Beatriz Avrucik Magalhães, BSc in Public Administration student and FGV-EAESP Runner-up in the CoBS 2023 Student CSR Article Competition, ties in the launch of ChatGPT as a logical extension of human nature to conquer the natural world and develop complex systems – with a message that we should encourage ChatGPT in order to redefine its practical use in learning.
Imminent Revolution: ChatGPT as an ally or enemy of universities? by Beatriz Avrucik Magalhães.
A paradigm shift?
The ability to learn is one of the virtues that constitute the basic core of the human heritage, which sets us apart from other species. Consciousness and intelligence are two intrinsic and mutually dependent spheres, which makes humans have a unique ability to perform complex activities. What if these two paradigms were destroyed? Would humanity remain the same?
Although it seems like a distant scenario, the development of ChatGPT brings this agenda closer and closer to the present. From this juncture, it is worth understanding how Artificial Intelligence (AI), under the figure of ChatGPT, impacts academia today, taking into account the positive and negative effects of the insertion of AI in learning and how universities should deal with this conjunctural transformation of teaching.
For this, it is necessary to have a deeper understanding of what ChatGPT is, if it causes a deterioration of learning, and what the predictions about the future of intelligence are and its detachment from human consciousness.
The controversial ChatGPT
Recently, ChatGPT has invaded the news, social networks, homes and, most importantly, schools and jobs. This device is nothing more than an implementation of a natural language model based on artificial intelligence, developed by OpenAI. Using advanced language processing and machine learning techniques, ChatGPT is able to generate real-time responses from questions or statements.
The ChatGPT model is trained on a huge amount of linguistic data, spanning diverse areas of knowledge such as science, history, literature, and popular culture. This allows ChatGPT to understand the complexity and nuances of human language and generate contextual and coherent responses.
Nevertheless, such a platform is capable of learning from interactions with users, adjusting its responses and increasing its ability to understand and generate text. This ensures that ChatGPT can provide increasingly accurate and relevant answers to questions and statements submitted by users.
The human being as a programmable algorithm
Humankind has conquered spaces, overcome the weather and dominated other beings. Along the way, it has developed systems of socialization, language, and spirituality that seemed to be understood only through consciousness. But what is humankind?
From a biological perspective, Yuval Noah said that the human organism is formed by a set of autonomous and interdependent systems of particles, where each one specializes in a function necessary for the survival of the whole. These highly specialized particles follow a sequence of codes
in order to produce the final result. In this sense, Israeli author Yuval Noah Harari understands human activity as a conglomerate of biochemical algorithms that reproduce actions and reactions essential for survival.
Thus, the ability to conquer the natural world and develop complex systems is intrinsically linked to human nature itself. The neural networks, the reward systems, the production of hormones and the connection of genes are nothing more than functionalities of the human machine itself. Thus, biochemical algorithms convert tiny hints that come from external circumstances and develop a physical conclusion.
This vision ends up breaking a more imaginative belief about humankind, leading to the question of whether machines could not perform the same actions as us, human beings, in the long term.
The alleged deterioration of learning
In its emergence, the act of learning followed a memoristic and repetitive model, which was reduced merely to the formal reproduction of human history. Even though the reality of schools has changed over recent times, researcher Juan Ignacio Pozo believes that the memoristic method is still very present. If, on the one hand, teaching must transmit some basic cultural, social and historiographical knowledge to the socialization of individuals, on the other hand, more than ever, it must teach them to reflect on information and create good questions and arguments.
As such, it comes as no surprise that technology has played an ever-increasing role in the learning process. For example, the internet and social networks provide access to an unprecedented amount of data and information and open up possibilities for interaction with other peers. In addition, calculators perform calculations in seconds that men would take many hours to complete and, today, software is capable of writing complete, cohesive and unique texts.
From this point onwards, the secular learning system is, par excellence, entering a crisis. The memorization model is losing its value, especially with the advent of machines capable of storing many times more information. Skeptics believe that data processing work should therefore be confined to computer systems, whose capacity exceeds that of the human brain.
As a result of the advancement of machine learning technology and artificial neural networks, there is a growing number of algorithms being developed autonomously, which continuously improve and are able to learn from their own mistakes.
According to Yuval Noah Harari, these algorithms now have the ability to analyze huge amounts of data, far beyond what the human mind can process, and to recognize patterns and strategies that escape human understanding. Even though they were created by humans, such algorithms develop their own paths and reach spaces that no other human has been able to. With that said, there is a possibility that, in the near future, non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may know humanity better than we do.
In view of this, it is necessary to adapt our ways of learning and teaching, bearing in mind that society has come to demand different skills from those it was used to. Thus, it is necessary to consider the negative aspects brought by techno-scientific innovations, in order to minimize their impacts and, simultaneously, maximize the positive factors brought by them.
After all, what are the positive and negative points of ChatGPT, applied to the context of universities?
