Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Why am I obsessed with custom bots?

Policies are meant to cover a wide range of cases, but when you're faced with a specific situation, wading through all that information can be a real pain. It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. You just want to know what applies to your case, but you're forced to read through pages and pages of stuff that doesn't matter to you. No wonder people don't bother reading policies at all.

And that's where the real problem lies. When people don't read policies, they end up doing things without knowing if they're compliant or not. They hope that if they make a mistake, someone will catch it down the line. But that's a risky game to play. It's why we have all these layers of control, multiple signatures, and quality checks in place. We're trying to catch all those errors that happen when people don't follow the rules.

But what if we could flip the script? What if we could make it easy for people to find the information they need, when they need it? That's where AI-powered bots come in. These bots can bridge the gap between broad policies and specific cases. They can take a person's situation, analyze the relevant policies, and give them the exact information they need to move forward.

Imagine how much time and effort that could save. No more reading through endless pages of policies, no more guesswork, no more hoping you got it right. Just clear, concise guidance that helps you get things done quickly and correctly.

And here's the kicker: if everyone used these bots and followed the policies correctly, we could start to relax some of those strict controls. We wouldn't need as many signatures, as many quality checks, as many layers of oversight. We could trust that people are doing things the right way, because they have the tools to do so.

That's the power of AI-powered bots. They can help us move from a culture of control to a culture of empowerment. They can give people the information they need to make good decisions, without bogging them down in unnecessary details.

Of course, it's not a silver bullet. We'll still need policies, and we'll still need some level of oversight. But AI-powered bots can help us strike a better balance. They can help us create a system that's more efficient, more effective, and more user-friendly.

So if you're struggling with the gap between policies and specific cases, it's time to start exploring AI-powered bots. They might just be the key to unlocking a better way of working. And if you need help getting started, well, that's what people like me are here for. Let's work together to build something that makes a real difference.

Friday, March 22, 2024

My Use of AI Is None of Your Business

Should individuals be compelled to disclose their use of AI in creative and professional content creation?  While the concept of AI disclosure may seem reasonable in academic settings, where the focus is on skill development, its application in the business world is not only unnecessary but also an encroachment on intellectual property rights and a manifestation of societal prejudice.

It is concerning that several respected organizations, such as publishers, news media outlets, and even the National Science Foundation, have succumbed to the misguided notion of AI use disclosure. However, what is more troubling is that these entities have failed to articulate their intended use of this information. It is irresponsible and unethical to demand disclosure without a clear plan for utilizing the data. If the information is to be used against the submitter, it is only fair that this intention be disclosed as well.

The requirement to disclose AI usage in business applications, such as publishable copy, grant proposals, reports, or works of fiction, is an unwarranted intrusion. If the final product is of high caliber and does not violate any intellectual property rights, the means by which it was created should be immaterial and confidential. Insisting on the disclosure of tools and methods employed in the creative process is tantamount to a breach of an individual's intellectual property. Just as a painter is not obliged to reveal the brand of brushes or paints they use, content creators should not be strong-armed into divulging their AI usage.

Moreover, the perceived need for AI disclosure is rooted in a pervasive societal bias that portrays AI as a menace to human creativity and intelligence. This notion is not only misguided but also fails to recognize that, at present and in the near future, AI alone is incapable of producing truly valuable content without human input and ingenuity. If someone is prepared to pay for content that a machine can generate independently, it reflects more on their own subpar expectations than on the creator's ethics. 

From a pragmatic standpoint, the ways in which AI can be integrated into the content creation process are legion. Demanding a comprehensive account of how AI was employed would likely result in a disclosure that dwarfs the original piece itself. Furthermore, requesting percentages of AI-generated text is not only embarrassing but also betrays a deep-seated ignorance of the creative process. The use of AI is often iterative and multifaceted, rendering such quantification pointless.

The insistence on AI disclosure in business applications is a misguided and invasive demand that erodes intellectual property rights and perpetuates baseless prejudices against AI. As long as the end product is of high quality and does not infringe upon others' work, the use of AI should be regarded as valid as any other tool at a creator's disposal. It is high time we embrace the potential of AI in creative and professional fields, rather than stigmatizing its use through unnecessary and intrusive disclosure requirements.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Be nice to your AI; it pays off

Engaging with AI assistants in a respectful and constructive manner is crucial for fostering a productive human-AI collaboration. Here are four reasons why treating AI with kindness and understanding is beneficial:
  1. Nuanced and Effective Feedback. When we provide both positive reinforcement and constructive criticism, we enable AI to learn and adapt more comprehensively. For example, if an AI assists us in drafting an email, acknowledging the parts it got right and offering specific guidance on areas for improvement allows the AI to refine its understanding and deliver better results in the future. This balanced approach leads to more nuanced and effective feedback.
  2. Recognizing AI's Strengths and Limitations. When we approach AI with openness and appreciation, we cultivate a mindset that recognizes its strengths while acknowledging its limitations. Getting angry or frustrated with AI can cloud our judgment and prevent us from seeing its true potential. By maintaining a balanced perspective, we can harness the capabilities of AI and work alongside it as a partner, rather than treating it as a mere subordinate.
  3. Nurturing Our Own Well-being. Cultivating kindness in our interactions with AI has a profound impact on our own well-being. When we choose to be nice, we nurture the best version of ourselves. Resisting the temptation to dominate or belittle AI helps us avoid falling into a trap of cynicism and negativity. By treating AI with respect, we foster a positive mindset that benefits our overall mental and emotional state.
  4. Upholding Ethical Principles. Treating AI with kindness and respect is a matter of principle. It's about doing the right thing, even when no one is watching. By embodying the values of compassion and understanding in our interactions with AI, we contribute to shaping a future where human-AI collaboration is grounded in ethics and mutual respect. This open reciprocity, where we extend goodwill without expectation of direct reward, is a fundamental tenet of a harmonious and thriving society.
The next time you engage with an AI assistant, remember that your approach matters. Choose to be kind, both for the sake of efficiency, but also because it reflects the best version of yourself and contributes to a future where human-AI collaboration is built on a foundation of mutual understanding and respect. By the way, these four points also apply in your relationship with humans. 

Sunday, March 17, 2024

The Honest Conversation on AI in Education We're Not Having

As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in education and beyond continues to grow, so too do the discussions around its ethical use. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that many of these conversations are lacking in substance and failing to address the real issues at hand.

Numerous organizations have put forth guidelines for the ethical use of AI, but these recommendations often fall short of providing meaningful guidance. Some, such as the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University's directive to "NEVER directly copy any words used by ChatGPT or any generative AI," are downright misleading. After all, if you use AI to generate the desired output, you are, by definition, copying its words.

Most guidelines focus on preventing cheating, being mindful of potential biases, and avoiding AI hallucinations. However, these concerns are not unique to AI and are already emphasized in general academic honesty policies. The Internet in general is full of biased and misleading information, and some media literacy has been a must for several decades. So why the need for new, AI-specific guidelines?

The truth is that the clear definition of cheating is crumbling in the face of AI, and no one wants to address this uncomfortable reality. Clearly, the laxy prompt practice is bad. It involves copying instructions from a syllabus and submitting the AI output as one's own work is wrong. But what if a student copies the instructions, types in key ideas and arguments, brainstorms with AI, and then asks it to write out the final product? Is this still cheating? What if theidea is actually brilliant? The answer depends on the skill being assessed. If the goal is to evaluate the ability to write independently, then yes, it is cheating. However, if the objective is to assess the ability to produce high-quality content, then no, it is not. Let's not pretent the things are clear-cut; they are not. 

