Launched in November 2022, Chat GPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) bot that has taken the world by storm. On the Colleges’ campus, faculty and students feel concerned, confused, and conflicted over Chat GPT’s influence on academia
Despite its seemingly recent entry into public consciousness, AI bots such as Chat GPT are not new. Assistant Professor of Media and Society Jiangtao Harry Gu ’13, who has conducted research on artificial intelligence, says that “The idea of ‘artificial intelligence’ is not new. As early as the 1920s, when we were thinking about robots, we already thought about how the robotic mind can be analogous to the human mind. This is reflected in Raoul Hausmann’s sculpture Mechanical Head (1920) and Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis (1927).”
Professor Gu goes on to say that AI bots such as Chat GPT have shone light on the concept of “machine learning” versus “deep learning.” By utilizing machine learning, Chat GPT is able to gather a plethora of information on a subject, and then attempt to write in a way similar to the human mind.
Chat GPT has impacted the way that both faculty and students from HWS teach and learn, especially as it pertains to student writing. “It is a challenge because traditionally, college teaching relies so much on writing as a way of assessment. This is also a key part of teaching students how to articulate themselves and express their ideas,” shares Professor Gu.
Additionally, students have been concerned over the way that Chat GPT has shifted their curriculum. “I have heard of some professors opting for in-class exams in lieu of take-home essays,” shares Tanner Tattan ’24, a political science and American studies double major.
However, faculty and students have also been able to find a bright spot in Chat GPT. Professor Gu has been able to see an opportunity for learning in Chat GPT, saying that “The opportunity is that it is a very useful tool. It can educate somebody in terms of what various AIs consider as the ‘common knowledge’ of a given subject matter. But this is also where bias seeps in.” He went on to share how he has integrated Chat GPT into his curriculum by saying, “In my own teaching, I have assignments where students will ask Chat GPT to generate a definition of a particular concept . . . and read this concept as it is understood by the large language model, and then think about where the model got right, and where the model got wrong.”
Additionally, students have reflected that Chat GPT is not as effective as professors and administrators may fear. “Chat GPT has its limits,” says Tattan. “It cannot include quotes or citations, nor conduct the kind of rigorous research that is required of upper-level courses.”
For now, the administrators and faculty at the Colleges can breathe a sigh of relief, as Chat GPT is not seen to be as sophisticated as some may fear. In fact, we as a community may be able to find a bright spot in the new technology provided by Artificial Intelligence.