Technology and robots: how to prepare children for the future?


Will robots steal the work of humans? Why is it important to know how to fight? And work in a group? But also children's free play?

Last weekend in Villa Torlonia, in the city, the protagonists were children and young people. Focus Junior magazine and Technotown have organized for them the event "Tecnovita. The technology that feeds talent": a rich program of technological workshops related to music, special effects, digital journalism, botany, robotics and programming .

For adults, however, the opening conference on Saturday morning was an opportunity to meet with experts from the world of technology and childhood, to try to answer some questions about the future of their children and pupils. And how to best accompany them on their growth path. Target? Understanding the potential and impact (social and ethical) of the technologies that will be available in the coming years. In particular, AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics.

How will we live in 10 years? How will the world of work change?

Here are nine questions that different experts have answered.

1 - Will robots steal human work?

On the one hand we have the McKinsey Global Institute report which speaks of 800 million people worldwide who could lose their jobs by 2030, the equivalent of about one fifth of the current workforce; on the other hand, there are those who believe that these are reckless and unreliable statements since, in the face of lost places, other, different ones will be created. According to some scholars, such as David Autor of MIT, overall, the posts created may outnumber those canceled.

So should we worry about the future of our children?

It's not for sure. Because the McKinsey report must also be read in the right way. The answer from Alessandro De Luca, professor of robotics and automation at the La Sapienza University of the city. "In this case we are talking about the loss of repetitive, boring, non-qualifying jobs" explains De Luca. "For example, today we think of banks: there are fewer and fewer people at the counter, but these have been converted into consultants. And everything is increasingly computerized. The 4.0 economy sees the return of a collaboration between workers and robots. Not a replacement. We talk about human robot interaction, from a cognitive point of view, but also from a physical point of view. Our society is aging and there will be an increasing need for both automation and home help. "

In addition, in recent years the less skilled jobs have lost market and the more skilled ones have increased. According to the teacher, a reading of these data leads to higher education.

2 - How will the various professional fields change and which will be the sectors of greatest development?

According to Daniele Carnevale, researcher of robotics and automation at the Tor Vergata University: "We are talking about robotics and AI, artificial intelligence. A strong development of robotics at the service of the elderly and a strong niche for the rehabilitation. An example? More and more intelligent and lighter exoskeletons will be needed to allow people to walk again.

This sector will be rapidly developing and will require people with new skills. New engineers, physicists and mathematicians will be required.

Or another area of ​​future interest is that agriculture. And it is already a reality. A goal of the agriculture of the future is to minimize the use of water or create micro-robots that can suck up insects and reduce the use of pesticides. "As Professor De Luca adds:" There will be more and more technical jobs. But there is a lack of engineers. And they are mostly men. We need to start changing things from primary school because few girls are directed to science and mathematics. The percentage of women is very low in some sectors ".

"It is a cultural question - specifies Fiorella Operto, president of the School of Robotics in Genoa - not a question of cognitive abilities. From a cognitive point of view, boys and girls are absolutely the same, each with their own natural predisposition. The problem is social. Culturally, it is difficult for a woman to face these actually complex careers. Human reproduction is always the same, borne by the woman, and therefore a woman is effectively engaged in something that society today does not take into account. ”And she is not being supported as she should.

3 - Are young people ready to face what's happening? Are they prepared to face this technological revolution?

From a study conducted by the research company Malise for Focus Junior the risk of a technological drift has emerged. With a world in constant evolution, the fear is that in the near future we will have a generation of young adults who have little self-confidence and no means to cope with stress. Because they can have everything they want instantly, except the rewards, which are instead part of slow and complex processes, for which there is no app.
On an emotional level, how do pre-teens react to a world in constant evolution and transformation? Answers Anna Oliverio Ferraris, psychologist and psychotherapist.
"During primary and middle school, kids are very interested in technology. They want to understand immediately how it works. They have a concrete, lively mind. But it's easy to get sucked into it. And they think you can get it all right away.

Parents and teachers must therefore be careful to develop the social intelligence of children. Moments of free and spontaneous play are needed to be with peers. We need meeting spaces, where children can play unguided. Our cities are no longer child-friendly. In addition to technology, children also have other needs: they need to move. They have bodies that need to run and climb trees. "

Attention also to don't demonize "spontaneous play" too much. Because it will also be spontaneous, but in reality it is complex and has its own logics. "It is not true that spontaneous play is not intelligent. Especially when they can play freely outdoors with each other children bring various kinds of different intelligence onto the ground, such as social intelligence. Another child (at least for now) will always be more complex than a robot.

In this type of game, he then enters the field too logical and motor intelligence. Let's not forget how much motor skills are very important. We are not talking about the small movements that can be done at home or with a tablet, but about large movements. These movements and games cause substances that are natural drugs to enter our body. Which give well-being to the child. They gratify him.

Furthermore, if we close them too early in a laboratory and do not let them have the right experiences in parks, courtyards or gardens, we will undermine their safety and autonomy ".

