Sebastian Conran makes a convincing case for why Artificial Intelligence (AI) coding is the future and why STEM education needs to foster the next generation of imaginative software engineers. Better yet, he explains how.

In the future, there will be a demand for more and more AI coding to run our cities, the NHS (the UK’s National Health Service) and the devices we use in our home for housework, security, homeworking and entertainment. The amount of coding required is exponentially increasing as the demands of the systems required to support modern life increase. Here are a few examples of the size of the software used in some showcase technologies of their time and what we commonly need now:

1981 – The Space Shuttle used c.400k lines of code
2011 – The Mars Curiosity Rover uses c.6m lines of code
2021 – A modern car uses over 100m lines of code
Note: the DNA of a mouse can be expressed with 120m lines of code.

Although progressively, much of this coding might be achieved by machine learning, we will still need imaginative software engineers to understand how we can get the best out of the technology of the day and empathy to understand what is needed. To achieve this, we need to educate children today to understand and use coding creatively, so that they can excel in the jobs of the future, control and understand the world around themselves when tomorrow comes.

Whilst AI coding is not a curricular activity yet, there are robotics hobby clubs springing up all over the world, where communities are sharing their curiosity, creativity and ideas with each other. Innovation is the implementation of invention and needs creative thinking to make it successful. This is sort of reminiscent of the tech club community where Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met in the 1970’s and which inspired them to create Apple computers – now the world’s most valuable company and an excellent example of technological innovation.

But how do you stimulate interest in coding in students if it doesn’t come naturally to them, asks Sebastian? It’s true, staring at a screen looking at line after line of code appeals to some more than others. Even the prospect of doing this could easily disengage the most willing of potential future coders.

Well, Sebastian created the solution at Consequential Robotics: MiRo, a petoid robot with both human and animal-like features designed specifically to stimulate curiosity in young children. Because of its emotionally engaging nature, young children (all age groups in fact) can control MiRo by learning to code and programming the MiRo robot to make it perform tasks or ‘tricks’, giving MiRo its own set of unique behaviours and personality.

As a companion robot, MiRo offers its potential new coders an emotionally engaging and fun experience as opposed to coding something that is unrelatable in the real world and, we daresay, boring. Sebastian and Consequential Robotics have provided both the solution to the need for creative coders, but also perfectly demonstrated how creative software engineers can get when given the opportunity to solve real-world problems.

New technological advancements will require creative coders to program them with meaningful and practical uses. These uses may include tackling tomorrow’s problems, where creative technological and social solutions are required to deal with some of the existential threats that face humanity, from environmental sustainability, social care, medicine, farming, transport, the economy to human conflict.

All these areas and more already use AI robotics technology to make them more effective and efficient. Because of this, Sebastian suggests the children of today be taught to learn how these technologies work, rather than expect them to find out for themselves.

About The Author

Sebastian Conran,

Consequential Robotics Co-founder

An engineer at heart, Sebastian has design in the blood. He is passionate about creating thoughtful and elegant products that are satisfying to use. He believes ‘form follows fabrication’ and that one must thoroughly understand how things are to be made and experienced before you put pencil to paper.

As CEO of Consequential Robotics and Sebastian Conran Associates design studio, Sebastian takes a hands-on, down-to-earth approach to all his design projects, sharing his wealth experience and manufacturing expertise with the design team.