AI and the University

March 31, 2023 – 10:58 am

With the introduction of tools like ChatGPT, some educators are worried about how to fairly evaluate student performance. Some are retreating to closed book examinations. Others are wondering if such tools might be used virtuously in cooperation with students. But there is another problem looming which has yet to be made explicit.

It is already clear that many of the accomplishments that we regard as teaching successes will rapidly become irrelevant in the labour market. When companies have AI tools at their disposal, they will, of course, seek employees who can make best use of such tools. Consider two candidates for employment, one of whom has studied diligently, mastering technical notations and computational intricacies, and is capable of writing near-perfect code. The other admits to having used AI tools to cheat their way through college.

The first candidate is not very valuable. Their accomplishments can be surpassed by automated systems who will code better, faster, and with far less cost. The second candidate has shown that they can creatively use new computational tools to reach externally set goals. The second candidate is the obvious one to hire.

At this point, the values of industry and the values of a university are incommensurable. This is not an abstract possibility. We face this situation now.

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