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Monday, April 9, 2018

Gen Alpha’s Lifetime of AI

For children just entering kindergarten—the so-called Generation Alpha—interacting with devices driven by artificial intelligence may be among their earliest memories, and will mark the beginning of a lifelong intimate relationship with AI.

In February, the BBC announced it would create a “Listen with Alexa” series of bedtime stories to be read to children by Amazon’s virtual assistant through the company’s Echo and Echo Dot voice-operated smart speakers. Since most voice assistants don’t feature a screen, some observers view their use as avoiding the risks excessive screen time poses to healthy social development.

Giving smart speakers an even bigger role in family life, however, raises concerns about their replacing some necessary and beneficial interactions with parents or guardians. In addition to bedtime stories, AI-powered devices may also take over homework duties. While that could appear a boon to tired working parents, it also presages a significant shift in family dynamics and how children learn to interact with others.

Of course, familiarity with artificial intelligence should also benefit upcoming generations, as AI will continue growing to play a role in nearly every aspect of their lives, from home appliances to transportation to their education and work.

While most Americans remain positive about AI’s impact, nearly two-thirds predict its rising use will eliminate more jobs than it creates, according to a Northeastern University/Gallup survey of almost 3,300 U.S. adults conducted last fall. More than half of respondents said they see it as a greater threat to U.S. jobs over the next decade than immigration and offshoring.

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