As mentioned above, the advent of Artificial Intelligence opened wide and denounced the obsolescence of processes that no longer made sense to college students, giving an opportunity to rethink the teaching process. Thus, it is necessary that the demands of the educational process be modified according to the reflection on learning itself.
It is believed that, when properly used, ChatGPT can contribute to stimulating creativity, gamification, a growing trend in the market, and strengthening active learning methodologies, such as SCRUM. Not only that, it talks and approaches the “students of the future” who are, par excellence, digital natives. And it allows assessments, previously standardized, to be more adaptable for measuring the singularities of each individual, returning to discussions related to Howard Gardner’s eight intelligences.
Gardner began to observe individuals and come up against the idea of a one-dimensional concept of intelligence. Through his studies, he established the existence of multiple types of intelligence, which he condensed into the so-called 8 intelligences: Verbal-linguistic, Naturalistic, Interpersonal, Visual-spatial, Corporal-Kinesthetic, Musical, Logic-mathematical. Unfortunately, education still has difficulty working with this multiplicity of learning and ends up limiting teaching to a few types of intelligence. This is transformed by the advent of new technologies, which allow a greater adaptation of teaching.
On the other hand, the OPEN AI platform raised issues of authorship, management and democratization of access to knowledge, as it does not cite a source, it is not responsible for the veracity of the information used and does not recognize the original authors and producers of the disseminated knowledge. Therefore, he questions and further weakens the relationship that young people have with academic production.
In this sense, excessive reliance on ChatGPT for task resolution can prevent students from developing fundamental learning skills, such as critical analysis and problem solving. With the ease of finding ready-made answers in ChatGPT, the student can fail to exercise the capacity for logical and creative reasoning, which are essential skills for cognitive development and for success in academic and professional life.
Another negative point brought on by ChatGPT is the weakening of the relationship between professor and student. As the philosopher Zygmunt Bauman states, it is not just the intellect of man that is being intrinsically affected, more than that, the figure of the teacher. At the same time that the diversification of sources of knowledge helps in understanding that there is not a single truth, but rather perspectives and that knowing is building models of the world, the teacher is often discredited by students when faced with the possibility of finding everything about anything in the blink of an eye.
And how should universities deal with this challenge?
According to data collected in the AI Readiness Index 2019 report, carried out by Oxford Insights, Brazil is in 40th place regarding the implementation of Artificial Intelligence solutions.
Thus, it is clear that fighting ChatGPT and other AI platforms is fighting a battle against a cannon armed with sticks and stones. However, one cannot fall into the skepticism of thinking that humanity is about to fall into a dystopian and pre-apocalyptic scenario. Faced with the dilemmas imposed by the software, it is necessary for school institutions, families and individuals themselves to rethink the way of dealing with life around them.
Universities have a differential that is not found in AI, being a space for the construction of student thinking, being a nucleus for the analytical development of ideas between different thinking beings. From this, if the platform is well explored, AI can serve more as a tool than an obstacle to educational training. This is because, as it facilitates access to information, ChatGPT can contribute to learning and carrying out operational tasks, inherent to any job, leaving more time and space for more complex and analytical teaching, typical of the university environment.
As previously mentioned, the information memorization model is occupying an increasingly smaller space in academic production. Consulting the internet, and even more so the ChatGPT, will largely replace human memory, which is infinitely more limited. Bearing this in mind, it is interesting for teaching centers to raise awareness of AI, whether through debates or lectures, to reframe the use of the platform. Some of the relevant topics would be: the danger of plagiarism and fake news, the importance of authorship, caution with not exercising logical reasoning, and extreme dependence on technologies.
Learning to live with it
ChatGPT thus comes to revolutionize the educational scenario, either positively due to the demand for a change in the way of learning that was already urgent in the face of contemporary sociocultural change – society of information – or negatively, by distancing students and teachers, creating an increased dependency from machines and distancing intelligence from the need for a human conscience.
Certainly, its existence requires an adaptation of the educational system, in the form of inserting technologies and educating the new generations. This could be done through a reform in the way of teaching, removing the repetitive character of it, and making it more analytical using ChatGPT as an ally in contemporary educational training.
- BAUMAN, Zygmunt. Modernidade líquida. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Zahar, 2001. GARDNER, H. Inteligências Múltiplas: A teoria na prática. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 1995. GARDNER, H. HARARI, Yuval Noah. Homo Deus: uma breve história do amanhã. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2016.
- READINESS, A. Oxford Insights. Disponível em: <https://www.oxfordinsights.com/ai-readiness2019>. POZO, Juan Ignacio. Aprendizes e mestres: A nova cultura da aprendizagem. Porto Alegre: Artmed, 1996.
- Link up with Beatriz Avrucik Magalhães on LinkedIn
- Read a related article: ChatGPT: A paradigm shift for universities?
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- Apply for the BSc in Public Administration program.
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