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Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Meet the expert: Prof. Michael Luck, King’s College London, AI and machine learning expert

Fire Tech UK spoke to Professor Michael Luck, Professor in Computer Science at King’s College London, about the impact of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning on young people.

How will AI and machine learning impact kids under 18?

AI and machine learning will impact the future of all of us – but the kids will be those most affected. Their lives and careers will require a different set of skills to those we use to today. Everything is changing – and there’s an opportunity for kids to shape the future and our use of these technologies.

How can they be taught most effectively?

These technologies should be introduced early in the education system so they are understood – much like reading, writing and mathematics. An understanding of coding and technology is vital for young people, and as early as possible, before people get set in their ways. In the past, we taught ICT – Microsoft Word, Powerpoint – but this is not good enough. We’ve now introduced coding into the national curriculum, but this is just the start.

How is the current education system failing?

We’re at a transition point. We have norms around tech usage which are problematic – these are often stereotyped, gendered – and we need to expose ALL kids to technology from an earliest age. They should be comfortable with coding, not just as a consumer, but as a native, as a creator. It is encouraging to see increasing numbers of girls engaging with technology – not just as a career, but as a fundamental part of their lives. 

“We need to move away from a world in which ethics are an add-on. Instead, we need to think about the societal and ethical implications from the moment which you develop our computer systems. If this is incorporated into kids’ education from the earliest age, we can make this happen.”

How can we teach kids to use tech responsibly?

Responsible use and development of tech is an increasingly important problem. We are just starting to tackle these issues at the level of science and research. Responsible and ethical use of AI are crucially important because we are encoding human biases into our systems, the way in which we are training machine learning algorithms…. We need to move away from a world in which ethics are an add-on. Instead, we need to think about the societal and ethical implications from the moment which you conceive, design and develop our computer systems. If this is incorporated into kids’ education from the earliest age, we can let this happen. They can understand application and implications of systems from the start.

Examples of young people doing great stuff with tech.

At King’s, we have people who enter university with no prior knowledge of AI – and we also get people who’ve been writing code and building businesses from an early age. That diversity is really exciting. and is something that leads to hackathons, and collaboration around solving problems that are important for society, development goals, and a better
environment. Getting a group of young people together, who have new ideas, passion and technical skills, and use these in support of social good – it’s just brilliant…!

What advice would you give to young people pursuing a career in tech?

Don’t worry about not having knowledge – that will come at a place like King’s. Enthusiasm and passion are what’s important. Be open to new opportunities. Sometimes it’s challenging for a wide range of young people to be able to push forward their interests when there are perceptions around something – like tech. I’d encourage a wide group of people, especially those without a STEM background, to consider engaging with tech – whether you’re studying Computer Science, French, English or Maths. The opportunities are endless! 

Why is Fire Tech’s work important?

The work that Fire Tech is doing is absolutely crucial for young people’s preparation for the world as it is today… and also to give people a broad understanding of the context in which these technologies exist. 

Traditionally, our education models have been focused around very specific exercises to complete. At King’s we understand that engaging young people in project-based learning is a powerful way to understand new concepts … and the context in which they’re applied. This helps you start to think about the bigger picture, so you have a chance to make a difference, and gain a broad appreciation of what these technologies are. This is very important. 

About Prof. Michael Luck

Michael Luck is Professor of Computer Science and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at King’s College London. He was Head of the Department of Informatics from 2011 to 2013, where he also works in the Distributed Artificial Intelligence group, undertaking research into artificial intelligence and multiagent systems.

Professor Luck has published over 300 articles on development of practical agent systems and related areas, and twelve books. He is one of two Editors-in-Chief of Autonomous Agents and Multi-Agent Systems, the premier agents journal, and is Director of the UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Safe and Trusted Artificial Intelligence.

From 2000 through 2006, Professor Luck was based in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and from 1993 until 2000 in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Warwick. He studied in the Departments of Computer Science at University College London and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.