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This Robot Is Trying to Get Into College

The Todai Robot artificial intelligence system is trying to clear the University of Tokyo entrance exam

smithsonian.com

Robots are, or soon will be, taking our jobs. Some of our jobs, at least. Robots are already working the factory floor on a grand scale, and newer generations are edging in elsewhere: they're stocking shelves, doing construction and slinging drinks. Robots are also showing up in less seemingly robot-friendly industries, like acting, stand-up comedy and journalism. They're even threatening to usurp the workers of the world's oldest profession.

The Todai Robot might be the clearest symbol of this coming shift. It's being built by the Japanese government and partners, and it's designed to be an artificial intelligence system that can pass the grueling University of Tokyo (Todai) entrance exam. 

Rather than trying to accelerate the demise of university-educated workers, the project's goal is actually more forward thinking. The Kyodo news agency recently interviewed Noriko Arai, the project director, about the Todai robot:

[E]ach time people lose their jobs due to advances in artificial intelligence technologies, they will have to seek education and vocational training in completely new fields.

"If society as a whole can see a possible change coming in the future, we can get prepared now,” she said.

If this robot can pass the same standardized test prospective students would need to, it will show that even jobs that require a university education may not be future-proof career options. Arai and her team hope to have cleared the Todai test by 2021. “If they succeed, she said, such a machine should be capable, with appropriate programming, of doing many — perhaps most — jobs now done by university graduates,” says the New York Times. The idea is to prepare ahead: If you're going to be retraining anyway, may as well pick a more robot-proof industry.

So far, the artificial intelligence system is doing pretty well at multiple choice math and science questions. The real hurdle will be the essay section. (Isn't it always?)

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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