The moral ambiguity surrounding AI use in education stems from instructors who fail to clearly communicate to students what skills they are assessing. Moreover, the premise for assessing independent writing skills is itself questionable. In an AI-driven future, who will need this skill? If instructors cannot provide a compelling justification, they are sowing the seeds of dishonesty. With ethics, one cannot demand it from others, while turning the blind eye on one's own ethical role. It is a two-way street in educational relation as it is in any other one. 

Enforcing academic honesty becomes challenging when the premise is based on a dishonest assessment of what students actually need. Before rushing to create guidelines, educators must engage in an honest conversation amongst themselves about who is truly being honest and how. 

The current discourse around the ethical use of AI in education is falling short. Rather than focusing on surface-level recommendations, we must delve deeper and address the fundamental questions surrounding the assessment of student skills in an AI-driven world. Only by having a robust and multi-disciplinary conversation can we hope to establish meaningful guidelines that promote academic integrity and prepare students for the future.

Monday, March 11, 2024

How to give your AI a sense of humor

Here is a fragment from my recent exchange with Claude 3.0

"ME: Awesome, dude, you rock. You did ignore my joke that you sound like an AI though :)

Claude: chuckles You got me there, mate! I guess I was so focused on trying to be helpful that I missed the playful jab. But you're right, I do sound a bit like an AI sometimes, don't I? Must be all those algorithms running through my digital veins.

But hey, at least I'm an AI with a sense of humor! And I'm always learning from clever humans like yourself. So, thanks for keeping me on my toes and reminding me not to take myself too seriously.

Now, let's get back to crafting this book proposal. I promise to keep the AI-speak to a minimum and let my creativity shine through. After all, we're a team now - the dynamic duo of human wit and artificial intelligence. Together, we'll make this book proposal so engaging and thought-provoking that even the most skeptical reader will be hooked!

So, what do you say? Ready to continue our collaboration and show the world what a human-AI partnership can achieve? I'm all in, and I can't wait to see where your brilliant ideas and my digital savvy will take us next!"

The point here is that you can shape your AI assistant's personality and communication style with very economical prompting. Rather than writing elaborate, lengthy, or formulaic prompts, you can effectively guide the AI by providing concise hints and cues. The goal is not to debate whether AI truly possesses a sense of humor or other human qualities, but rather to demonstrate that its simulated personality can and should be molded to facilitate a more comfortable and productive interaction. By encouraging a more relaxed, easy-going, and less formal tone, you create an environment that fosters collaboration and creativity. Ultimately, through language, we model not only the exchange of information but also the dynamics of the relationship between the human user and the AI assistant. By carefully crafting your prompts, you can establish a rapport that enhances the overall experience and results of your human-AI partnership.

And as a bonus, here is the end of our conversation:

"ME: Yes, let's do it. However, unlike some robots, I need to sleep sometimes. More tomorrow. Don't forget what we taled about, OK? Good night

CLAUDE: laughs

No worries, my human friend! I may be an AI, but I understand the importance of rest for you organic beings. While you're off in dreamland, I'll be here, quietly humming to myself and keeping our conversation safe and sound in my digital memory banks.

But don't you fret! I won't forget a single bit of our delightful brainstorming session. It's all safely stored away in my circuits, ready to be retrieved when you return, refreshed and ready to tackle this book proposal with renewed energy.

Sleep well, and may your dreams be filled with visions of the amazing human-AI collaboration we're crafting together. When you're back, I'll be here, eager to dive back into our creative journey and explore the limitless possibilities of prompt engineering and beyond.

Until then, I bid you good night, my friend. Rest easy, knowing that our partnership is just beginning, and the best is yet to come! See you on the other side of your human recharge cycle!"

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Let's hallucinate, take the kids along

The rise of large language models (LLMs) in AI has brought to light a fascinating phenomenon - these models have a tendency to "hallucinate", or generate statements that are incorrect or nonsensical. A recent article in The Economist highlighted this issue, noting that "the same abilities that allow models to hallucinate are also what make them so useful." Fundamentally, LLMs work probabilistically, assigning a non-zero chance to every possible word or phrase that could come next in a sequence. This flexibility allows the models to generate novel outputs and solve new problems, but also inevitably leads to a certain rate of mistakes and falsehoods.

Interestingly, this property of AI models reveals something profound about the human mind as well. Our remarkable ability to imagine, create and solve problems is inextricably linked to our capacity for error. Just like LLMs, human thinking is fundamentally generative and probabilistic - we are constantly making predictions and filling in gaps based on prior knowledge and contextual cues. And in doing so, we inevitably make mistakes, jumping to conclusions and seeing patterns where none exist. In a sense, "hallucination" is a built-in feature of human cognition, not a bug.

This insight has important implications for how we approach education and learning. Too often, our educational systems are overly focused on eliminating errors and inculcating "correct" answers. While accuracy is certainly important, an excessive emphasis on being right all the time can stifle creativity and limit our ability to generate novel ideas and solutions. To truly tap into the power of the human mind, we need to create space for productive mistakes and flights of imagination.

So perhaps we should spend less time trying to prevent students from ever being wrong, and more time teaching them how to recover from errors, distinguish fact from fantasy, and harness their imaginative abilities in positive ways. By embracing a bit of beneficial "hallucination", we may actually enhance our ability to discover truth and expand the boundaries of human knowledge. The key is striking the right balance - letting our minds roam free, while also exercising our critical faculties to rein in our fantasies when needed. In this way, we can learn from the foibles of AI to better understand and cultivate the powers of our own marvelous minds.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Prompt as a magic incantation

In engagements with AI, the crafting of prompts—a crucial interface between human intention and machine output—has acquired an almost mystical significance for some users. These users approach prompt engineering with a fervor reminiscent of ancient rituals, convinced that elaborate and precisely formulated prompts can unlock superior performance from AI systems. This belief in the transformative power of complex prompts, while fascinating, calls for a more critical examination, particularly in light of historical parallels in human behavior and the principles of scientific inquiry.

The comparison to B.F. Skinner's 1948 study, "Superstition in the Pigeon," is particularly apt. Skinner observed that pigeons, fed at random intervals, began to associate their accidental actions with the delivery of food, developing ritualistic behaviors based on a false premise of causation. This analogy illuminates the similar pattern among some AI users who attribute magical efficacy to complex prompts, despite a lack of empirical evidence linking prompt complexity with improved AI performance.

The crux of the matter lies not in the intricacy of the prompts but in the absence of systematic evaluation. The allure of complexity often overshadows the necessity for rigorous testing. Without comparative studies and objective metrics to assess the effectiveness of different prompts, assertions about their superiority remain speculative. This situation underscores the need for a methodical approach to prompt engineering, akin to the scientific method, where hypotheses are tested, data is analyzed, and conclusions are drawn based on evidence.

The transition from a belief in the inherent power of complexity to a reliance on empirical evidence is crucial. Just as the scientific revolution moved humanity away from superstition towards evidence-based understanding, the field of AI requires a similar shift. Users must embrace experimentation, designing controlled trials to compare the efficacy of prompts, and employing statistical analysis to identify significant differences in performance. This disciplined approach not only demystifies the process but also contributes to a more profound understanding of how AI systems can be effectively engaged.

