Learning to code is not a magic bullet: Husic

Politicians jumping on the learning to code bandwagon are being short-sighted, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic has said.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor on
(Image: APH)

When contemplating the jobs of the future, politicians too often reach for teaching children how to code as the be-all and end-all in the years to come, Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic told an Australian Computer Society (ACS) meeting last night.

"Everyone keeps going: 'When we code, when we get all these kids to learn how to code, bingo! Everything is going to be safe'," Husic said.

"And I just don't have the heart to say to some of my colleagues, artificial intelligence and machine learning, what that will do in terms of software development down the track means coding is good to know, but it's not going to be the safety hatch you all make it out to be."

Rather than pushing coding in and of itself, the shadow minister said greater prominence should be given to problem solving, creativity, and incorporating arts into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) focus.

Husic warned against assuming certain occupations will be safe from the threat of AI because we require human creativity.

"I'll tell you what, once empathy is built into AI, what will that do to jobs?" he said. "There are now software and robots that are doing their own paintings or composing their own music.

"We should not be so arrogant to think that some of these things ... can just be left alone. It is the a big challenge longer-term, which I think deserves more and more thought."

In June, a House of Representatives committee recommended that the government work with higher education providers to increase the quantity and quality of the STEM graduates from higher education, and similarly implement better teacher training to ensure they are equipped with the knowledge to pass onto children.

The report said the committee is concerned participation in STEM education at the secondary school level has declined significantly over the past two decades, particularly for female students, and is equally concerned that Australian students' mathematical literacy skills have been in general decline.

On Thursday, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Konbini that if he were a 10-year-old French student, it would be more important to learn how to program than to learn to speak English.

"I'm not telling people not to learn English in some form," he said. "[Coding] is a language that you can express yourself to 7 billion people in the world.

"Coding should be required in every public school in the world."

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