High School Leaders Consider the Future of AI with Rise and Equitech Futures

On 9 August 2022, Equitech Futures, in partnership with the Rise Program successfully finished its course on artificial intelligence for 56 Rise global finalists. A venture by Schmidt Futures and the Rhodes Trust, Rise is a talent initiative for high school students around the world to identify 100 outstanding young leaders each year and support them through scholarships and mentoring programs. From over 50,000 applications in its flagship year, Rise selected 500 finalists who were each offered one out of six educational and social impact programs sponsored by Rise.

Equitech Futures offered a course titled ‘Do Robots Dream of Electric Sheep: The Promises and Perils of Artificial Intelligence’ to 56 of these global finalists. Taught by founder Abhilash Mishra, the 5-week intensive course included lectures and a final project in AI innovation. Tony Wang, a finalist from the United States, described his experience with the course as “extremely transformative.” Wang, whose final project was designing an AI system to detect illegal brick kilns in South Asian countries, also talked about the challenging aspects of the course. “There were deep, messy, and stimulating questions posed in this class, and it required true Socratic discussions to probe understanding and innovation.”

The course had students from almost 30 countries, including Turkey, Nigeria, Lithuania, India, Kazakhstan, and Mexico. Gloria Mariwa, a Kenyan finalist, reflected on this global classroom. “Not only did I get to learn about Artificial Intelligence, but I also got to meet and work with people from all over the world,” she said. Tony too expressed his excitement at getting to join “an incredible community of AI innovators.”

Gloria learned much from a workshop led by Chief Community Officer Thomas Murray to help the students with their final presentations. Each student in the course had to record a 3-minute video presenting their idea for an AI intervention for a social issue. “The most challenging aspect was that I am a bit shy as a person,” said Gloria, “but in the specialized class, I learned skills that I will undoubtedly integrate into my future presentations.”

Both Mariana and Tony also spoke of how the course helped expand their knowledge of Artificial Intelligence and the different approaches to it. “It is important to understand the technical as well as the ethical aspects of AI – questions of privacy, security, and equality,” remarked Tony, “and I’m so glad this course offered a chance to think deeply about these difficult questions.”

Another student, Mariana Isabel González Reyes from Mexico, has been interested in software development and artificial intelligence since she was 12, and she said she chose the course with Equitech Futures because it perfectly fit her interests. “I learned something new every day, because I was so used to seeing AI from a technical perspective, and this course introduced me to practical understandings of the process,” she reflected. “It also helped me acknowledge the risks of AI, and why it is important for humans to ethically take into account the purpose of the system we’re constructing.”

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