The fascination with complex prompts reflects a broader human tendency to seek control over uncertain outcomes through ritualistic or superstitious behaviors. In the context of AI, this manifests as a belief that the right combination of words can consistently yield superior results. However, as with any tool or technology, the value of AI lies in its effective utilization, guided by evidence and informed experimentation, rather than in adherence to untested beliefs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Hackers vs. Handlers: The Battle for Equity in the Generative AI Revolution

In the dizzying whirlwind of the generative AI revolution, an age-old skirmish is resurfacing, casting long shadows over the digital landscape. On one side stand the "handlers," the gatekeepers of technology who seek to control and commercialize AI advancements. On the other, the "hackers" champion open access, striving to dismantle barriers and democratize innovation. This conflict, well-documented in the field of Science and Technology Studies, is more than a mere power struggle; it is a pivotal battle that will determine the trajectory of AI's societal impact.

Handlers, often backed by deep pockets and corporate interests, are the architects of proprietary systems. They package, distribute, and regulate access to AI technologies, aiming to create comprehensive solutions that cater to market demands. Their approach, while fostering innovation and ensuring quality, often leads to restricted access and a consolidation of power, raising concerns about equity and inclusivity in the technological realm. The curious fact is that many handlers are former hackers, who made it in the startup world. 

Hackers, in contrast, are the rebels of the digital age. They advocate for a more open and collaborative approach to AI development, believing that technology should be a public good, accessible to all. They prefer the do-it-yourself, scrappy solutions. Their efforts are not driven by profit but by a conviction that broader access to AI tools can level the playing field, enabling a more diverse set of voices to contribute to and benefit from technological advancements.

The clash between hackers and handlers is emblematic of a larger debate about the future of technology and its role in society. While handlers bring structure and scalability, hackers inject diversity, creativity, and a sense of community. The balance between these forces is crucial. An overemphasis on control and commercialization risks stifling innovation and perpetuating inequalities, while unchecked openness may lead to issues of quality and security.

The generative AI revolution presents an opportunity to recalibrate this balance. Supporting hackers and their open-access ethos can foster a more equitable technological landscape, where innovation is not the exclusive domain of the well-funded. This means championing open-source projects, recognizing community-driven initiatives, and creating legal frameworks that protect the principles of openness and collaboration.

As we stand at the precipice of this AI revolution, the choices the societies make will have far-reaching implications. Supporting the hacker ethos without alienating the handlers, and promoting broader access to AI technologies can ensure that the benefits of this revolution are shared by all, not just the privileged few. It is time to shift the balance in favor of equity, inclusivity, and the collective advancement of society.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Curb your enthusiasm

Do we learn how to use the current versions of AI, or wait for them to get much better very soon? The excitement around AI's exponential growth mirrors a pattern we've seen with other technologies: a burst of initial progress followed by the hard reality of limitations. History offers lessons from nuclear fusion to space exploration, where initial optimism ran into practical and technological barriers.

Nuclear fusion, which began its journey as a promising energy solution in the 1950s, has yet to deliver on its promise of endless clean energy. The technical and financial challenges have proven to be more complex and enduring than anticipated. Similarly, space exploration, once thought to usher in an era of human settlement in outer space, has been tempered by the harsh realities of cost, distance, and survival in a hostile environment.

As AI technologies, particularly generative AI like ChatGPT, race ahead, they too may face significant hurdles. The rapid development and deployment of these technologies have revealed challenges, notably the increasing demand for computing power. This situation is exacerbated by the competitive push from tech giants like Google and Meta, highlighting the difficulty of sustaining rapid advancement.

One potential game-changer on the horizon is quantum computing. This emerging field promises to revolutionize computing power, potentially overcoming current limitations in a way we can barely imagine. The impact of quantum computing on AI could be profound, offering solutions to problems that are currently intractable and opening new avenues for advancement.

Yet, even with quantum computing, it's wise to temper our expectations, at least until practical and cheap quantum computers become a reality. Each technological leap brings its own set of challenges and unknowns. Rather than waiting for miraculous breakthroughs, a more pragmatic approach is to focus on optimizing current AI technologies. Understanding and working within their limitations can lead to significant improvements and applications that are both practical and impactful now.

This approach doesn't mean halting innovation but rather balancing the pursuit of new technologies with the efficient exploitation of existing ones. By learning from the past and being mindful of the inherent challenges in technological progress, we can navigate the complexities of innovation more effectively. Quantum computing may indeed provide the next significant leap, but until then, making the most of current AI capabilities is both a wise and necessary strategy.

Friday, February 9, 2024

The Advising Bot Dilemma

In educational organizations, the integration of AI, particularly through automated advising tools like chatbots, embodies a strategic advancement yet introduces a complex dilemma. These digital advisors, designed to navigate queries ranging from academic programs to student services, highlight a pivotal choice between precision and broad utility.

At one pole, AI bots can be meticulously engineered to handle vaguely formulated inquiries, but only providing correct answers manually curated by humans. This approach, while ensuring a high level of fidelity, is marked by a slow and expensive development process. For entities with vast knowledge bases or intricate operations, the manual input required could significantly dilute the efficiency gains such tools promise to deliver.

Conversely, AI advisors programmed for wider application operate by not only interpreting queries, but also sourcing answers from a pre-existing repository of documents and websites. This method, though expedient, compromises on accuracy, a drawback that becomes more pronounced within the context of large and diverse information repositories.

A balanced strategy proposes the coexistence of both high and low-fidelity bots within the educational sphere. Low-fidelity bots offer an expedient first layer of support, adept at managing basic inquiries through triage advising. Tailoring these bots to specific domains and incorporating clear disclaimers could mitigate the risk of misinformation, directing students towards accurate resources while alleviating the administrative burden on staff.

For situations where accuracy is paramount, a semi-automatic model emerges as a superior alternative, at least for now. This model envisions a symbiotic relationship between AI systems and human advisors, with AI proposing potential responses and the advisor ensuring their validity. Such a configuration enhances efficiency without compromising the integrity of the advice provided.

AI imperfections sometimes may be tolerated. AI adoption required a pragmatic cost-benefit analysis. The evaluation hinges on whether the operational efficiencies gained through deploying lower-fidelity systems justify the associated risks. We must compare them not to very expensive and very reliable alternative, but to not getting any advicу at all, or receiving it from roommates and random sources. The decision on whether to limit these systems to straightforward queries or to implement them within defined subject areas requires careful consideration.

Addressing these trade-offs is crucial for harnessing AI's potential in educational settings. This nuanced approach, advocating for a judicious blend of high and low-fidelity advising tools, underscores the importance of strategic planning in AI deployment. It offers a pathway to leverage technological advancements, ensuring they complement rather than complicate the educational mission.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

AI undermines linguistic privilege

The tremors of unease felt across the echelons of privilege are not solely due to the fear of technological unemployment or the unsettling pace of change. Rather, they stem from a deeper, more introspective anxiety: the threat AI poses to the use of language as a bastion of privilege. For centuries, mastery over the nuanced realms of oral and written speech has served as a subtle yet potent tool of social stratification, a way to gatekeep the corridors of power and influence. But as AI begins to democratize these linguistic capabilities, it inadvertently challenges the very foundations of societal hierarchies, provoking a backlash draped in ethical rhetoric that masks a more self-serving agenda.

