As technology continues to advance, there has been a growing fear that Artificial Intelligence (AI) might develop its own free will and turn on its creators, but while this is an unlikely scenario, the recent popularity of ChatGPT is proof that AI is taking over the world in its own way. So far, AI has devalued the work of artists and created a fear that it might replace people in their jobs. It has also become an easy tool for students and the latest headache for teachers. The former two require whole different conversations altogether, so this article will mostly focus on AI in an academic setting.
While using AI to write your papers or essay answers is a form of academic dishonesty, it shouldn’t be completely dismissed as a detriment to learning. AI is likely going to be a fixture of our everyday lives in the future, so it wouldn’t be practical to fight it when you can use it to your benefit without outright cheating.
AI as a search engine. Researching could be both time-consuming and frustrating, especially if it’s about an unfamiliar topic because it requires you to look through hundreds of search results and read multiple articles to get the gist. Treating AI as a search engine simplifies the process because it can provide you with a detailed overview of everything you need to know about the topic. It alo remembers your previous conversations with it, so you can simply ask follow up questions without having to retype the details you mentioned before. However, it’s still important to cross check the information through legitimate sources because there are cases where AIs provide wrong information. It might seem like extra work, but the point of using AI as a search engine is to give you all the preliminary information and help you narrow down your search.
AI as a summary tool. Ideally, students should read all the materials assigned to them by the professor, but since each student is likely taking 5-7 subjects per semester, readings tend to pile up. But rather than not reading the material altogether, you can use AI to summarize the text and highlight the important points. This is especially helpful if you’re writing a research paper, since you wouldn’t have to read through a 50 page PDF just to provide a source for one sentence.
AI as a proofreader. Rather than using AI to write the entirety of your paper (which is plagiarism by the way), you can paste parts of your paper to an AI software and ask it to fix spelling mistakes and provide suggestions on how to improve your writing. This way, AI can serve as a helping hand rather than do all your work for you because you can surely write a better paper than a robot, even if you aren’t that confident with your writing abilities.
AI as an email-writing assistant. Instead of spending 15 minutes wording out an email that should have taken only 5 minutes to write because you’re overthinking your word choice and wondering if it sounds polite enough, AI can save you some time. There are plenty of AI tools that can make writing emails more efficient, whether it’s by providing a template or generating a personalized email, and you can use your extra time to overthink about something else (like your assignments).
Using AI to write papers is plagiarism. One of the features that distinguishes AIs from ordinary chatbots is that it’s capable of “deep learning” and can provide highly personalized responses. But just because it’s personalized doesn’t mean it’s original, since AI pools all its information from the internet and would sometimes directly quote from articles. It can provide sources when you ask for them, but the links are usually outdated and non-existent, so even if you paraphrase an AI-written work, there’s no reliable way to cite the source it used. Even if certain AI softwares claims that it’s not detectable, AI writing sometimes doesn’t sound human and may raise suspicions from your teachers, so it’s best not to submit AI generated papers and run the risk of being accused of plagiarism.
It may provide false information. Some may say that AIs are becoming more human because of its ability to deep-learn, but in this case, AI behaves similar to humans because of its tendency to be people-pleasers. It’s not always able to provide the answers you are looking for, and there are times when it would admit that, but there are also times where it would reinforce your point even if it doesn’t have the facts to support it. AIs are also prone to “hallucinations,” which means it can make up news articles, scientific data, or even historical figures and events. It may also generate biased answers based on the information it found on the internet or on the data that was used to train the AI.
It can lead teachers to think that an AI was used write an assignment. There’s a video circulating online that advises teachers to ask AIs to identify whether a student’s work is written by an AI. However, the problem with this is AIs can claim it wrote anything, especially if a student pasted parts of their paper to the AI software. So while students shouldn’t use AI to write their papers, teachers shouldn’t rely on AI to check papers and instead use external AI detectors like Turnitin.
Over-reliance on AI can lead to a decline in critical thinking. Our generation is already too reliant on technology. We cannot put our phones down for more than a few minutes, we won’t survive more than a day without wifi connection, and there are times when we would rely on the GPS even if we already know where we’re going. While using AI could be a way to study smarter and not harder, it might take away from the learning process of the students, since they can easily use AI to generate answers or summarize readings for them.
AI is an inevitable part of our future, and while it is often antagonized in the academic setting for understandable reasons, it shouldn’t be treated as something that is inherently bad. There are ways where it can enhance learning but also ways where it can impede critical thinking. It highly depends on how you use it.
This article only touches the surface level of what AIs are capable of, and while it talks about the benefits and dangers of AI in terms of education, it’s also important to read about how AI is harmful to artists, writers, and basically anyone in the creative field.