By Kavya Venkatesan, 2023 Governor's STEM Scholar
By 2050, Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace over 85 million jobs. What does that mean for the future of our country—the youth of today?
Before we ponder over this question, it is important to define AI, which is a subset of the computer science field. Essentially, AI is the simulation of human behavior (speech, writing, thinking, etc.) through computer and technological systems. Siri, GoogleMaps, and Chat-GPT, the conversational chatbot that has hit the headlines, are all examples of AI in the real world.
As we celebrate NJ STEM Month, I have wondered about how AI will change the future workforce for not just STEM fields but all careers. Traditional roles like business analytics and human resources will be assigned to AI. Virtual assistants will help executives with decision-making. Engineers, doctors, lawyers, and writers will be using AI to create, build, and research. The AI era is here, and this isn’t the first time technology has disrupted jobs and education.
In the beginning of the 20th century, the introduction of the assembly line increased production and displaced factory workers. With such unskilled labor no longer being needed, education systems also changed as society shifted from an agrarian to a more industrialized society.
Likewise, my generation–Gen Z–is stepping into a future that is now driven by an unprecedented level of automation. This makes it important for us to be educated about AI for two reasons: to keep up with the evolving job market and be able to tap into the full power of AI, which will transform every field.
In addition to learning what AI is, we must also understand its applications and limitations. AI can effectively complete repetitive tasks like email-writing, generate answers to questions, and conduct market research within seconds. But there is a catch: AI systems have biases and are prone to making up false information. Therefore, we must be aware of the pros and cons of AI so that we leverage it in our future jobs in the most ethical way possible.
Our school curriculum needs to help students not just build digital literacy but also “AI literacy”. This makes it important for all schools to have an “Intro to AI” Class or section in the Grades 9-12 curriculum. Recently, the NJ Governor’s Office unveiled a “Computer Science for All'' plan, which mandated computer science education across the state. Adding legislation on AI education to this plan would support the government’s efforts to ensure that the education system is designed for the future.
High school is the prime time to introduce students to AI because it marks the beginning of college and career planning. After all, how can students make informed decisions about their major, university, or profession if they don’t learn about the very technology that may render their career prospects non-existent? At the same time, it is not enough to simply mandate AI education. We must work with computer science teachers across the state and develop strategies, resources, and incentives that can help deliver AI education in the most compelling manner.
The speed at which technology is evolving means that today’s dream jobs may seem different ten years from now. In fact, the future job titles for some students may not even exist right now. To keep at pace with this change, let us recognize that AI literacy is the foundation of our nation’s success in an innovation-driven economy. Teaching students early about AI will help them leverage it as an avenue to realize their career aspirations. But, more importantly, today’s generation of students will be prepared to use AI sustainably and ethically when tomorrow arrives.
Kavya Venkatesan is a junior at Old Bridge High School. She is a futuristic researcher, economics aficionado, and leader passionate about pioneering real-world change with emerging and ethical technologies. Kavya is a 2023 NJ Governor’s STEM Scholar.