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To make AI a success, every child needs to understand the risk and potential of algorithms Posted on : Jan 08 - 2021

According to the AI Council, the biggest barrier to AI deployment is skills - and it starts as early as school.

With artificial intelligence estimated to have the potential to deliver as much as a 10% increase to the UK's GDP before 2030, the challenge remains to unlock the technology's potential – and to do so, a panel of AI experts recommends placing a bet on young brains. 

A new report from the AI Council, an independent committee that provides advice to the UK government on all algorithmic matters, finds that steps need to be taken from the very start of children's education for artificial intelligence to flourish across the country. The goal, for the next ten years, should be no less ambitious than to ensure that every child leaves school with a basic sense of how AI works.

This is not only about understanding the basics of coding and ethics, but about knowing enough to be a confident user of AI products, to look out for potential risks and to engage with the opportunities that the technology presents.

"Without basic literacy in AI specifically, the UK will miss out on opportunities created by AI applications, and will be vulnerable to poor consumer and public decision-making, and the dangers of over-persuasive hype or misplaced fear," argues the report.

AI should be taught as its own specialist subject, therefore, but also be added into other subjects such as geography or history. Extra support should be provided to teachers, through curriculum resources and learning programs, to help them get to grips with AI concepts and ensure that the subtleties of the topic are covered at all key stages of education. 

For Bill Mitchell, director of policy at the BCS, the UK's chartered institute for IT, the objectives set out in the report are remarkable, but they lack a clear roadmap. "The report highlights the need for every child to leave school with an understanding of AI, and I totally agree with that. But how?" Mitchell tells ZDNet. View More