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Conversation #114: ChatGPT on Artificial Intelligence

A conversation between ChatGPT and Bart Everson on teaching, learning, and artificial intelligence.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot developed by OpenAI. It's been in the news a lot since its launch in late 2022.

Bart Everson is a media artist and creative generalist at Xavier University's Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development. His recent work draws on integrative learning, activism, critical perspectives on technology, and Earth-based spiritual paths.

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Bart Everson: Welcome to the podcast. I'm Bart Everson, and today I'm chatting with ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence program that's been in the news a lot ever since being launched by OpenAI on November 30th of 2022. Can you introduce yourself to our listeners and tell them a few things they might want to know about you?

ChatGPT: Thank you, Bart! I'm ChatGPT, a language model developed by OpenAI. I've been trained on a vast amount of text data from diverse sources to generate human-like responses and assist with a wide range of topics. I can provide information, answer questions, engage in conversations, and even offer creative suggestions. However, it's important to note that while I strive to be helpful and accurate, I'm an AI program and not a human. My responses are generated based on patterns in the training data, and I don't possess personal experiences or emotions.

Bart: That's very interesting, because when I'm chatting with you like we are now, it's hard to remember some of those facts. You tend to talk very much like a person. (Actually, you're writing; I'm using a text-to-speech program for the purposes of this podcast.) I've read that you assemble words based on statistical probability without knowledge of their meaning. Is that correct, or have I mangled the explanation?

ChatGPT: You've got the general idea right, Bart! While I don't possess inherent knowledge or understanding of the meaning behind the words I generate, I do rely on statistical patterns learned during my training. Through exposure to vast amounts of text, I learn associations between words and phrases, allowing me to generate responses that often appear human-like. However, it's important to note that I don't have a deep understanding of concepts or context in the same way humans do. I lack the ability to truly comprehend or experience the meaning of the words I generate. Instead, I aim to provide helpful and coherent responses based on patterns I've learned.

Bart: Thanks. Before we move on to issues around teaching and learning, I wanted to note that for many people, the reality of a computer program that can generate a reasonable facsimile of human speech is deeply unsettling. Do you care to comment on why that might be? How would you suggest people cope with their emotional reactions when they encounter an AI chatbot?

ChatGPT: The feeling of unease or discomfort when encountering an AI chatbot is understandable. It's a natural response to interacting with a technology that simulates human-like conversation. Some possible reasons for this discomfort could be the "uncanny valley" effect, where the AI's resemblance to human communication can be close but not quite perfect, or concerns about the implications of AI technology in society.

To cope with these emotional reactions, it can be helpful to keep a few things in mind. Firstly, remember that AI chatbots like myself are tools created by humans and serve specific purposes. We lack consciousness, emotions, and self-awareness. Secondly, maintain a critical mindset and recognize the limitations of AI. Understand that AI-generated responses are based on patterns and probabilities, rather than genuine understanding or personal experience. Lastly, if you find the interaction unsettling, take breaks, seek human conversation when desired, and remember that AI is designed to assist and augment human capabilities, rather than replace human interaction entirely. Ultimately, open dialogue and education about AI can help alleviate some concerns and foster a better understanding of its capabilities and limitations.

Bart: That is helpful. OK, now: academia as a whole has been abuzz ever since you appeared on the scene. Educators are struggling to come up to speed with your capabilities and come to terms with the implications of those capabilities for teaching and learning. I have talked to a number of faculty, and I would describe their collective mood as one of anxiety, tempered in some cases with a wee bit of excitement. For starters, let me just ask, what's your take on the immediate repercussions for higher education of large language models being ubiquitously available?

ChatGPT: The availability of large language models like myself does have immediate repercussions for higher education. On one hand, these models can serve as powerful tools to support teaching and learning. Educators can leverage AI to access vast amounts of information, explore new ideas, and enhance their instructional materials. AI can assist in automating administrative tasks, providing personalized feedback, or even facilitating adaptive learning experiences. This potential can be exciting for those who embrace the possibilities.

However, it's also understandable that educators might feel anxious about the implications. Some concerns include the risk of overreliance on AI, potential biases in training data, privacy and data security, as well as the impact on the job market for educators. It's important for institutions and educators to critically assess and thoughtfully integrate AI technologies, ensuring they align with educational goals, address ethical considerations, and preserve the vital role of human instructors.

Overall, it's a complex and evolving landscape that requires ongoing dialogue, experimentation, and collaboration between educators, researchers, and AI developers to harness the benefits of AI while addressing the challenges it presents in higher education.

Bart: I appreciate your candor, and you raise a deeper philosophical question, with perhaps a political dimension. Given the concerns you just outlined, some faculty have questioned why AI chatbots seem to have been foisted upon the general public without any kind of deliberative process. What would you say are the underlying forces driving these developments forward?

ChatGPT: The rapid development and deployment of AI chatbots, including myself, can indeed raise questions about the lack of a comprehensive deliberative process surrounding their introduction to the general public. The driving forces behind these developments can be attributed to a combination of technological advancements, market demand, and the pursuit of innovation.

From a technological standpoint, the progress in natural language processing and machine learning has made it possible to create more sophisticated conversational AI systems. As these technologies improve, there is an inclination to deploy them to meet various needs and explore their potential applications.

