Educators Can Look Ahead To ‘Augmented’ Role

First published Forbes.com June 30. A recent consumer survey indicates that educational tutoring is the human job most expected to be wiped out by Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the next five years.

Bot.Me: A Revolutionary Partnership by PwC reveals the public’s steady acceptance of AI, particularly in customer service roles.

Among 2,500 respondents, 58% saw tutoring by AI bots displacing real people in five years,  even more likely than that of human tax preparers (54%), health coaches (46%), or doctors (22%).

Source PwC

The report’s lead author, PwC Head of AI, and Data & Analytics, Anand Rao however seeks to reassure that AI will not simply be “taking our jobs,” in the education industry or beyond.

“There is fear out there that AI is automating our jobs, taking jobs away. That ‘AI is bad. We want to remove that fear.

“People will be working with AI, man and machine together. That’s how technologies have evolved in the past, there’s no reason to think it will be any other way in the future. As AI gets better, humans will stay involved, and get better with AI.”

Rao this week presented another PwC study on the macroeconomic impact of Artificial Intelligence to 2030, at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2017, in Dalian, China—World Economic Forum Global Summit on Innovation, Science and Technology. The study was produced in partnership with the Fraunhofer Institute.

In its various AI briefings, PwC makes the distinction between autonomous intelligence where machines act on their own, and augmented intelligence where people+machines to do things they otherwise couldn’t do.

Says Rao, in augmented intelligence, “the human is still in the loop. Both humans and AI are learning, teaching each other. We will see more combination of man and machine in every sector.”

He anticipates, “AI can shift human tasks from menial to strategic, freeing up time for innovation and the broader, bigger-picture thinking that can lead to transformation.”

The PwC studies do not suggest how many or how extensively humans will be needed as partners in augmented AI systems, that is, what percentage of the disrupted workforce will make it into higher-order creative jobs vs. fall into unemployment.

In another study among the myriad emerging on AI’s business and workplace impact, McKinsey & Company last year  found that around 30% of tasks in 60% of occupations will be automated.

Following laudable industry foresight principles it however cautions on over-anticipating the pace of change, mitigating breathless tech-disruption expectations with the power of legacy systems and cost-benefit realities:

“In practice automation will depend on more than just technical feasibility. Five factors are involved. Technical feasibility; costs to automate; the relative scarcity, skills, and cost of workers who might otherwise do the activity; benefits (eg. superior performance) of automation beyond labor-cost substitution; and regulatory and social-acceptance considerations.”

With regard to education particularly, Rao says that university and professional or executive education providers will need to change the way they are educating, and what human roles and skills they are educating for, so students don’t end up qualified for jobs that are AI’d away.

His unit at PwC has recently built artificial intelligence applications for university and EdTech client companies, particularly to enhance and personalize the human learning processes.

“AI offers the ability to generate insight into how people learn, and to personalize learning to every individual for better results.

“As you study, AI will learn from you,” says Rao. “It will give each learner the learning style they need.”

This illustrates the human+machine getting better with AI prize, but it remains unclear how many tutors or ordinary classroom teachers will see a piece of this.