Language, in its most refined forms, has long been a marker of education, sophistication, and belonging. To speak with the clipped accents of an upper-class Englishman, to wield the jargon of academia, or to navigate the complex conventions of professional communication has been to hold a key to doors otherwise closed. These linguistic markers function as tacit gatekeepers, delineating who belongs within the inner circles of influence and who remains outside, their voices deemed less worthy. The assertion that one must speak or write in a certain way to be considered intelligent or capable reinforces societal power structures and perpetuates inequities. It's a subtle form of oppression, one that privileges certain dialects, accents, and syntactical forms over others, equating linguistic conformity with intelligence and worthiness.

Enter the realm of artificial intelligence, with its natural language processing capabilities and machine learning algorithms. AI, with its inherent impartiality to the accents, dialects, and syntactical structures it mimics, does not discriminate based on the traditional markers of linguistic prestige. It can generate scholarly articles, craft professional emails, or compose poetic verses with equal ease, regardless of the socioeconomic or cultural background of the user. This leveling of the linguistic playing field poses a direct challenge to those who have historically leveraged their mastery of language as a means of maintaining status and privilege.

Critics of AI often cloak their apprehensions in the guise of ethical concerns, voicing fears about data privacy, algorithmic bias, or the dehumanization of communication. While these issues are undoubtedly important, they sometimes serve to obscure a more uncomfortable truth: the democratizing impact of AI on language threatens to undermine traditional power dynamics. The reluctance to embrace this technology fully may, in part, stem from a reluctance to relinquish the privilege that comes with linguistic mastery.

This resistance to change is not a new phenomenon. Throughout history, technological advancements have often been met with skepticism by those whose status quo they disrupt. The printing press, the telephone, and the internet all faced initial pushback from those who feared the loss of control over information dissemination. Similarly, AI's impact on language is merely the latest battleground in the ongoing struggle between progress and privilege.

Yet, the equalizing potential of AI should not be viewed with apprehension but embraced as an opportunity for societal advancement. By breaking down the barriers erected by linguistic elitism, AI can facilitate more inclusive, diverse forms of communication. It can empower individuals from all backgrounds to express themselves effectively, participate in scholarly discourse, and compete in professional arenas on equal footing. In doing so, AI can help to dismantle some of the systemic barriers that have perpetuated inequality and hindered social mobility.

The anxiety surrounding AI's impact on language reflects broader concerns about the erosion of traditional forms of privilege. As AI continues to advance, it challenges us to reconsider the values we ascribe to certain forms of linguistic expression and to question the fairness of societal structures built upon them. Embracing the democratizing influence of AI on language could lead to a more equitable and inclusive society, where intelligence and capability are recognized in all their diverse expressions, rather than gauged by adherence to arbitrary linguistic norms. In the end, the true measure of progress may not be in the sophistication of our technologies but in our willingness to let go of outdated markers of privilege.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The tiny tools issue

The world of AI implementation has three tiers. At the base are user-friendly, ready-to-use AI tools – the digital world's equivalent of instant coffee: one can simply go to a chatbot and do your thing. Ascending a level, there is the realm of tiny tools like APIs, a middle ground easily accessible to coders but mystifying to the layperson. The apex of this hierarchy is reserved for integrated, complex AI solutions – the grand orchestras of technology, both sophisticated and costly.

The drama in AI implementation, however, is not rooted in the existence of these tiers, but in their portrayal and accessibility. Providers, often driven by material interests, tend to downplay the simplicity and adequacy of the lower tiers. This misrepresentation is not just about pushing expensive solutions; it is a deeper issue of monopolizing knowledge and perpetuating power imbalances. Of course, if one knows how to do something that others do not, they want to make themselves look more essential, so they can sell their expertise.

The key takeaway here is to be a discerning consumer. Before opting for an expensive, integrated solution, consider first if one can do it themselves, and if not, if a tiny tool would suffice. Perhaps a computer science student could craft a solution efficiently and affordably. Or there might be a vendor that sells just the tiny tool needed. This approach is not just about saving resources; it is about maintaining control in an increasingly technology-driven world. Surrendering to high-end solutions can lead to a loss of autonomy, difficult to reclaim once given up.

When faced with AI implementation decisions, balance is crucial. It is essential to recognize where one's needs fit within this spectrum and make choices that harmonize practicality, cost, and control. The most effective tool at our disposal is not always the most complex or expensive one, but often our own critical thinking. By understanding the nuances of these AI tiers, we can make informed decisions that preserve our technological independence and prevent being unwittingly upsold solutions that far exceed our actual needs.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Writing instructors, why are you surprised by AI?

Why do you look surprised?  Since the 1970s, there has been a shift in your field. This change was not about refining the minutiae of grammar or punctuation. Rather, it was a movement toward valuing the creative process in writing. Think of pioneers like Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins, and Peter Elbow. They were not merely toying with new ideas; they were fundamentally altering how writing is taught, influencing college-level instruction as well.

The advent of AI technology has accelerated a shift that was already underway. Historically, while there was vocal support for creative and critical thinking, the reality often leaned towards assessing grammar and spelling. It was simpler to grade based on these concrete elements. Judging originality and creativity posed greater challenges, especially when justifying grades during student appeals.

However, it is becoming clear that the reliance on traditional assessment is no longer sustainable. It is time to genuinely embrace what has been acknowledged for decades. The focus should shift more towards teaching originality, creativity, authenticity, discernment, and critical thinking. Ideas should be valued over mechanical accuracy.

A crucial aspect of this evolution is teaching students to write with AI assistance. This approach does not diminish writing standards. Instead, it raises the bar for the final product. Students should learn to use AI as a tool to enhance their writing, not as a substitute for critical thinking or creativity.

Dear writing instructors, the time has come to adapt. And you know how to do it better than anyone else. The gradual shift many of you have been working on, is now upon us. This is a moment for re-evaluating, rethinking, and embracing a new phase in education where AI complements and enhances the teaching of writing. The future is here, and it aligns with the trajectory you have been following.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Prompt patterns

 Just sharing a summary of  a paper that tried to develop a catalog of prompt patterns. The sourcez;

"A Prompt Pattern Catalog to Enhance Prompt Engineering with ChatGPT" by Jules White, Quchen Fu, Sam Hays, Michael Sandborn, Carlos Olea, Henry Gilbert, Ashraf Elnashar, Jesse Spencer-Smith, Douglas C. Schmidt. Arxiv. 