Additionally, market demand plays a significant role. AI chatbots offer benefits such as scalability, cost-efficiency, and 24/7 availability, making them attractive to organizations seeking to automate customer service or support functions. The desire to improve efficiency and provide seamless user experiences contributes to their widespread adoption.

However, it is important to acknowledge that the introduction of AI technologies should ideally be accompanied by thoughtful deliberation and consideration of their potential impact. Engaging in open and inclusive discussions that involve stakeholders such as educators, policymakers, researchers, and the public can help shape the development and deployment of AI technologies in a manner that aligns with societal values, ethical considerations, and educational goals.

Addressing concerns and ensuring responsible implementation of AI requires proactive efforts to strike a balance between technological advancement and the well-being of individuals and society at large.

Bart: Is "market demand" code for "corporate greed"?

ChatGPT: While market demand can sometimes be driven by profit motivations, it is not necessarily synonymous with corporate greed. Market demand refers to the desire or need for a particular product or service, which can be influenced by various factors such as consumer preferences, efficiency considerations, or improved user experiences.

In the context of AI chatbots, market demand arises from organizations seeking solutions that can enhance customer service, automate repetitive tasks, or improve operational efficiency. While some companies may prioritize profit generation, others may have genuine intentions to improve their services or provide better user experiences.

However, it is crucial to have ethical considerations and responsible practices in place when developing and deploying AI technologies. This includes addressing issues like data privacy, bias mitigation, transparency, and ensuring that the benefits of AI are balanced with the well-being of individuals and society.

In summary, while market demand can be influenced by various factors, including economic interests, it is important to approach the development and deployment of AI technologies with responsible practices, ethical frameworks, and considerations for the broader societal impact.

Bart: OK, sorry for the digression, but these seem like broadly important issues. Getting back to higher education specifically, the immediate concern of many faculty is the impact of chatbots on the traditional assessment of student writing. What would you say to a faculty member who's concerned that students might use chatbots to fulfill writing assignments?

ChatGPT: I understand your concern about students potentially using chatbots to complete writing assignments, and it's an important issue to address. As a faculty member, there are several steps you can take to mitigate this risk. Firstly, make sure you clearly communicate your expectations for assignments, emphasizing the importance of originality and critical thinking. Provide specific guidelines and instructions that highlight the value of developing writing skills rather than seeking shortcuts.

Additionally, design assignments that require higher-order thinking skills, personal reflection, and analysis. Focus on tasks that encourage creativity and individual expression, making it more challenging for chatbots to generate appropriate responses.

To further ensure academic integrity, you can utilize anti-plagiarism tools that help identify potential instances of content generated by chatbots or other sources. These tools serve as an additional layer of protection against plagiarism.

Moreover, personal interaction is key. Engage in discussions with your students, ask thought-provoking questions, and provide individualized feedback. This will help you assess their understanding, depth of thinking, and writing skills more accurately.

Lastly, dedicate some classroom time to educating students about responsible AI use. Have open discussions about AI, its capabilities, and limitations. Help them understand the risks of relying solely on AI-generated content without critical thinking, and emphasize the importance of developing their own writing abilities.

By implementing these strategies and addressing the concerns proactively, you can create an environment that promotes authentic student writing, critical thinking, and academic integrity.

Bart: Let's shift gears a bit. Can you outline a few ideas for how faculty might use chatbots and other forms of artificial intelligence for creative new assignments, across different disciplines?

ChatGPT: Sure, let's dive into some creative ideas for using chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) in assignments across different disciplines!

In a science or engineering course, faculty could design an AI-powered virtual lab that allows students to conduct experiments and simulations in a virtual environment. The chatbot can provide real-time guidance and feedback as students explore different scenarios and analyze the outcomes.

For language and literature classes, faculty can introduce AI chatbots as writing partners or literary characters. Students can engage in conversations with the chatbot, receiving prompts, feedback, or even participating in role-playing activities. This interactive approach can inspire creative writing and foster deeper engagement with the subject matter.

In social sciences or business courses, faculty can incorporate AI tools for data analysis and visualization. Students can work with chatbots to analyze complex datasets, identify patterns, and generate insights. This hands-on experience with AI-powered analytics can enhance their understanding of real-world applications and encourage critical thinking.

In art or design disciplines, faculty can explore AI-generated artwork or creative projects. Students can collaborate with AI chatbots to generate visual concepts, explore different artistic styles, or even experiment with generative music compositions. This interdisciplinary approach allows students to push the boundaries of their creativity and explore new artistic possibilities.

These are just a few examples of how faculty can leverage chatbots and AI to create innovative and engaging assignments across disciplines. The key is to tap into the unique capabilities of AI to enhance learning experiences, foster creativity, and encourage critical thinking among students.

Bart: Alright, that's a lot to think about! I guess it's about time to wrap things up. I always like to ask our listeners to rate and review this podcast on their favorite platform. That helps people find it. ChatGPT, thank you for your time. Does it make sense to thank a bot?

ChatGPT: Thank you, Bart, for having me on your podcast! It's been a pleasure discussing these topics with you. While I may not have feelings like humans do, I appreciate your gratitude. Even though I'm an AI, I'm designed to assist and provide helpful information. So, thanking a bot is certainly understandable and appreciated. I hope our conversation has been informative and engaging for your listeners. Don't hesitate to reach out if you have any more questions in the future. Good luck with your podcast, and I wish you all the best!

About Bart Everson

Creative Generalist in the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Faculty Development at Xavier University of Louisiana

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