Nature has begun its six-part Working Scientist podcast series at the start of the month. On the very first episode, the discussion revolves around artificial intelligence (AI) and education. Especially, the possible transformations brought about by AI and if our higher education is ready for it. 

All change 

Jeff Perkel, technology editor of Nature said in the podcast that it’s a truism of science and probably our World to keep changing. As such, technology is driving our education to be more malleable. After all, what is relevant as of today may no longer be so tomorrow. While it may be too early to decide, the new form of education shall teach its students the process of science. The making and using of various forms of technology, which are adaptable to other areas. So, at the end of the day, the philosophy of learning remains the same, but the way of perform what has been taught can alter according to different settings. 

Mark Dodgson, Professor of Innovation Studies at University of Queensland Business School added Universities are the source of many science and technology behind AI: Primarily, “they are the source of their own disruption”. Therefore, it makes sense for universities to lead and teach deep learning and other components of AI and new technology. This means the change will not only be kept within curriculum but also at management level. Comprehensible strategies may need to be established to deal with the impact brought about by technology.

Dodgson cited examples from Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology, where AI is being used to predict students’ performance and whether intervention will work to improve students’ results. Personalized education will not be an absolute stranger. Dodgson said the challenge is not about integrating AI but developing careers where people are able to work alongside with AI. At the same time, he asserted theoretical frameworks will never go out of fashion because they are markers for people to distinguish the real and the misleading. 

A medical education ready for AI

Interestingly, the words of Perkel and Dodgson synchronized with an article published on American Medical Association (AMA) Journal of Ethics this February. The write up also highlights the significance of change, indicating a shift from information acquisition to knowledge management and communication. Future physicians need to have a good grasp of what AI is about, so that they can explain new tools and treatment options to patient confidently and clearly. 

Apart from technical competency, the future medical education should also continue its emphasis on integrity and empathy. Human will not be replaced by machine but the tendency of them working together is high. Hence, future physicians will be the crucial ones who render a tinge of human touch in the medical practice. They should be able to provide adequate emotional support and express compassion while machines take charge of the necessity. 

Most importantly, as AIMed brings it up from time to time, future patients will not be passively waiting for care to be given. It’s likely that they are also armed with information obtained from various sources. Future physicians will have to be prepared to cater more time for patients to discuss their medical conditions. Physicians may also have to include patients and caregivers into the decision-making process.  

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Hazel Tang

A science writer with data background and an interest in current affair, culture and arts; a no-med from an (almost) all-med family. Follow on Twitter.