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Aukus Pact highlights importance of AI education

Liverpool Hope University has warned that the UK’s involvement in the ‘Aukus’ security pact highlights an urgent need to teach Artificial Intelligence in schools.

The agreement is a new data-sharing alliance between the UK, US and Australia to counter the perceived threat posed by China.

One of the key elements of Aukus will see Australia building nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, leaning heavily on US tech, but the controversial defence partnership will also see the UK sharing its expertise on artificial intelligence.

Professor David Reid, an AI and Spatial Computing specialist from Liverpool Hope University, says alarm bells should be ringing loudly in Britain over the fact that AI is not currently taught in schools - an omission he describes as ‘absolutely crazy’.

One of the prime reasons Aukus was formed was a report compiled by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, published in the US in March this year, which warned how the US was not sufficiently prepared to defend or compete against China in the AI era.

He said: “We’re entering an AI race. With Aukus, much of the attention is focused on Australia’s new submarines. But of much greater significance is the commitment to sharing of AI resources. And in the UK, we have a huge problem.

“The UK has pioneered and developed many of the AI systems the world currently uses today. The core principles of Deep Learning, for example, were invented by the British computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton.
 And yet despite all of this, we’re now throwing away our great computer heritage by not teaching AI in schools. A new AI curriculum might take a while to be implemented but it has got to be done. I’d urge politicians to wake-up and understand the significance because, in all honesty, it’s already almost too late to act due to the pace of development.”

Reid recommends that the basics of AI could, and should, be taught to everyone in school from the ages of 10 years old and above - which is roughly in line with recommendations being made in the US.

He states: “It’s about giving children a fundamental grounding in how AI works at a young age. But at the moment we’re neither being inventive enough or grasping the significance of recent developments. Make no mistake, AI is going to have a profound impact on everything we do. And the people it’s going to impact the most are those currently aged under 18 years old. It’s hard to conceive of anything that’s more important than this right now.”

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