How the arts can help improve AI
We must seriously reflect on the effective integration of the “arts” into our education system. If we want to see ourselves thrive in a world that is rapidly adopting computational interventions such as artificial intelligence (AI), an equal focus on the arts is the only way forward. As societies become more educated, degrees will no longer be the only license to success. It is the quality of education that will count.
In my last article, “Time to adapt to AI”, I argued that Bangladesh should start thinking institutionally about AI. The article emphasized the supply side of the adaptation process and argued that government should play a central role in this. For this, starting from a specific sector, perhaps textiles, would be recommended for Bangladesh. Incremental adaptation of AI-based technologies can occur in sub-sectors of service delivery, supply chain management, marketing, quality assurance, manufacturing, and even transportation Of the industry. However, this can only happen if the demand side of the AI market is knowledge-intensive. AI will thrive in a society that breeds creativity, using education as a key driver.
For all the latest news, follow the Daily Star’s Google News channel.
For Industry 4.0, “knowledge-based society” is the new buzzword. The whole world is in favor of teaching children to code in computer languages. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is central to most of our education reform processes. However, there are two important things we need to remember. First, STEM helps to understand the world mathematically, rationally and logically, and these are not the only ways humans act. Second, as the developed world leads this revolution, smart AI-based interventions have become part of our lives. If we want to keep our culture alive, we will have to help our young people to be creative and to be aware of their environment.
AI is a multidisciplinary science. Yes, knowing how to code helps. But if we want robots and software to perform tasks more efficiently than humans, we need better algorithms. And if we want to have robots that can organize, cooperate and sacrifice like humans do, we need much better algorithms. The key to the design of these algorithms lies in the disciplines that help humans think, understand and interact with others and in groups. The cases of self-driving cars or assistance robots for the elderly or for the disabled are full of these challenges. Scientists now learn from sociology, anthropology, history of science, economics, game theory, dance, music and fine arts to understand how we behave.
In a few years, we will be deeply immersed in more pervasive AI-powered environments. To be able to navigate, we will have to reform our organisations, rethink all our regulatory institutions, rethink our teaching-learning structures and reinvent our personal and virtual relationships. To ensure we are well equipped for this future, we will need to transition from STEM to STEAM, where the “A” stands for “arts”.
Whether we like to hear about it or not, humans are slow. It means we are meant to walk, pause, devour the beauty around us, and then reflect. We react to the actions of our environment. Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, in his famous book “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, showed how we behave in different situations. For some reactions, the thinking process is quick, intuitive, and emotional. For others, it’s slow, more deliberate and logical. However, holistically, this process of thinking and learning about our environment can be done effectively if we are trained to think both rationally and irrationally. Art, literature and music ignite our irrational creative thoughts. They train us to think outside the box, teach us how to be social, and help us learn about social norms and culture. Watching the waves of the sea after watching “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” by Japanese master Hokusai would ignite the creative cells in our brain.
Learning about society is not enough, we must also learn to move and love our own bodies. Sir Ken Robinson, the famous British author, argued the importance of being aware of our bodies. In one of his Ted Talks titled “Are Schools Killing Creativity?”, he eloquently explained how traditional education slowly kills the creative spirit of children and how art, as an integral part of education, can reverse this process. He pleads for putting as much emphasis on the teaching of dance as on that of mathematics. After all, dance helps us become aware of the very body in which we reside. The arts can prepare us to break down barriers and free us from the fear of failure. As Sir Robinson said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.”
In addition, learning through art also helps students learn science better. Brouillette and Graham (2016) conducted research in 55 very poor elementary schools in urban California. A program was designed to correct misconceptions and clarify concepts that students had struggled with over the past year. Researchers have found that integrating the arts into the curriculum helps make science learning more memorable. In another work, Anne de Bruin (2018) studied secondary schools in Australia, the United States, Canada and Singapore. She reported that teachers believed that interdisciplinary learning shapes critical and creative thinking. Focusing on STEM helps education planners rethink how science and math is taught, emphasizes building devices, hones coding skills, and can even launch robotics programs in schools that can afford it. STEAM takes these skills to the next level by helping students contextualize, rethink, redesign, question, inquire, critique and innovate.
The world is now turned towards interdisciplinarities. AI scientists need to understand history and art, while historians and artists need to understand AI. This communication can only be effective if we are trained to be multidisciplinary.
Moinul Zaber is a computational social scientist. His Twitter handle is @zabermi