Exploring The Marvellous & Unsettling Realities Of AI

As AI systems like ChatGPT reshape education, institutions must adapt, fostering a harmonious blend of collective consciousness and personal growth, writes Nitin Upadhayaya

Human beings possess a unique ability to imagine, setting us apart from all other life forms. Among the many mansions of imagination, we have created, AI and its canonical example, ChatGPT, stand out as both marvellous and unsettling at the same time. It is marvellous due to its mere existence and the potential it holds. However, it is also unsettling because we have yet to fully comprehend the implications of what we have created. The repercussions extend to our daily lives, our workforce, and educational institutions worldwide. ChatGPT and similar AI systems force us to confront the interplay between our individuality and our collective consciousness. 

Within the mansion of ChatGPT, a young student can find answers to all their assignment, quiz, or exam problems. All they need to do is pose a question. Furthermore, if the same question is posed again, ChatGPT will provide a different yet correct answer. Traditionally, students have optimized their workload by discussing and "sharing" answers. The most diligent students would solve a question, while others would paraphrase or present exact replicas. However, ChatGPT now offers a marvellous solution: multiple correct solutions tailored to everyone's needs. 

The faculty, who are the custodians of knowledge, find themselves scrambling. Should they grade the students or ChatGPT? Should mobile phones be banned in classrooms? Should students acknowledge ChatGPT in their submissions? Furthermore, beyond student submissions, how can the originality of any new scholarly work be assessed, whether it be poetry, artwork, or research articles? Some argue that ChatGPT has opened yet another Pandora's box. 

ChatGPT is often referred to as an example of generative AI, capable of assimilating vast amounts of knowledge and generating seemingly new content. In my view, ChatGPT (along with its counterparts) represents a modern repository of human culture and knowledge, akin to a highly intelligent friend who can answer many, if not all, of our questions. Even a casual interaction with ChatGPT reveals the vastness of our collective knowledge. It is humbling to realize how the individual "I," as the source of knowledge, fades within this expansive knowledge base. 

A pertinent question arises: In this rapidly changing world, how can we reimagine education (and grades) when faced with the task of sifting individual drops of water from the vast ocean of human knowledge? Who truly creates knowledge, and who consumes it? Does this duality even exist? Any question posed to ChatGPT becomes a source of knowledge for ChatGPT itself, perpetuating an endless loop. 

Undoubtedly, individual excellence inspires and propels the entire human race forward. However, just as a masterpiece requires an artist, there must be a canvas. Similarly, leaders and followers are interdependent; one cannot exist without the other. The emergence of an individual leader is, by definition, a collective phenomenon. 

When educational institutions and the subsequent chain of events emphasize individual grades disproportionately, and society glorifies it, shortcuts to achieving "fame" become inevitable. The same rules apply to the faculty, who are evaluated based on metrics such as the number of times their names appear in print. Athletes, too, revel in seeing their names associated with new records. Consequently, within our current framework, the "I" is promoted, traded, and becomes the currency for a better life. Shortcuts such as plagiarism, cheating, and substance abuse are mere byproducts. 

Perhaps a shift in perspective is necessary—from viewing students as products to be fed to recruiters—to considering educational institutions as spaces for nourishment and self-reflection, places that students genuinely want to return to. Traditionally, school and university education have emphasized problem-solving for a single "right" answer. Now that all the answers are readily available, the quality and relevance of the answers will depend solely on our questions. In other words, if we nurture our imagination and ask well-formulated questions, we can harness the power of emerging technologies for the greater good. 

Another aspect to consider is focusing on problems that do not have straightforward answers. Motivating students from a young age to tackle the problems their generation is meant to solve and illustrating how their education can facilitate this process will greatly enhance their learning experience. 

Lastly, instilling the practice of genuine gratitude from a very young age, beyond mere lip-service, will greatly enrich our lives. Gratitude humbles us and helps balance our sense of individually "deserved" credit, including the shortcuts taken to achieve it, with a broader sense of belonging. 

AI is here to stay, and in our imagination, we have exceeded our own expectations. However, for the prominent "I" to thrive, it only needs to become a little more flexible.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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