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Hon. Jerry M. Hultin at the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference

HON. JERRY M. HULTIN, Former Under Secretary of Navy, President Emeritus New York University Tandon School of Engineering, made his intervention during the Fifth Session of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference


“Thank you, Peter, it is a pleasure to be here and, Gloria, thank you for last night's reception and your very generous introduction today.   I have led two lives that you’ve heard about, one as Under Secretary of the Navy, which, as someone said this morning, is about Warfare. But I was also President of the Polytechnic University, now part of New York University, and that is Welfare.  So, I live in both worlds — warfare and welfare.  These are worlds I believe should be related, but sometimes they come into conflict.
As you heard today — and I won’t repeat what others have said — Artificial Intelligence (AI) clearly has a lot to do with where the world is headed, and it brings exciting opportunities for the rest of the world.   Yes, AI will be good for the United States, but today I would like to focus on the rest of the world.  Most importantly, AI will offer expanded access to education, something I view as an enormous benefit. If we don’t get better at educating the world and teaching young people how to live and thrive in this complex world, we have a problem. 
When I was president of Polytechnic University, my goal was to make my students smarter than a robot or, at least, how to work alongside a robot.  Otherwise, I cautioned, you are going to be working for a robot — and that’s not a great life. 
But educating people to be smarter than robots is not an easy task since artificial intelligence is making robots very smart.  What good are the multiplication tables or the basics of engineering when AI will take care of all these simple things? The question for young students is “What can you do that is smarter than a robot?” The question for educators is “How do you educate billions of people to be smarter than a robot?”   
We will hear a little later from Esther Wojcicki and her research that shows peer-to-peer learning is by far way the best way for young students to learn.  It’s interesting, that we think of ourselves as wise teachers who can impart wisdom to young people when it turns out that students teaching each other — called peer-to-peer learning — is more effective. 
Now you may ask, “Where does AI fit into this?”  Take a look at what Khan's Academy is doing. Starting ten years, Kahn began by helping students learn math.  Now Kahn has produced KahnAmigo, an AI-assisted tutorial system for teachers, parents, and students, each at their own level, to help them learn.  So KahnAmigo is a very interactive learning system that is comparable to peer-to-peer learning, except in KahnAmigo’s case, the peer is not another student, but artificial intelligence. Khan's Academy charges $4 per month to subscribe, which is within reach of many people around the world, and if you are a school district, there are volume discounts.  
As you can see, things are already happening in the world where AI is allowing lots and lots of students to learn.  This is especially important because the rest of the world has an enormous volume of learners: India has 1.4 billion people with nearly 30% being young people; Africa will grow to 4 billion people, mainly young learners.  We will never meet the demand for education on these two continents unless we use technology, like AI.  There are not enough teachers in the world to meet the demand, so we need AI that is sophisticated enough to match or exceed human teachers.
I chair the New York Academy of Science where we have a very exciting program called Junior Academy.  In Junior Academy, we organize teams of young people around the world, using AI to match up students interested in the same problem.  We then ask these students to choose a problem to solve: how to make an airplane fly faster, or how to make water cleaner, or whatever ever excites them.  These 4-student global teams are united by computers and communications since they never meet each other.  Working with a mentor, they solve amazing problems.  The Academy then flies the top 20 teams to NYC for a fabulous awards ceremony.
There are thousands of these Junior Academy teams around the world.  The Academy has created a new way for young people to learn that did not exist in the old-fashioned world of physical meetings.  Yes, access to broadband is a problem as we have discussed today. And, of course, you need electricity to run a computer.   But all this can be solved, especially if we educate young people to work and live well using artificial intelligence.
The last thing I would like to discuss as we explore the impact of artificial intelligence is to consider the whole system, not just AI.  First, for instance, how important sensors are in capturing data.  Satellites now have sensors that tell us about agriculture, congestion, weather, migration, and more.  Other sensors can detect water in the eye, as we just heard today.  So sensors are essential in building the databases that AI uses.  
Second, AI and robots are getting smart but there are many things humans do better.  As Jann LaCun of NYU and Facebook has noted, there’s no artificial intelligence robot today that can clear a dining room table after dinner, yet every 10-year-old knows how to do this.  And by the time a child is four, she has seen and “digested” over sixteen thousand hours of video input.  No AI system today has this much video input, so an AI robot doesn’t know the difference between pushing a bottle at the top (and tipping it over), or pushing a bottle at the bottom (where it slides across the table).  Yet, a four-year-old knows the difference.
A four-year-old also knows that if she pushes the table with the same force, the table will not move.  Robots do not know this.  Don’t overestimate what AI can do.  It cannot remember, it cannot plan, it cannot anticipate.   These are human skills that give us an edge. So we need to use this “edge” to stay ahead of artificial intelligence.
In conclusion, there is a great opportunity with AI.  Education is essential as the key to how young people will learn to make AI their friend and thus, in partnership with AI, to thrive in this world.  Thank you very much.”


The FINAL DECLARATION of the 23rd Infopoverty World Conference is now available! The Plan of Action including a list of projects and proposals that emerged from the discussion will be available soon. STAY TUNED!

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