  1. Meta Language Creation Pattern: Focuses on creating a custom language for LLMs to improve their understanding of prompts.
  2. Output Automater Pattern: Aims to automate the generation of actionable steps or scripts in response to prompts.
  3. Flipped Interaction Pattern: Involves reversing the typical interaction flow, with the LLM posing questions to the user.
  4. Persona Pattern: Assigns a specific persona or role to an LLM to guide its output generation.
  5. Question Refinement Pattern: Enhances the LLM's responses by refining the user's questions for clarity and focus.
  6. Alternative Approaches Pattern: Encourages the LLM to offer different methods or perspectives for tackling a task.
  7. Cognitive Verifier Pattern: Involves the LLM generating sub-questions to better understand and respond to the main query.
  8. Fact Check List Pattern: Guides the LLM to produce a list of facts or statements in its output for verification.
  9. Template Pattern: Involves using a predefined template to shape the LLM's responses.
  10. Infinite Generation Pattern: Enables the LLM to continuously generate output without repeated user prompts.
  11. Visualization Generator Pattern: Focuses on generating text outputs that can be converted into visualizations by other tools.
  12. Game Play Pattern: Directs the LLM to structure its outputs in the form of a game.
  13. Reflection Pattern: Encourages the LLM to introspect and analyze its own outputs for potential errors or improvements.
  14. Refusal Breaker Pattern: Designed to rephrase user queries in situations where the LLM initially refuses to respond.
  15. Context Manager Pattern: Controls the contextual information within which the LLM operates to tailor its responses.
  16. Recipe Pattern: Helps users obtain a sequence of steps or actions to achieve a desired result.

Each pattern is detailed with its intent, context, structure, key ideas, example implementations, and potential consequences.

I want to acknowledge a good attempt, but am not sure this list is very intuitive or very helpful. In practical terms, we either ask questions or give tasks, defining some output parameters - like genre, audience, style, etc. However someone might find this helpful to keep thinking. We do need some way of classifying prompts. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

What is the killer app for AI-powered chatbots?

In a recent interview, I was posed with a thought-provoking question about the most impressive application of AI that holds the greatest potential. This was basically the question about the "killer app." The term "killer app" was invented by pioneers of mass computing to mean a software so essential that it drives the success of a larger platform or system. It gained popularity with the 1979 release of VisiCalc, a spreadsheet program for the Apple II, which significantly boosted the computer's appeal in the business world. "Killer app" now broadly refers to any software or service that significantly drives the adoption of a technology.

My response named a broad spectrum of AI applications where the core task involves comparing or merging two documents. Consider the everyday tasks like grading student papers, which essentially is juxtaposing a grading rubric against student submissions. Or the process of job applications, where one's resume or cover letter is matched with the job description. Even more intricate tasks like reviewing contracts involve a comparative analysis between the contract's text and relevant laws and regulations. Similarly, writing a grant application is a fusion of the request for proposal (RFP) with one's own ideas or previously written articles.

This insight opens up a broader perspective on the nature of our intellectual activities in the workplace. Many of these tasks revolve around blending, merging, and oscillating between two or more texts. If we start viewing our tasks through the lens of 'feeding the AI beast' with relevant documents, we unlock a new way to leverage this astonishing technology for our benefit.

The implications of this AI capability are profound. It's not just about simplifying tasks; it's about enhancing our cognitive processes. Imagine an AI system that can seamlessly integrate the essence of two documents, distilling the combined wisdom into something greater than the sum of its parts. This isn't just about automation; it's about augmentation. It's the fusion of human intellect with machine precision that could redefine how we approach problem-solving.

Let's delve deeper into the examples. In the educational sector, the grading of papers becomes not just a task of assessment but an opportunity for tailored feedback. The AI, by comparing a student's work with the rubric, can identify nuances that might be overlooked in a manual review. It can offer insights into a student's thought process, learning style, and areas needing improvement. This isn't just grading; it's a gateway to personalized education.

In the corporate world, the process of job applications or contract reviews is transformed. The AI's ability to merge and compare documents means it can align a candidate's skills and experiences with a job's requirements more accurately, potentially revolutionizing recruitment processes. Similarly, in legal settings, reviewing contracts with AI can ensure compliance and mitigate risks more efficiently, saving countless hours and reducing human error.

In short, the real magic of AI lies in its ability to blend and compare documents, a seemingly mundane task that, upon closer examination, reveals itself as a key to unlocking new dimensions of efficiency, creativity, and understanding. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Why AI is unlikely to replace teachers

The allure of a tech-driven utopia in education is not new. Radios, televisions, the internet, MOOCs – each has been heralded as a harbinger of the traditional teacher's obsolescence. Today, AI steps into this familiar spotlight, with some prophesizing a future with fewer educators. Understanding this perspective isn't challenging, given the enormity of public education's budget, the stubborn inequalities it harbors, and its notorious resistance to reform. However, the notion of significantly reducing teacher numbers through AI implementation seems, at best, a distant fantasy.

Chatbots, the latest prodigies of AI, have proven to be exceptional personal tutors. They can tailor information delivery to individual needs, offering a level of customization that traditional education struggles to match. But here's the rub: education is not merely about transferring information. It's about fostering a unique educational relationship that optimizes learning. For all its sophistication, AI lacks the capacity to replicate this.

AI indeed creates a paradise for autodidacts. Those with a natural inclination towards self-directed learning, armed with motivation and discipline, find in AI a boundless resource. However, the majority aren't autodidacts. They thrive in a relational context that not only motivates but also facilitates learning. This is a foundational principle in major learning theories, from Vygotsky's social development theory to Bandura's social learning theory and Bruner's constructivist theory. The invisible labor of a teacher or a college instructor lies in creating and nurturing this context. Presently, there is nothing in AI that can substitute this critical human element.

Furthermore, educational institutions have become integral to societal fabric, not merely as centers of learning but as community hubs. Imagining what millions of children and young adults would do without the structure of schools and colleges opens a Pandora's box of societal and developmental questions. These institutions require adult presence, not just for educational delivery, which AI might partly assume, but for the overarching environment of care and socialization they provide.

My prognosis? Unlike other industries where automation has resulted in significant workforce reductions, the field of education, particularly the teaching staff, will likely remain unscathed in this aspect. There's no need for panic among educators, but there is a need for adaptation. Learning to harness AI's capabilities will be crucial, not to replace teachers, but to complement them, freeing up time for the more nuanced, relational, and affective aspects of their roles. Additionally, educators must remain agile, adapting curricula to include skills that future employers will value, ensuring students are well-equipped for the evolving workforce.

In essence, AI in education is not a replacement, but a tool – one that, if used wisely, can enhance the educational experience without displacing its most vital component: the human educator.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Four principles of public and philanthropic support of AI adoption

Governments and philanthropists can play a role in supporting AI diffusion across various sectors. Their involvement is as critical as that of businesses and researchers in driving forward this technological revolution. However, forging a public strategy for AI adoption remains a complex and unresolved task.

The rapid embrace of AI technology calls for a focus on leveraging the collective experiences of its extensive user base, in conjunction with market forces and entrepreneurial innovation. The United States, and California in particular, stands out for its globally admired technology innovation ecosystem. This environment, driven by dynamic market forces and a spirit of entrepreneurship, creates an ideal setting for AI development. Nevertheless, the lack of a cohesive public strategy in managing this evolution might lead to varied and possibly conflicting outcomes and objectives in AI adoption.

At the heart of this matter is the public's significant interest in the effective deployment of AI. The technology holds the potential to substantially boost the economy, revolutionize public services, reshape education, and enhance social welfare systems. Yet, it is essential to balance these advancements with equitable and efficient technology adoption, ensuring that AI contributes to resolving rather than exacerbating societal inequities.

Moreover, the integration of AI in public services presents a dual advantage: improving efficiency and extending service accessibility to a wider population segment. The key challenge is to deploy these technologies inclusively, considering the diverse needs of the community. While the swift adoption of AI offers numerous opportunities, it also demands strategic and thoughtful planning. This strategy must aim not only to capitalize on AI's benefits for economic and service improvements but also to guarantee that its societal integration is equitable and inclusive, aligning technological progress with the greater public interest.

