Why AI and Data Literacy?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is quickly becoming infused into the very fabric of our everyday society. AI already influences decisions in employment, credit, financing, housing, healthcare, education, taxes, law enforcement, legal proceedings, travel, entertainment, digital marketing, social media, news dissemination, content distribution, pricing, and more. AI powers our GPS maps, recognizes our faces on our smartphones, enables robotic vacuums that clean our homes, powers autonomous vehicles and tractors, helps us find relevant information on the web, and makes recommendations on everything from movies, books, and songs to even who we should date!
And if that’s not enough, welcome to the massive disruption caused by AI-powered chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard. The power to apply AI capabilities to massive data sets, glean valuable insights buried in those massive data sets, and respond to user information requests with highly relevant, mostly accurate, human-like responses has caused fear, uncertainty, and doubt about people’s futures like nothing we have experienced before. And remember, these AI-based tools only learn and get smarter the more that they are used.
Yes, ChatGPT has changed everything!
In response to this rapid proliferation of AI, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) is being promoted across nearly every primary and secondary educational institution worldwide to prepare our students for the coming AI tsunami. Colleges and universities can’t crank out data science and machine learning curriculums, classes, and graduates fast enough.
But AI and data literacy are more than just essential for the young. 72-year-old congressman Rep. Don Beyer (Democrat Congressman from Virginia) is pursuing a master’s degree in machine learning while balancing his typical congressman workloads to be better prepared to consider the role and ramifications of AI as he writes and supports the legislation.
Thomas H. Davenport and DJ Patil declared in the October 2016 edition of The Harvard Business Review that data science is the sexiest job in the 21st century. And then, in May 2017, The Economist anointed data as the world’s most valuable resource.
“Data is the new oil” is the modern organization’s battle cry because in the same way that oil drove economic growth in the 20th century, data will be the catalyst for economic growth in the 21st century.
But the consequences of the dense aggregation of personal data and the use of AI (neural networks and data mining, deep learning and machine learning, reinforcement learning and federated learning, and so on) could make our worst nightmares come true. Warnings are everywhere about the dangers of poorly constructed, inadequately defined AI models that could run amok over humankind.
“AI, by mastering certain competencies more rapidly and definitively than humans, could over time diminish human competence and the human condition itself as it turns it into data. Philosophically, intellectually — in every way — human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.”
—Henry Kissinger, MIT Speech, February 28, 2019
“The development of full artificial intelligence (AI) could spell the end of the human race. It would take off on its own and re-design itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”
—Stephen Hawking, BBC Interview on December 2, 2014
“Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive and their risks will be manageable.”
—Future of Life Institute (whose membership includes Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak) on March 29, 2023
There is much danger in the rampant and untethered growth of AI. However, there is also much good that can be achieved through the proper and ethical use of AI. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leverage AI and the growing sources of big data to power unbiased and ethical actions that can improve everybody’s quality of life through improved healthcare, education, environment, employment, housing, entertainment, transportation, manufacturing, retail, energy production, law enforcement, and judicial systems. This means that we need to educate everyone on AI and data literacy. That is, we must turn everyone into Citizens of Data Science.
AI and data literacy can’t just be for the high priesthood of data scientists, data engineers, and ML engineers. We must prepare everyone to become Citizens of Data Science and to understand where and how AI can transform our personal and professional lives by reinventing industries, companies, and societal practices to fuel a higher quality of living for everyone.
In this first chapter, we’ll discuss the following topics:
- History of literacy
- Understanding AI
- Data + AI: Weapons of math destruction
- Importance of AI and data literacy
- What is ethics?
- Addressing AI and data literacy challenges