It is also important to explain to children the scientific principles behind the technology. Robots are not magical products that come out of nowhere. Before and after, a teacher, but also a parent, must explain to the child what made it possible to achieve this result, to have a certain product. Because behind the technology there is a lot of work. "There are, for example, the scientists of antiquity, Newton, Galileo - continues the psychotherapist -. Especially at school we should go backwards and explain the work behind it, the path that gave birth to a technology. Because even behind video games there is knowledge, knowledge. It should be made explicit. For now it is not highlighted enough and that is why the boys think everything is easy. "

4 - Technology: are there distinctive traits between males and females?

"Yes, the cultural factor weighs" always explains the psychologist Anna Oliverio Ferraris. Which also tells of a Lego experiment made in the 80s: "Some children were placed in a space with all kinds of games. There were practically no differences. Everyone played with everything. Back home, the children returned to have male and female games ". And they started playing with them again. "We parents, relatives and friends send messages: you who are a boy are good with the toy car, you who are female with the tricks.

Attentive parents: we give away more neutral games, more constructions, more books. And let's not overdo it in dressing girls like princesses. "

5 - Is playing with robots a trend or is it really useful?

As Fiorella Operto, president of the Genoa School of Robotics, replies: "Lax children play, they are learning programming language. In this way they also develop logical and computational thinking. Already now the applications are many and will be more and more. In the future they will be more and more among us and even housewives at home will have to deal with them. There are professions that will radically change, for example that of doctors and nurses ".

What about mobile phones instead? What should be the role of the parents and also of the teachers? "We are David against Goliath - replies Operto -. Cell phones are fascinating, while we are boring. We must not give up though".

A tip for all parents: "Parents must get help and update themselves continuously, it will do them good too. It will make them younger. Studying English, learning coding, getting back into the game. "It will not only help you understand what your children are doing, but will make them more flexible and future-ready.

6 - Evolution of technologies and ethical questions: where are we?

Last month there was news of a self-driving car that killed a woman. Ethics and technologies, where are we? "Technology is not without risks - explains Operto -. Think of a knife: it can be used to cut cheese, but also to kill. Everything depends on use. Obviously, the more complex the technologies, the more complicated the matter becomes.

In 2004 we launched this concept of roboetic. A lot of progress has been made and certainly there are risks, it cannot be denied. The best thing I recommend is that our kids learn to work on robots, in order to understand their risks and potential. Will we ever put a self-driving car in the traffic of the city and Madrid? Maybe not, but maybe some circuits will be created especially for them, to let them circulate safely. "A bit like when it happened when we switched from wagons to cars. Didn't we create asphalted roads and motorways, more suitable for making them circulate?

7 - The discoveries of technology are usually the result of interdisciplinary and international teamwork, does today's school favor a study model where collaboration and teamwork counts?

"The school still has a very individualistic approach - explains Massimo Lussignoli, pedagogist of the Psycho-pedagogical Center for Education -. We speak of 'class group', but it is often just a concept and we do not really work in a group. pupils are using group work as a reward ".

Moving on to the personal experience of the pedagogist: "When I put small groups of students to work, I realize how hard they work. Because you learn to work in a group, no one is 'born learned' and it is a learning area that should be managed and favored at school.

In the classroom, however, there is a limit: how to give an evaluation to a group if I have to give marks? The school is struggling to find the answer to this question. But in the world of work it is useful to manage conflicts and know how to be in a group ".

8 - Conflict management: what to do when two children fight? We must learn to fight

Are two children arguing? The classic intervention of a parent or teacher would be to give a solution and say who is right. However, as Lussignoli argues, "it should not be done. Things never happen by chance, social dynamics are complex. Behind a slap there is often also those who instigated".

It comes naturally to ask the children what is happening, who did it, who started it. Position ourselves as judges of the conflict. But the pedagogist's advice is another. "Conflict is a great source of learning. You just have to learn to fight well. It means taking into account the point of view of the other, self-regulating (something you don't learn to do if an adult always intervenes), and also developing the capacity for empathic decentralization. Reach an agreement".

Therefore, children should not be told not to fight. It is not likely, we would only risk making conflicts hidden. But they don't have to get along, either.

"The advice is to find an agreement on that problem.

It is not a question of getting along, but of finding a common solution. "An approach that helps to accept the other's point of view and to achieve a balance.

9 - What kind of students would you like to have among your freshmen?

According to Professor De Luca: "A lot of critical sense is needed. I would like to see guys who ask themselves questions, who don't believe the first thing that is said to them and who are proactive. What we have to do is give the tools to be able to understand, not to simplify things.

I would like to have this kind of skills in them.

The other important aspect is the appearance ethical. But also the creativity that comes from the interest of unconventional people. If I have to say it all and based on my experience, the best engineering students here come from the classical high school ".

At the same time the answer of Professor Carnevale: "I would like to have curious, passionate, collaborative students who want to find innovative solutions. Technical skills are learned and taught. Of course geeks are facilitated in this field, but it is not essential that They are. On the other hand, it is important to be flexible, curious and problem solver, with the ability to work in a team ".

  • children and technology
  • artificial intelligence
  • future
  • social intelligence
  • focus junior
  • robotics
  • ethics
  • humanism
  • 40 industry
  • complex systems
  • responsible use
  • manage conflicts
  • continuous learning
  • dexterity
  • peer to peer
  • 6-14 children years
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