Can you imagine no longer needing to hire a nanny to watch over your kids whilst you are at work? No longer needing to drive your children around on school runs? No longer needing teachers for your child’s schooling? And instead, having robots that exhibit all the physical, mental and emotional (yes!emotional!) attributes that can perform all the roles mentioned above?! Would that be an option you would take if the job is done much more efficiently and for a cheaper price than what you would pay a human being for? That is where this rapidly paced and continually evolving technological era is going!
With the advent of robotics, jobs that are currently being performed by human beings will soon be taken over by robots and machines in the near future.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. In South Africa, research and development in this area is being given due attention by leading tertiary institutions and research organisations such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
If you are a fan of movies and the Sci-fi (Science Fiction) kind, then you must have watched the movie ‘Chappie’ by now. Chappie – a sci-fi film that was set, shot in Johannesburg, South Africa and directed by a South African is about an artificially intelligent law enforcement robot captured and taught by gangsters, who nickname it Chappie. The film received a lot of critical acclaim not just in the US but also in South Africa making the country receive renewed interest not just by film makers but by those in the field of robotics.
The importance and potential of robotics is recognised by South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the current focus is to spread the use of robotics in industries such as automotive, mining, manufacturing and health. Robotics activity is already taking place in the automotive industry; examples being Volkswagen in Port Elizabeth and BMW in Pretoria. It has also been introduced in the mining industry by Anglo-American.
The education system in South Africa is not getting left behind on the technology changes taking over in industry and there is a greater focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education and the teaching of robotics from kindergarten right up to matric. Children find the training in robotics very interesting as it is tangible and exciting and helps them to practically integrate the STEM concepts they are learning.
Whilst a holistic approach to a child’s academic development should be sought, it is needful for today’s child to be groomed with digital and 21st century skills which will enable him to thrive in the changing face of today’s traditional job industry in South Africa. You want to equip and channel your child into pursuing career options that require innovation, designing, programming, creativity and analysis because the more practical, hands-on jobs will be replaced by machines and robots.
Maths has therefore become a LIFE SKILL for a child
In Early Childhood Development (ECD), the activities that engage a child to solve problems, to analyse and think critically and to innovate and create are helpful for providing a sound base upon which a child can build strong STEM skills. These activities include the making of puzzles (both 2D and 3D), the building of blocks (including lego robots), reading and board games. If a child can grasp these skills from kindergarten stage they will help him tremendously in mastering STEM education, which is critical for the future job industry.
The emergence of a worldwide robotic-run industry, though with several advantages like freeing humanity from endless, monotonous and health hazardous tasks, poses the major problem of a rise in unemployment; yet it could also lead to the creation of new jobs. The topic of Artificial Intelligence which is being widely researched by companies like Google and Amazon also poses the threat of robots reaching a tipping point where they become more intelligent than human beings –a concept that a number of big names –like Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking –are (no doubt!) worried about.
It however still remains necessary for a parent to ensure that she is preparing her child to thrive and maybe even to lead in this dynamic technological era where the capacity and aptitude to innovate has become necessary.