rise of artificial intelligence

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