By Angelo Biasi

In a world where the only constant is change, education and workforce development must not only keep pace but anticipate and lead into the future with clear intent. This sentiment has never been more pertinent than now, as we stand at the cusp of a technological revolution spearheaded by Artificial Intelligence (AI). The integration of AI into our daily personal and professional lives is not a distant future – it is our present. This brings us to a critical juncture where AI Literacy emerges as the newest 21st Century Competency, joining the esteemed ranks of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity, or the 4C’s as they’re commonly known in academic circles.

What is AI Literacy?

AI Literacy is the ability to understand, apply, and leverage AI in a manner that is insightful, ethical, and responsible. It is the comprehension of AI’s capabilities and limitations, the discernment of its appropriate applications, and the aptitude to interface with AI systems effectively. This competency enables individuals to harness AI’s potential to solve complex problems, enhance productivity, and create innovations.

Why AI Literacy is Imperative

The call for AI Literacy is not an academic luxury; it is an urgent necessity. The “Fourth Industrial Revolution” characterized by the fusion of the digital, biological, and physical worlds, is underpinned by AI. It is transforming industries, reshaping economies, impacting output, and redefining what it means to be a skilled professional. The ‘glass half-empty / half-full’ stats speak volumes:

  • A report by PwC estimates that AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030.
  • According to the World Economic Forum, 85 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labor between humans and machines by 2025, while 97 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to the new division of labor between humans, machines, and algorithms.
  • Up to 30 percent of hours worked in the US economy could be automated by 2030 due to generative AI, which is also expected to enhance the work of STEM, creative, and business professionals.
  • Generative AI could increase US labor productivity by 0.5 to 0.9 percentage points annually through 2030.

The reason to view AI Literacy as an empowering competency is simple: understanding AI, learning about it, and applying it to real-world problems empowers individuals to remain relevant and competitive in this rapidly evolving landscape.


AI Literacy, especially when it is human-centered, is not a panacea for all future challenges, but it is a crucial shield that can safeguard us against obsolescence.

The Urgency of AI Literacy

The urgency to embrace AI Literacy is not merely about staying economically competitive. It is about ensuring that we, as a society, can navigate the ethical and social implications of AI, mitigate biases inherent in AI systems, and ensure that AI advances society equitably. AI Literacy is the linchpin for informed decision-making in a world where AI influences everything from employment to personal privacy to national security. Put into the context of ‘behavioral change,’ or going from learning-to-doing-to-being, AI Literacy has the potential to make significant immediate impact as to how we teach and learn in our schools, produce on our jobs, and succeed in our daily lives.

Potential Funding for AI Literacy

Recently, the White House has codified the importance of AI Literacy, a move that has opened various funding avenues for education and workforce development. With proposed bills and educational grants in the pipeline, these funding buckets are set to provide significant opportunities for innovators, institutions, educators, and individuals who proactively embrace AI Literacy. This governmental support not only underscores AI Literacy’s importance but also ensures that its adoption is not hindered by financial constraints.


How AI Literacy Safeguards Our Future


AI Literacy, especially when it is human-centered, is not a panacea for all future challenges, but it is a crucial shield that can safeguard us against obsolescence. For learners, it means the ability to adapt to new learning paradigms where AI can personalize education and enable solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. For professionals, it implies a collaboration for enhanced job-specific output, efficiency, and quality. For teachers and parents, it involves guiding / facilitating the next generation to be prepared for, and proactive about, the changes AI will bring. For companies, AI Literacy is the cornerstone of innovation, problem solving, and staying ahead of the curve in driving key business objectives.


Imagine a world where every student completes a capstone, cohort-based project applying AI to solve for a real-world Math, Social Studies, ELA, or Science case study. Envision college grads entering the workforce with evidence-based portfolios on how they leveraged and collaborated with AI tools and systems, relative to their major, assuring would-be employers a 3x or greater than traditional output, in order to land their first job. Lastly, picture a company where ALL employees, from mailroom to boardroom, feel empowered (not threatened) and secure about solving job role / function problems utilizing AI, like enhancing customer response times in customer service, shortening sales cycles among sales teams, improving recruiting processes for HR, and enabling most effective board meetings among leadership. This is all possible! And, if you can really see it, this is all available and systemically scalable right now!

A Fast Way Forward

The path to accelerated AI Literacy, and ultimately, a more qualified global talent pool, involves a collective commitment today that includes:

  • Ethical integration of real-world, AI topics, tools, and experiential learning into K-12 and higher education curricula.
  • Providing professional development focused on AI Literacy for educators.
  • Ensuring access to AI learning resources for all, regardless of socioeconomic status.
  • Encouraging the development of critical and ethical thinking about AI.
  • Cultivating a mindset of lifelong learning to adapt to AI’s continuous evolution.
  • Systemic, purposeful application across K12, Higher Education institutions, and workforce.
  • Scalable, evidence-based systems that authentically prove AI Literacy across lifelong learners.

A Call to Action

This is a rallying call for all lifelong learners to embrace AI with the utmost urgency. Let us not be passive observers of the AI revolution but active participants shaping its trajectory. Let us democratize AI knowledge, dispel fears through understanding, and drive innovation through application. The future is not written; it is built by our collective actions today. Let us build it with AI Literacy at the core.

Conclusion

AI Literacy is the bridge between the human intellect and artificial intelligence. It is what will enable us to not only coexist with AI but to thrive alongside it. As we stand at this pivotal moment, let us choose to empower ourselves with the knowledge and skills that will define the 21st Century. Let us choose to be AI Literate.

About the author

Angelo Biasi is an EdTech/WorkforceTech Leader/Founder/Coach who has committed most of his career to transforming teaching and learning on a global scale. He recently acquired the award-winning Solvably, a collaborative, creative problem-solving platform for lifelong learners, and released AI Centers of Excellence for K12, Higher Ed, and Corporate Talent to support “AI Literacy for ALL”. For more, visit: www.angelobiasi.com and www.solvably.com.

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