In the week that saw a computer with artificial intelligence defeat a human grandmaster at the chess-like game Go, students have predicted that teachers would be among the jobs to be replaced by robots in 50 years’ time.
A survey of 1,300 girls showed the fourth most popular choice among 11 and 12-year-olds was that robots would be “replacing or helping teachers” in the classroom by 2066. Robots would also be “helping with homework” the students said.
The poll, conducted by the UK private schools group, the Girls’ Schools Association, also revealed that young people believed that robots would be performing humanitarian, caring and medical roles, as well as working as drivers, journalists and shop assistants.
Talia, a pupil at Channing School in London, evoked a scenario that some teachers might already recognise after a long day.
"I think they will look like humans on the outside but are a piece of machinery on the inside," she said. "They will have built-in feelings for whan a child is upset about something. They will also be good at telling off if needed.
"They will know the answer to everything because they will have Google inside their heads."
She added that the teachers would have "very good fashion sense" and children would look up to them because they would be "so kind and friendly".
"I think they will also have a great sense of humour," Talia continued. "Their voice will be tuned to a human voice and they won’t just smile with their mouth, they will also smile with their eyes."
Caroline Jordan, president of the GSA, said asking what robots would be doing in the future was "a great way to stimulate pupils’ thinking around philosophy, economics, design and moral issues as well as the science itself".
Rage against the machine
The survey comes after educational commentators have complained that teachers are already becoming like machines as a result of heavy workload and the pressures high-stakes testing.
High-tech interventions in the classroom, including in-ear remote coaching – also known as “bug in ear” technology – have been accused of making teachers "more like robots".