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Part VI: Understanding Artificial Intelligence

As we prepare kids for their future careers in our digital workforce, we’ll inevitably introduce them to the concept of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is one of the most misunderstood topics in technology today and often sparks visions of robot world domination in those that don’t understand it. This brings us to our 6th and final transferrable skill that kids can learn through coding:

Transferrable skill #6: Understanding AI (rather than treating it as a threat)

Learning to code and understanding what programming is makes it much easier for kids to understand artificial intelligence, and to treat it as a “booster” for doing things faster and more efficiently, as opposed to a threat.

As we learnt earlier on in this Coding Series, traditional programming involves using lines of code to tell a computer what actions need to be taken, in what order, at what time, so that it will do precisely as we say. In other words, the average computer is not the brightest. It can only do what we tell it to do and cannot deal with unexpected situations – one error in our instructions and our computer may just have a meltdown.

At Kidovation we tell our kids that the computer gets a little bit smarter when we use AI. With AI, we can give the computer a set of rules that are less black and white, like telling them to do some action only when some other event happens. The computer will be able to fill in the gaps using its ‘intelligence’ (sounds a bit like how people think and act, right?)

Programming is also easier when it is powered by AI. For example, in programming-by-demonstration tools, we can let computers observe how we’d do certain things ourselves (e.g. putting all emails from Eevee into the “Eevee” folder, and all emails from Pikachu into the “Pikachu” folder), then the computer will try to replicate our way of doing things based on our earlier demonstration (e.g. finding out all emails from Charmander, and putting them into a new folder called “Charmander”). In other words, instead of writing up code, our demonstrations of how things should be done are now a form of programming (of course, this amazing feature is achieved by a bit of coding behind the scene!).

Reflection activity:

Have you watched the animation, Big Hero 6? It’s an amazing story about how a talented teenager name Hiro became friends with a soft and caring healthcare robot called Baymax created by Hiro’s brother. You can watch the trailer here!

Think about some moments in the film when Baymax is observing and learning from Hiro, such as using the phrase “this is sick” (meaning “this is cool”) and doing fist bumps. Those are perfect examples of “programming-by-demonstration”.

Thinking one step further:

Look around you, could you name a few products or apps that use AI?

- Apple Siri/Amazon Alex/Google Assistant/chat bots

- Computer games (opponents)

- Netflix recommendations

- Spotify song recommendations

- Email sentence auto complete

- Chat bots

- Automated/driverless cars

- Facebook / Instagram feed

Does this use AI?

Stretch thinking:

Talk to your family and friends, and ask them what they think about some of the big questions on the topic of AI:

  • Why do you think people find AI scary?

  • Imagine if an AI has seen 1,000,000 cat photos before, but only 10 dog photos before. Would it be equally good at finding cats and dogs in new photos?

  • Imagine if an AI learns everything it knows from an old encyclopaedia written in ancient Latin. Can it understand your questions in today’s English? Can it understand things in Japanese?

  • Imagine a very experienced pilot (safely flying for 30 years) is flying a new plane that has AI built into it. Suddenly the AI says the plane needs to fly higher to be safe, but the pilot believes the plane should fly lower to be safe. Who should be in control, the pilot, or the AI?

  • If a clever AI made a mistake, such as telling a person their health condition is poor when in fact that person is perfectly well, do you think the designers and engineers behind the AI should be responsible for it or not?

  • What would you trust AI to do? What would you not trust AI to do?

  • Can AI be more creative than us?

Don’t worry if you couldn’t give a certain answer yet – the last few questions are really big and important ones. Lots of philosophers and scientists aren’t sure about those either, in fact, they are working days and nights to solve them. If you start thinking about them now, you will get a head start and maybe you could even solve these questions for society in the future!

Thanks for reading through our Coding Miniseries! We hope it has been both interesting and helpful, and has got you excited to continue learning about the wonders of coding!

If you want to experience all the amazing opportunities in this digital world, understanding how code works can open many doors for you. We hope that through Kidovation’s coding modules and hackathon experience, you and your little ones can see that coding is neither scary nor boring. As we’ve showed through this entire series, coding can actually be fun and artistic, while teaching us how to collaborate, plan and bring creative ideas to life.

That’s it for our Coding Miniseries, but keep your eyes peeled as Kidovation continues to challenge boundaries in education through fun-filled and experience-led programmes. If you want to keep learning and innovating, you can find lots more exciting content on our Kidovation website and our YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook!

- Dr. Christine Yu & Lexie Hayden

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