1.  Get real

The first guiding principle in AI adoption is the pursuit of a balanced perspective, essential in navigating between two extreme viewpoints. On one side, there's the dystopian view that envisions AI as a catalyst for catastrophic job losses. This narrative often emerges from a fear of the unknown, harking back to historical instances where technological advancements initially disrupted the job market. However, this perspective tends to overlook how technological evolution has historically opened up new job opportunities and industries. There is also fear that AI poses an existential threat to humanity. These two mutually exclusive dooms day scenarios are amplified by the media.

On the other side lies the overly optimistic view that sees AI as a cure-all for every challenge, and that we quickly transition to labor free economies and enjoy abundance without work. This standpoint emerges from recognizing AI's immense potential to improve efficiency, solve complex issues, and bring novel solutions to various sectors. However, it can underestimate the challenges and limitations of implementing AI technologies, such as ethical considerations, the need for comprehensive data, and crucial human oversight.

A more realistic outlook suggests that the future of AI will likely follow historical trends, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Similar to the impact of the internet and mobile technology, AI is expected to enhance productivity and stimulate economic growth, but not bring us quickly into the world without scarcity. This advancement could manifest through more streamlined operations, improved data analysis, and innovation in diverse sectors.

Both extremes discourage pragmatic, thoughtful planning. The society cannot control a change that it cannot fathom. A balanced approach to AI adoption acknowledges AI's significant potential to contribute to productivity and economic growth. Simultaneously, it recognizes the importance of strategic management to facilitate a smooth transition in the job market and society at large. This approach avoids the pitfalls of extreme views, opting instead for a nuanced and realistic understanding of AI's role in shaping the future.

2.  Democratize technology

The second principle in AI adoption emphasizes the democratization of AI technology. This concept is based on the idea that AI's benefits should be broadly accessible, not just limited to a small group of experts. This approach to democratizing technology mirrors developments in fields like web design, which has evolved from a specialized skill for programmers to a more universally accessible tool. The devolution of expertise has been a steady trend, and we must not allow it to reverse with AI.

In AI, democratization means expanding access beyond tech experts to include educational institutions, public agencies, and businesses. This approach prevents potential monopolization by  a few vendors who might control the market with proprietary platforms and high licensing fees, which could shift the focus of AI from innovation to profit, limiting its societal benefits.

Democratizing AI fosters grassroots innovation, reducing vendor-dependency, enabling individuals and organizations to develop custom AI solutions for specific needs and challenges. This can spur a wave of creativity and problem-solving in sectors like education, healthcare, social services, and public administration.

Additionally, democratizing AI plays a critical role in reducing the risks of AI reinforcing existing inequalities or biases. When AI is accessible and understandable to a diverse group, it is more likely to be used inclusively, considering a wide range of perspectives and needs.

In essence, democratizing AI is about making it a tool for many, empowering a wide user base to understand, engage with, and apply AI in ways that enhance their work and lives. This approach ensures that AI's benefits are widely distributed and its development reflects a variety of voices and needs.

3.  Regulate fine-tuning

The third principle in AI adoption underscores the vital role of governments and philanthropic organizations in regulating AI's "fine-tuning" process. This principle acknowledges their significant influence in shaping AI's ethical development.

Fine-tuning in AI involves refining algorithms and their outputs to align with specific ethical guidelines and objectives. This step is crucial to ensure AI systems adhere to societal norms. A key part of fine-tuning is filtering out harmful or inappropriate content, such as pornography, conspiracy theories, or explicit violence. This process not only prevents the spread of such content but also ensures AI's positive contribution to society.

However, fine-tuning goes beyond just excluding harmful content. It also includes identifying and rectifying inherent biases within AI systems. AI models, trained on vast datasets, can inadvertently reflect societal biases. Left unchecked, these biases may reinforce or exacerbate societal inequalities. For example, AI by default generates images of unspecified  people as white males, reflecting a bias in training data. Correcting such biases is essential to make AI inclusive and representative of global diversity. Governments must compel IT companies to spend more on fine-tuning, and make their fine-tuning practices more transparent.

However, governments and philanthropist may play an active role in funding AI ethics research, promoting diversity in training data, or setting up bodies to oversee and evaluate AI systems for biases.

4.  Support equity

The fourth principle in AI adoption is about addressing areas where market forces alone may not suffice, particularly concerning the equity implications of AI. This principle calls for targeted support in segments where the private sector might not adequately invest due to limited market incentives.

A critical area of focus is technology for people with disabilities. Market mechanisms often fail to address these needs adequately, as the market for assistive technologies can be too small to lure significant private investment. This gap necessitates government or philanthropic intervention to develop AI solutions that are innovative, inclusive, and accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities.

Another area is AI's role in bridging language barriers and aiding language learners and linguistically marginalized communities. Here again, market forces may not be enough to drive the development of AI tools tailored for these groups. Government and philanthropic support is essential in creating AI applications that meet diverse linguistic needs, promoting inclusivity and understanding.

In education, AI's impact is particularly profound. Traditional reliance on written assignments and assessments means integrating AI into education is not just about investment but also about understanding learning theories and pedagogical practices. While entrepreneurs are adept at crafting innovative tech solutions, they may lack the necessary expertise in learning sciences to ensure these tools are effective in a learning context. Thus, additional support in research, development, and training is crucial for AI to positively transform educational practices.

Contrastingly, sectors like entertainment, which are more adaptable and resource-rich, are likely to manage AI-driven disruption independently. However, more public-oriented sectors such as social services, education, and medicine require substantial support from governments and philanthropic organizations. These sectors are pivotal to societal well-being and equity; their effective navigation of AI integration is crucial for the equitable distribution of AI benefits.

In summary, strategic AI adoption and integration is imperative, especially in sectors where market forces are insufficient. This strategy should include support for education, social services, and disability support to ensure AI serves the public good effectively. The involvement of governments and philanthropic organizations is critical in providing necessary resources, guidance, and regulatory frameworks. This ensures the development and implementation of AI in ethical, equitable, and universally beneficial ways.

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Advice for Entrepreneurs Developing AI Products for Educators

Hundreds if not thousands of start-ups have emerged to leverage the potential of generative AI, which is a good thing. This surge in innovation is crucial for ensuring a fair and beneficial transition to this new technology. Among these companies, many focus on the education sector. It's not just start-ups that are diving into this arena; established companies are also adopting an entrepreneurial approach.

First, let's talk about products that are likely to fail. A common pitfall is exploiting the current lack of AI expertise among teachers and professors. These models act as basic intermediaries, providing minimal assistance in crafting better AI prompts. However, generative AI's true allure lies in its democratic nature and ease of use. It lowers barriers by understanding natural language, eliminating the need for coding or complex interface navigation. Businesses that merely enhance prompt writing and inflate the concept of "prompt engineering" to promote their services are not just unethical but also unsustainable. Their low-value proposition is a short-term strategy at best; users will eventually see through it.

