Friday, December 09, 2022

The tool becoming the master ...

 An illustration of printed essays arranged to look like a skull

Paul Spella / The Atlantic; Getty

Yours truly has written many articles about AI whether it be takes on the dangers of autonomous weapons or AI becoming a Shakespeare in waiting as the open-ended tech is now everywhere, impacting virtually every endeavor requiring thought including the dreaded college essay, the bane of every student wishing to get into college.

The College Essay Is Dead

Nobody is prepared for how AI will transform academia.

Suppose you are a professor of pedagogy, and you assign an essay on learning styles. A student hands in an essay with the following opening paragraph:

The construct of “learning styles” is problematic because it fails to account for the processes through which learning styles are shaped. Some students might develop a particular learning style because they have had particular experiences. Others might develop a particular learning style by trying to accommodate to a learning environment that was not well suited to their learning needs. Ultimately, we need to understand the interactions among learning styles and environmental and personal factors, and how these shape how we learn and the kinds of learning we experience.

Pass or fail? A- or B+? And how would your grade change if you knew a human student hadn’t written it at all? Because Mike Sharples, a professor in the U.K., used GPT-3, a large language model from OpenAI that automatically generates text from a prompt, to write it. (The whole essay, which Sharples considered graduate-level, is available, complete with references, here.) Personally, I lean toward a B+. The passage reads like filler, but so do most student essays.

The world of generative AI is progressing furiously. Last week, OpenAI released an advanced chatbot named ChatGPT that has spawned a new wave of marveling and hand-wringing, plus an upgrade to GPT-3 that allows for complex rhyming poetry; Google previewed new applications last month that will allow people to describe concepts in text and see them rendered as images; and the creative-AI firm Jasper received a $1.5 billion valuation in October. It still takes a little initiative for a kid to find a text generator, but not for long.

In Convergence, the BRT end statement regarding AI, in terms of art, reads like this. 

Becoming too reliant on any tech is most dangerous, something readily seen when one cannot read and write cursive, thanks to the computer, as the ability to truly understand the past through the lens of cursive becomes tenuous at best.

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
George Orwell/1984

Any questions?

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