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Universities as Vistas of Intellectual Conflicts in the Age of AI

By Purdue University President Mung Chiang:

In May 2023, we asked ChatGPT to “write a commencement speech for the president of Purdue University on the topic of AI,” after I finished drafting my own. What I wrote had almost no overlap with what AI did. I might be biased, but the AI version reads like a B- high school essay: a grammatically correct synthesis with little specificity, originality, or humor. Maybe most commencement speeches and strategic plans sound about the same: Universities have made it too easy for large language models! Maybe AI can remind us to try and be a little less boring in what we say and how we think. Smarter AI might lead to more interesting humans.

Here’s what I wrote:

Sometime back in the mid-20th century, AI was a hot topic for a while. Now it is again; so “hot” that no computation is too basic to self-anoint as AI and no challenge seems too grand to be out of its reach. But the more you know how tools such as machine learning work, the less mysterious they become.

For the moment, let’s assume that AI will finally be transformational to every industry and to everyone: changing how we live, shaping what we believe in, displacing jobs. And disrupting education.

Well, after IBM’s Deep Blue beat the world champion, we still play chess. After calculators, children are still taught how to add numbers. Human beings learn and do things not just as survival skills, but also for fun, or as a training of our mind.

That doesn’t mean we don’t adapt. Once calculators became prevalent, elementary schools pivoted to translating real-world problems into math formulations rather than training for arithmetic speed. Once online search became widely available, colleges taught students how to properly cite online sources.

Read the rest of the article in Forbes.