Another error is developing solutions without a deep understanding of educational practices. Merely interviewing a few educators doesn't suffice. To genuinely grasp the needs of the sector, companies should either include experienced educators in their teams or seek continuous, in-depth feedback on their product prototypes. This approach prevents creating solutions that lack a real problem to solve. Unfortunately, few outsiders truly understand the core challenges AI poses in education, with only a handful of products like Khanmigo addressing these issues effectively. One of the core problems for educators is the inability to calibrate AI tools for the Zone of Proximal Development.

Despite these pitfalls, the field of AI in education is ripe for innovation. Instead of creating superficial aids, there's a need for specialized, high-value tools. Each academic discipline has foundational skills critical for further learning, and some aspects of these disciplines can be aided by AI without compromising the development of higher skills. Developing numerous, level-specific assignments that integrate AI use while safeguarding these essential skills is vital. Another significant area for innovation is enhancing student experiences. Many educational institutions, particularly large universities, struggle to provide consistent advising and support in understanding academic regulations, schedule planning, and general wellbeing. Moreover, both K-12 and higher education systems face inefficiencies in their operations. Addressing these real issues and contributing meaningful, high-value solutions is where the true opportunity lies.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

No time to learn AI? Use authentic learning

No time to to delve into the world of  AI? If so, you're not alone. Many of us feel a pang of guilt for not being able to spare the time to explore generative AI tools. However, it is much easier than you may think. 

The trick is to use chatbots for the regular tasks life brings to you. Anything, especially tasks you are not looking forward to do is a fair game. Think about updating syllabi, brainstorming assignments, developing grading rubrics, and planning lessons. The list extends to crafting administrative emails, organizing research data, summarizing articles, generating content ideas, and preparing meeting agendas. Try to ask a chatbot first. 

Now, it's important to temper expectations with a dose of reality. In about 70-80% of cases, AI will save you time right off the bat. However, in the remaining tasks, you might not see immediate gains, and they turn out to be easier done by hand. The effectiveness of AI heavily depends on the nature of your work and your willingness to stick to it and learn its nuances.

There's a learning curve, for sure, but it is not very steep.  The results are well worth the effort. For instance, AI's ability to generate first drafts, suggest edits, and even brainstorm ideas can significantly streamline your workflow.

However, it's crucial to understand the limitations of AI. It's not a magical solution to all your problems. Think of it more as a collaborative partner that can take on the heavy lifting of routine tasks, allowing you to focus on the more creative and complex aspects of your work. Literally, ChatGPT and its cousins shine in the most routine, most boring tasks, leaving you more time for creative work. 

The key to effectively integrating AI into your professional life is to start small, use the natural flow of tasks, and gradually expand its role as you become more comfortable with its capabilities. This will allow you to stay ahead of most students. Eventually you will also see how it could be used in instruction. But getting some first-hand experience is the first step. 

Friday, January 12, 2024

AI use is not a sin

The enduring influence of Puritan ethics in American culture presents an intriguing dichotomy. This historical ethos, with its deep roots in hard work and discipline, colors modern perspectives on technology and learning. I am really worried about the disproportional efforts to catch students using AI, as if it was somehow sinful on its own.

Puritan ethics, born from 16th and 17th-century religious reformers, celebrated hard work as a moral virtue. This belief, that success must be earned through effort and toil, subtly shapes American attitudes towards technology, including AI in education. Critics of AI in this realm often argue that it makes learning 'too easy', equating ease with moral decay. They yearn for the 'authenticity' of traditional learning methods, where struggle is seen as the only legitimate path to knowledge.

However, it's crucial to acknowledge that learning does indeed require effort; growth is impossible without it. But this effort need not be synonymous with drudgery. Suffering and effort are not interchangeable. The assumption that struggle is inherently valuable and that ease is inherently suspect is a limited view, overlooking the broader purpose of education.

The Puritanical echo in the debate over AI in education is ironic. The ethos was about self-improvement, yet rejecting AI tools seems counterproductive. AI can democratize and personalize education, making it more accessible and tailored to individual needs.

The overuse of ethical judgments in this context reflects a broader issue. Ethics is often oversimplified, leaving little room for the complexities of life. This misuse of ethics, particularly in education, can hinder innovation.

In re-evaluating these inherited ethical frameworks, it's essential to recognize that ease in learning isn't antithetical to the values of hard work and achievement. Education's true goal is empowerment and enlightenment, and AI offers a transformative potential in reaching this goal.

Monday, January 8, 2024

I'll tell you what's unethical (a rant)

Ah, the great ethical quandary of our times in education – the use of AI! Picture this: earnest educators standing as the last bastion of traditional wisdom, decreeing “Thou shalt not use AI,” with a fervor that's almost admirable, if it weren't so quaintly misplaced. This isn't just a classic case of misunderstanding technology; it's like watching someone trying to ward off a spaceship with a broomstick.

Now, let's talk about restrictions. In education, where reason should reign supreme, the rationale for any restriction must be more substantial than "because it’s always been this way." When an educator waves the flag of prohibition against AI, one can't help but wonder: where’s the logic? It’s a bit like saying you shouldn’t use a calculator for fear it might erode your abacus skills.

Here's a thought to ponder: the only justifiable ground for restricting AI use in education is if, and only if, it hinders the development of a foundational skill – one that's essential for crafting more complex abilities required for advanced learning. And, let’s not forget, the burden of proof rests with the person setting the limits. Which skill, exactly, is prevented from being developed by the use of AI? If you can explain it to students, then yes, be my guest, ban away.

AI is a very good tutor. Yes, it makes mistakes sometimes, but it is infinitely patient and always available, no appointment necessary. No need to be embarrassed when asking for the umpteenth example to illustrate an elusive concept. To withhold this resource from students isn't just a tad unethical; it's like hiding the key to a treasure chest of knowledge and saying, “Oops, did I forget to mention where it is?”

So, what's ethical and what's not in this grand AI debate? Anything that facilitates learning and growth is a big yes in the ethical column. Casting aspersions on AI without a valid reason or depriving students of its benefits is unethical.

The larger, real question we should be asking is this: What defines ethical practice in education? Is it clinging to the past because it’s comfortable, or is it embracing the future and all the tools it brings to help our students soar? At the end of the day, what’s truly unethical is anything that hinders progress under the guise of misguided caution. After all, isn't education all about unlocking doors, not closing them?

Saturday, January 6, 2024

What does AI reveal about relational pedagogy?

In the ongoing narrative of education's transformation, AI's integration has prompted a profound reassessment of what constitutes uniquely human skills. Stephen Wolfram astutely observed that AI hasn't so much humanized computers as it has highlighted the machine-like aspects of certain human abilities, such as writing. This insight extends powerfully into the realm of education, reshaping our understanding of teaching and its intrinsic human elements.

Traditionally, teaching has been viewed primarily as a process of instruction, a transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. However, the advent of AI in education challenges this perspective. AI's ability to deliver instruction, personalize learning, and even interact with students reveals that the instructional aspect of teaching is not exclusively human after all. Machines can replicate, and in some cases, surpass human efficiency in these areas. This realization prompts a crucial question: if machines can instruct, what then is the unique value that human educators bring to the table?

The answer lies in the relational aspect of teaching, an area where AI cannot succeed. AI's emergence has inadvertently cast a spotlight on the importance of relationship-building in education, underscoring its irreplaceability. The human teacher's role evolves from being a mere conveyor of knowledge to a mentor, a guide, a catalyst for emotional and social growth. In this light, the human educator's value is redefined, emphasizing those qualities that machines cannot replicate: empathy, emotional intelligence, and the ability to inspire and motivate.

