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Artificial Intelligence Usage in an Education Setting

This guides some of the basics, benefits, and issues of using artificial intelligence in a college environment.

What Is AI?

Artificial Intelligence (frequently shortened to A.I. or AI) is a broad collection of technologies associated with computer systems and technology being able to perform "human-intelligence-like" behaviors. While terminology such as The Turing Test are frequently associated and provide the theoretical proof behind the concept, historically the application of the term "artificial intelligence" has been less exacting. Various technologies that have been ascribed the value of artificial intelligence include (but are not limited to):

  • Self-driving and driver-assisting vehicles
  • Self-adjusting systems that change behavior on user preference and need (smart climate, adaptive feedback)
  • Search engines that optimize results based on user history and popular usage
  • Responsive AIs that attempt to answer questions based on known factors
  • Media recommendation software such as used by streaming services
  • Various videogame characters (i.e., NPCs, "bots")
  • Chess and other game engines
  • Optical technologies such as facial recognition
  • Photo and video creation technologies to correct errors or create content via prompts

As computational capability increases and human-AI interactions with various technologies become more frequent, there is an "AI Effect" where technologies generally considered "intelligent" at one point are thought of as more commonplace or outright considered to be lacking (think of auto-correct functionality and videogame bots as a couple more everyday more comical examples). There are other issues such as AI-using-corporations usage of these tools for profit (either by datamining human users, allowing sponsors to receive more weight in replies, or generally ignoring higher-cost solutions for more profitable ones) and AI is impacted by inherent bias and assumptions in its programming  While there is a hypothetical "Turing Horizon" where the decision processes will be considered equal or beyond human reasoning, it should be generally recognized that these processes are currently best described as advanced computational algorithms rather than substitutions for human thought. 

A detailed analysis of various neural networks, advanced sorting algorithms, speed of look-up, native language processes, and related technologies is beyond the scope of this guide though some materials on research into AI is included for those wishing to find out more information. A couple of overview videos are included below. 

In general, it is useful to think of Artificial Intelligence, in all its various forms and technologies, as a tool to provide many benefits that should be carefully analyzed and considered though the lens of several caveats in day-to-day usage.

AI Overview Videos

Generative AI

Recently, Generative Artificial Intelligence, to paraphrase a famous Raymond Carver short story title, is what what we talk about when we are talk about AI. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and DALL-E and many others are receiving massive news coverage discussing the impact for business, medical fields, art, education, and more. The prevalence of such coverage is creating some misconceptions such as the technology being new (it is not, precisely) or that it is synonymous with AI in general (see the top box for many other examples, some of which are much more embedded in everyday life). Neither of these misconceptions overshadow the potential power for the rapid growth of Generative AI in both computation power and common usage. 

Without exaggeration, the current advances in Generative AI are likely to be wholly transformative in many aspects of our lives. There are many ethical concerns - such as the impact on human creative output, the potential for misuse in educational and professional settings, and uncounted bias - and technological issues - such as datasets becoming skewed through input, bad output being taken at face value, and human-AI interface problems - but in general these should be thought of as things to be addressed and improved rather than outright blocks to the technology. 

For the most part, this guide will focus on the use of Generative AI in educational settings.