Demystifying Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is not as scary as you think. Let us show you why.

Katherine Lissitsa
3 May 2019

If you think that AI is a big, scary, technological monster — think again. If you think AI will overtake our jobs and overrule us all — think again. But most importantly, if you think AI is just for adults — definitely think again.

Artificial Intelligence, commonly known as AI, is not — in fact — a dark art being cooked up by mad scientists in a high-security facility that’ll cast a gloomy shadow over our future. It’s actually far less dramatic than that. So much so, that all of us use AI on a daily basis without even knowing it. That word your phone corrected for you in a text? AI. The way your emails are filtered into specific sections in your inbox? AI. When you search something in Google and predictions pop up? AI. And the list goes on.

But let’s break it down even more.

What is AI?

First off, it’s important to understand that AI is an umbrella term — it represents the overall field of computer science that looks at how technology can mimic human intelligence. Standing under it, is machine learning — the actual technique that is responsible for creating software that makes computers act more like us.

To create said AI software, computer scientists need three key components: Graphics Processing Units (GPUs), big data and algorithms. A GPU is a programmable computer chip that performs mathematical calculations in order to render images, animations and videos for a computer screen — and a cluster of those chips are needed to build AI software. Second comes big data, large datasets comprised of information that’s collected through our daily activities — online shopping, internet browsing, social media likes and much more. Now what AI software does is take the data, process it with the use of GPUs and ultimately, make our lives easier — such as coming up with suggestions that cater to our tastes (think Top Picks on Netflix or suggested playlists on Spotify). The interplay of those components make up an algorithm — a set of steps that that the computer learns to perform intelligently.

The bottom line is that Artificial Intelligence is by no means magic. Rather, it’s tools and technology that everyone can and does interact with — including kids.

Why kids should learn AI

Given that AI is becoming more and more ubiquitous, it’s no surprise that it’s touching children’s lives as well. And while some parents are concerned about the effects of AI on their kids, the technology comes with benefits that are worth considering.

Similar to KCJ’s reasons for introducing children to code, we believe that AI is an important part of their educational journey precisely because it’s entering our world in a myriad of ways. And the more familiar they are with it at an early age, the more equipped they will be when they work with these technologies in the future.

By working with hands-on AI tools, kids can cultivate their curiosity, they can develop their creative skills, they can learn to problem-solve and they can improve their digital literacy skills. For example, let’s take Cognimate — an intelligent agent that kids can program and teach, and is therefore a tool that acts as both a peer to play with and to think with. Cognimate is an open-source platform based on Scratch that children 7 to 14 years old can tinker with, program and customize to make a computer or a robot interact with them.

Teaching children about AI may also help dissolve the mystical cloud of darkness some make AI out to be. If kids learn the fundamentals of the field and get to experience it through a real-world application, the supposed “magical” aspect currently attached to AI will slowly disappear. In turn, that could make space for more curious and determined minds to develop AI technologies that’ll facilitate our daily routines — no evil robots involved.

Which brings us to a couple of key takeaways. One is that AI would be nowhere and will go nowhere without us. People are at the heart of Artificial Intelligence and will be those who move it forward — not the machines themselves. And finally, it’s important to remember that these tools will never replace us. Technology, no matter how helpful it may be, can’t quite live up to what humans can do or to what human interaction can offer us.

Click here for more info about opportunities for students and teachers to take part in AI!