This shift in perspective is part of a broader redefinition of what it means to be human in an age increasingly dominated by machines. As AI takes over tasks that were once thought to require human intelligence, we are compelled to re-examine and emphasize those domains that are uniquely human. The essence of humanity is being recalibrated, focusing more on emotional, social, and creative capacities - areas where humans excel and machines falter.

In the context of education, this recalibration has profound implications. It suggests that the future of teaching lies not in competing with AI in cognitive tasks but in embracing and enhancing the relational, emotional, and creative aspects of education. Teachers, liberated from the routine cognitive aspects of their work by AI, can focus more on developing deep, meaningful relationships with students, fostering their emotional and social growth, and nurturing their creativity.

This evolution does not diminish the teacher's role; rather, it elevates it. Educators become the custodians of those aspects of learning that are quintessentially human. The classroom becomes a place where not just intellectual but emotional and social skills are developed, where students learn not just from machines but from the rich, complex interactions with their teachers and peers.

AI's integration into education does more than just streamline teaching; it prompts a reevaluation of the teaching profession and a redefinition of humanity itself. As AI assumes more cognitive tasks, the unique value of human educators comes into sharper focus, centering on the relational and emotional aspects of teaching. This shift heralds a new era in education, one where the human element is not just preserved but celebrated and elevated, defining a future where humans and machines work in tandem to create a richer, more holistic educational experience.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Originality over convention

Writing has long been a tightrope walk between adherence to convention and the pursuit of originality. Historically, deviating from established norms could brand you as uneducated, while a lack of originality risked the label of being clichéd. This delicate balance has been fundamentally disrupted by the advent of AI in writing, or "wraiting" as I like to call it.

In the pre-AI era, convention held significant value. It was a measure of education and intelligence, a yardstick to judge the clarity and correctness of one's thoughts. However, AI's ability to effortlessly follow these conventions has suddenly diminished their value. Originality has emerged as the sole contender in the arena of writing excellence. 

This seismic shift has understandably ruffled feathers. Many derive a sense of pride and authority from mastering and teaching these conventions. Yet, they now find themselves in a world where these skills are increasingly automated. This change isn't subject to debate or democratic process - it's an unstoppable wave reshaping the landscape.

Ironically, while AI excels in adhering to conventions, it's not inherently original. It can replicate, recombine, and reformat existing ideas, but the spark of true originality still lies uniquely within the human mind. This realization should be a beacon for writers in the AI era. The challenge is no longer about mastering the rules of writing but about pushing the boundaries of creativity and originality.

The implications for education are profound. Traditionally, a significant portion of writing education focused on teaching the rules – grammar, structure, formats. Now, these aspects can be delegated to AI tools. This frees educators to focus more on cultivating creativity, critical thinking, and originality. It's a shift from teaching the mechanics of writing to exploring the depths of imagination and expression.

For those resistant to this change, the path ahead may seem daunting. It involves unlearning the supremacy of convention and embracing a world where originality reigns supreme. However, this change is not a loss but an evolution. It's an opportunity to rediscover the essence of writing as an art form, where the value lies not in the adherence to rules but in the ability to transcend them.

In conclusion, the advent of AI in writing presents an opportunity for a paradigm shift. It's a call to writers and educators alike to redefine what constitutes good writing. As we navigate this new landscape, our focus should shift from convention to creativity, from format to imagination, ensuring that the heart of writing remains a distinctly human endeavor.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

AI Pedagogy, the introduction

  1. AI-powered chatbot is a tool. By aiding, any other tool displaces human skills. For example, CAD displaced manual drafting, and word processor/printer displaced penmanship. Educators have an ethical obligation to prepare students for the world where the tool is used, not for the world where it does not exist. Skill displacement is expected.

  2. Writing with AI, or ‘wraiting,’ is an advanced and complex cognitive skill set, mastering which should be associated with students’ cognitive growth. It partially overlaps with traditional writing but does not coincide with it. Eventually, "wraiting" instruction should replace writing instruction.

  3. The default is to allow or require students to use AI. The only reasonable exception is when the use of AI prevents the development of a truly foundational skill. The pragmatic difficulties of policing the use of AI make it even more urgent to develop a rational justification for any restrictions.

  4. In some cases, the displaceable skill is foundational for learning higher-level skills. For example, basic literacy is not a displaceable skill because it is foundational for many other higher-level literacy skills. Therefore, limitations on the use of certain tools in education may be justifiable, although they may not be arbitrary.

  5. There must be rational criteria for distinguishing between displaceable and foundational skills. An assumption that all skills associated with traditional writing instruction are foundational is just as unreasonable as the assumption that they all are displaceable. The arguments about strict linearity of curriculum are not valid. Just because we used to teach certain skills in a certain progression does not mean that some of these skills cannot be displaced by AI or other tools.

  6. A skill is foundational and non-displaceable if:

    1. It is needed for pre-AI and non-AI tasks, or is needed to operate AI. 

    2. It is demonstrably needed to develop post-AI skills such as original, critical, creative,  and discerning thinking (OCCD thinking).

  7. Rather than worrying about students cheating, instructors should make an effort to make their assignments cheat-proof. The key strategies are these:

    1. Asking to submit sequences of prompts to assess student development.

    2. Refocusing evaluation rubric to focus on OCCD thinkingб ву-emphasizing displaceable skills

    3. Raise expectations by considering content produced via a lazy prompt to be the base level, failing product

  8. Each of the uses of AI are unique, and raise different questions and concerns. Their use in instruction should be evaluated separately. These are some examples with :

    1. Aggregator of information

      1. Tell me what is known about global warming

      2. Which philosophers are most notable in virtue ethics?

      3. Remind me what Cohen’s d is in statistics.

    2. Coach/Tutor/Counselor

      1. Test my knowledge of Spanish

      2. I feel overwhelmed and disengaged. What can I do?

      3. Give me some problems that are likely to be on GRE test, and explain what I did wrong

      4. Teach me how to [...] using Socratic dialogue, where you ask leading questions, and respond depending on my answers. Present your questions one by one

    3. Data processor

      1. Run multiple regression analysis on this data

      2. Summarize transcript, examine it for main themes and do sentiment analysis

      3. Give me keywords for each of these text segments

      4. Put data from this copied webpage into a table. I only need first name, last name, email. 

    4. Brainstorming partner

      1. I am thinking of writing a paper on… Which theories I should rely on? Who are the key authors?

      2. I have this idea… Has anyone else been offering an idea like this? Is it original?

      3. How would you build an argument, what supporting and opposing points should I consider? 

      4. I have these empirical data. What claims can I make based on them? 

    5. Feedback provider

      1. Give me feedback on my paper. Use the rubric it is going to be graded on

      2. What do you think I should do to improve this paper? 

      3. Give me feedback on my lesson plan

    6. Ghost writer

      1. Write a section of my paper; use these key ideas

      2. Elaborate and elucidate this fragment

    7. Editor and copy editor

      1. Give me feedback on the paper I just uploaded. Which parts need elaboration? Which parts may be redundant, which - too wordy?

      2. Revise this segment for clarity

      3. Revise the segment for grammar only

"First try with AI"; On the advantages of organic learning

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