There is no shortage of articles about the benefits, concerns, and opportunities that artificial intelligence or artificial intelligence presents to the future of civilization. Just do a simple Google search or ask a relative of the Bard to sift through a wide range of articles and studies detailing how artificial intelligence could affect the future of any given topic.
After examining these articles, one can conclude that from its ability as an unparalleled work multiplier to its ability to create and edit lines of code, AI is here to stay – not just a passing technological wonder like LaserDisc or Betamax.
In terms of its historical significance, the yearning to integrate AI across a variety of industries is like printing a Gutenberg Bible. However, unlike the printing press, which ushered in the era of mobile genre and the consistent growth of independent critical thought, AI presents a direct threat to thought, especially because of its historical timing.
Journalist Johann Hari recently published a book called “Stolen Focus” Where he argues that the sensational use of social media, especially by the younger generations, has resulted in students being unable to maintain a deep focus on complex topics. As a result of growing up in an era when they are constantly distracted by screens, students have experienced a sharp decline in logical thinking and critical writing skills, both of which require a great deal of sustained focus to learn how to develop.
It’s easy to blame this decline in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and distance learning. However, most teachers agree that students’ ability to think critically and write was in decline prior to 2019, and that the pandemic has only exacerbated these problems because of how much teachers need to rely on technology to teach students.
Look at the results of the National Assessment of Education Progress A test in both mathematics and reading. Achievement scores in both categories have been relatively flat or declining since 2008. This decline, along with the use of distance learning technology during the pandemic, has enabled negative habits of social media and smartphones to slowly trickle into the classroom into an avalanche of obstacles at the center of the process. learning.
In the wake of this erosion of student focus, AI finds the perfect prerequisites for rapid uptake, legitimacy, and use by students to fill the void where the logical reasoning and writing skills of previous generations have been. From this moment on, AI will establish a turning point in new learning methods of education. Except for the previous methods that enabled students to develop logical thinking and writing skills, AI will eventually do the thinking and writing for them.
Artificial intelligence will wrest control of critical thinking from generations of learners and cement itself as a homogeneous arbiter of thought. In this scenario, students will be denied the primary purpose of education by becoming static employees of an algorithm.
Some educators view the dawn of generative AI as a new tool for learning that would do writing and thinking what the calculator did and what it does for math. This argument for the universal use of AI in education fundamentally misunderstands the historical timing of AI.
If AI with Bard or ChatGPT capabilities had appeared before 2007, this argument might be more valid. Prior to 2007, social media pretty much didn’t exist and as a result, many students had fewer distractions to deal with and had fewer bad technology habits to deal with with AI. As a result, the students would have developed independent critical thinking and writing skills before they interacted with the AI. Such interactions could have been used to supplement and extend these independently cultivated skills.
It’s easy to get lost in anxiety when new technologies replace old patterns of thinking and doing. Even Socrates believed that the invention of writing would eliminate thinking because it would cause everyone to forget what they wrote because they did not have to remember their thoughts. Socrates was wrong about the effect of writing on thinking. Historically, the written word has proven to be the most powerful vector of knowledge and has led to the spread of human ingenuity.
While Socrates’ example illustrates the unfounded anxiety many feel when new technologies emerge, it is only a small understanding of the ever-present subtle threat that artificial intelligence poses to independent critical thought.
At present, generative AI is in its least capable form. Therefore, the argument that “artificial intelligence can’t do x, y, and z” is moot. GPT-4 has already passed clinical tests. What will he be able to do in 10 years? Are we looking forward to a future where students are unable to tell the difference between information and disinformation because they have relied on AI to evaluate evidence for them? It’s not worrisome to assume a near future where this would be the norm for students, especially since most of them had their ability to maintain focus crippled by social media.
New Hampshire Teacher of the Year Recent finalist Jennifer McLeod noted that education is approaching its ‘dark days’ with the onset of generative AI in the classroom. These days may come, and teachers need to learn to live and teach with generative AI as another tool in their toolboxes. However, learning to live with generative AI will establish a paradigm shift in education and how students learn to think, and it may not be for the best.