Carolina Tonon Cardoso, student Finalist at FGV-EAESP in the 2023 CoBS Student CSR Article Competition, explores the usefulness of ChatGPT for both students and academics.
What Would Galileo Galilei Say about Students Using ChatGPT? by Carolina Tonon Cardoso.
Galileo Galilei, the Sir of white beard who discovered the movement of the Earth with just a telescope and a great amount of mathematical calculations, might be disappointed at the humanity of the 21st century. If he knew that students in 2023, who have access to giant libraries with tons of different researches, as well as profound theoretical studies about everything, are resorting to a machine to think for them, we can bet that he would be rather confused.
But how did this happen?
Artificial Intelligence, contrary to what many may think, is not a creation of the last decade, but an idea that has been discussed in society since the 1940’s, and it can be defined as a set of techniques for building intelligent machines capable of solving problems that require human intelligence (Nilsson, 2009). The key to understanding AI is to keep in mind that every technology or mechanism that humans create with the purpose of developing intelligent logic, or rather logic to copy human behavior (emotions, speaking, singing, etc) or to produce something without human commands, is Artificial Intelligence.
In this matter, the first machine to use this artifice was the Turing Test, the first computer, created by Alan Turing. The best form to explain how the computer worked is to use what happened in the Second World War as an example. This machine tapped into the enemy’s radio transmission system, captured the morse code sent to communicate what place they attack, decoded it and answered it with another code. All of this had to be done without appearing that it was a machine doing it. The purpose and “slogan” of the test was: If a human being communicates with a machine for five minutes without realizing it is not a human, then the computer passes the test.
In 1964, the first Chatbot, a similar system as the one used by ChatGPT, was created. It was named Eliza and it worked as a conversation robot, with the function of imitating a psychologist, offering empathetic conversations and advice about people’s emotional and personal problems. Eliza was created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) by Joseph Weizenbaum in 1964.
Since the arrival of the internet and subsequent developments in technology, ChatBots have become more complete and sophisticated. In this regard, more “Elizas”were created. In 2011, Apple created Siri, the first AI assistant of a smartphone company. This type of robot, integrated in smartphones, became popular very fast, and other companies started to develop their own AI assistant, with even banks developing their Chatbots. This service impressed many people and it has numerous utilities, such as searching something on the Internet , singing a beatbox or even answering questions as if it were in a conversation. However, it is possible to notice the limitations of Siri, since it only responds to what has a connection with its job, and when it doesn’t know the answer, usually with personal questions, Siri says that it only responds to what the client wants to hear.
In November of 2022, ChatGPT became available for popular use. It is the most complete AI tool, with the ability to answer questions about everything, working like Google, producing poems and songs. Moreover, it also produces legal contracts, academic tests, evaluations and mathematical knowledge. All you need to use this tool is to sign in to their website and you´ll be directed to a page structured like Microsoft Word document mixed with a design of social media chats. It is very simple, familiar and intuitive to use. Although the chatbot is programmed to store a huge amount of data, its learning about this knowledge is simple and shallow.
ChatGPT is now going through public tests with universities and companies. Universities are studying how students can use this chatbot in the academic context, analyzing the pros and cons, because the tool is capable of doing tests, assignments and calculations for the students.
Besides the dilemma of the job market, both society and academia have been discussing the replacement of people by machines. This article appeals to the remarkable ethical dilemma set by the advantages given by these AI services. Just as cheating on tests and school work is neither ethical nor moral – since people would be receiving credit for something they did not do – the sames goes for using artificial intelligence to do college work. The worst of all is that university students or adults interested in research could easily commit this unethical act.
So, society not only has the preoccupation of teaching children ethics, but also adults. The dilemma that remains for humanity is: whether to surrender the facility of AI and weaken the ethics of which humans are so proud of , or to fight against this temptation and develop even more moral notions, while co-existing with robots.
What university tests are saying about the potential negative and positive academic impacts of ChatGPT
FGV EAESP, a business school in Brazil, is testing ChatGPT’s ability to do the school´s tests as a human would do, and its results, so far, are positive. ChatGPT can answer questions in a satisfactory way, although a little simplistically. So, if a student uses the tool to make a text or assignment for them, they would succeed. The person may not ace the test, because of the simple answer, but the student would definitely achieve the school average. Despite that, according to the school´s professors Chat GPT failed the finance test completely by creating mathematical calculus that were incorrect. Another failure of ChatGPT is to invent bibliographical references instead of giving the correct ones.
The most obvious negative impact can be expressed by fraud in exams and assignments. However, the impact of cognitive harm, which is not expressed directly and immediately, is great. This question affects the development of soft skills which are nowadays booming in the job market and in the academic ecosystem. As already mentioned, the loss of creativity is very predictable and unsettling. This impacts not only academic development but in market insertion. Currently, companies are demanding a set of these soft skills in their hiring process, which are not going to be built up without cultivating creativity and other abilities, such as resilience, problem solving, and flexibility. In view of that, although ChatGPT brings more efficiency to tasks and projects, by replacing human work people’s capacity for resilience and hard work will develop less and less. So, the pattern of gaining fast results, lacking patience and communication failure that we observe in the 21st century will likely perpetuate.
Lastly, the tool spoils students’ learning experience, not only because the brain is less exercised, but because it also receives fewer demands. Thus, humans will increasingly use robots to think for them. With that, humanity runs the risk of losing its most precious theory: anthropocentrism. By resorting to artificial intelligence to think, elaborate and produce human artifacts, we run the risk of letting ourselves be governed by the logic of machines and thus lose the place humans have in the center of society dynamics.
Besides that, academia thinks that a positive impact of ChatGPT is to make group assignments easier, by producing sketches of essays and projects for the group, so they can focus more on deep discussions, speech skills and group dynamics. Because, as we know, a lot of “mechanical” tasks, such as elaborating a presentation agenda, organizing individual tasks or elaborating simple bullet points steal discussion time. The positive points presented here can be summarized as soft skills, which were already pointed out to be less exercised with the insertion of ChatGPT in academic life. So, it is going to take a huge effort from universities to make the positive impacts weigh more than the negative ones.
How should universities manage this issue?
It is thought that the best way to stop people from doing something is to tell them not to do it. New psychology studies point out that the approach of prohibiting and mischaracterizing something, without practical justifications, is not effective.
Thus, something that FGV EAESP has done – and which has shown positive results – is to present the tool to students during class. In this way, teachers teach students how to use the tool to facilitate group work, as previously mentioned, to try to enhance the development of soft skills instead of delaying their progress. Therefore, teachers prioritize group discussions and the exercise of communication.
In addition, students are also asked to carry out an activity in the classroom to realize the simplistic value and potential shortcomings of ChatGPT. As such, students may realize that it is not worth exchanging this tool for the human mind.
In view of this, Galileo Galilei would tell the students of 2023 to think of better ways to use ChatGPT, to enhance the abilities of the human mind, and who knows, discover which galaxy revolves around the other.
- Read a related article: ChatGPT – the biggest disruptor to education since the calculator.
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