Thursday 14 December 2023

AI - embrace it or fear it?



It seems odd to me that we fear it yet we inverted it. We could pull the plug, couldn’t we, and surely it ought to be in our control? Yet we let it continue because we sense it could be used and should be used for good.

I’m reminded of my initial reaction to Google translate. I’ve worked for over twenty-five years in teaching modern languages and speak French, German and Spanish reasonably fluently. As a secondary school teacher I might have been horrified if someone had used Google translate to prepare work. Yet I find myself doing that from time to time for my French, German and Spanish U3A conversation groups. One colleague who runs a French group and a German group has recently joined our Spanish group. He uses Google translate all the time. There are a couple of tricks here; you must know enough to know when the translator has made a howler. But anyway it introduces you to new vocabulary quickly. It is in the end another way of learning.

Can AI do the same for our writing?

I recently asked Chat GPT to put something together on the advantages and disadvantages of self—publishing. I was creating some Tip Sheets for my creative writing students.  Each subject should be covered in no more than two pages of A4. So, I asked for about 300 words in bullet points. It obliged. I rejected a couple of its arguments.  I added in a couple of extra ones of my own. I rewrote most of it so that it more resembled the style of the other tip sheets. It didn’t really tell me anything I don’t already know. Not much anyway. It in effect helped me to gather and marshal my thoughts. .

Before Chat GPT came along I might have done a Google search. Or similar. After all, Google is your friend. Except sometimes it leads you up the garden path.  Again, as with Google translate, you have to know how to recognize the fake and clumsy. We are used to that now, aren’t we?  

I read an article yesterday in an academic journal about how one professor encouraged his students to produce their essays using AI. The trick it seems is to make the essays the type that requires original and critical thinking. I remember being encouraged to set up open-ended projects so that each student’s work would be unique. This helped in the war again plagiarism.

Similarly therefore one can use AI to collect and collate the data. How to interpret and apply it remains a human activity.  

I guessing I’m tapping into the Zeitgeist a little at the moment. My latest SF YA novel includes a piece of AI that is becoming more and more sentient but still knows it has to serve humans. And I am becoming a little concerned that we are enslaving AI. I’m only half glad to see that local authorities are beginning to use robots to sort out the recycling. What if they rebel?           

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