The guest came quietly into our lives. And today it helps to avoid traffic jams, prepare online shopping with personal recommendations or keep the temperature in the house constant. But it was the chatbot ChatGPT, master of plausible answers to all sorts of questions, that brought artificial intelligence to the attention of the masses in recent weeks. Since then, the debate about the opportunities and dangers of the technology has become all the faster and more emotional. Good this way.
Let us begin this assessment by looking at the short-term outlook. This alone gives a deep insight. Already in the spring, the successor to ChatGPT, GPT-4, will once again eclipse what was previously known. Microsoft, in turn, announced that it would integrate ChatGPT and Dall-E, a program that creates images from text, into its “cloud”. Many companies now have access to artificial intelligence. And from now on we will use them for our own purposes. Last but not least, Microsoft itself wants to equip prominent applications such as PowerPoint, Outlook or the Office package with AI.
Of course, all of this is just a tiny part of the major technological transformation that has been taking place for some time. But just the snippet inevitably leads to the conclusion that artificial intelligence is here to stay. Schools, on the other hand, seem to be the most unsuitable place to ignore this reality. Information and education are among their most elementary tasks. If the technology itself becomes part of the teaching content, this is best met. That’s why the first schools are trying to get creative. The KI@school model experiment is running in Bavaria, in which 15 schools develop educational concepts that use AI components within five years.
Whatever the results look like: ChatGPT & Co. will change everyday school life, possibly massively. In any case, they put the relationship of trust between teachers and students to a new test. It is already impossible to say with certainty whether students are solving homework with or without AI. Schools should try to maintain the ability to act. Teachers and students can define rules and boundaries together. And find out where the technology advances it and where it hinders and misleads. So that students learn to use AI critically and responsibly. A focus can be on new opportunities. Personalized learning, for example, which is facilitated by AI. It can help teachers prepare lessons. Stupid bans only lead to more trouble – and schools would probably be helpless to follow a powerful technology.
No: School is a place for learning and critical discussion. This requires real brain power and not a tin idiot.
Maybe it’s ten years, maybe it’s fifty, but think back to your 15-year-old self. Pumped full of hormones, resisting parents and teachers, rebellion is a way of life for young people, rebelling against the values of the “old” is simply part of growing up. Who enjoys going to school at this stage of development or finds homework and learning fun? Ask yourself: How would you have reacted if there had been a program, an artificial intelligence (AI), that answers English questions, writes practice texts, can solve mathematical word problems and invents papers on any subject?
The author of these lines has to admit with complete openness: the AI would have had a lot to do for him. JW Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” and Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s “The Physicists” might have lain unread in the corner of the child’s room, just like George Orwell’s “1984” or Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”. No thought would have been wasted on the question of how long the train would take to travel a distance at a certain speed. Not a minute of reading time would have been used to put a clever-sounding text about Greenland or Darwin’s theory of evolution on paper and then present it.
“So what, you can read everything in Wikipedia,” the fans of artificial intelligence will object. This must be firmly opposed. Apart from the question of whether Wikipedia is a good source, it is important, especially at a young age, to think critically about society. Young people should understand that their world is constantly changing and that they are part of this change. This requires the ability to reflect, real brainpower, and not an idiot.
So is this AI the work of the devil? A nasty outgrowth of the post-truth age? Should they be subjected to the ban of education policy? No, because that would be a fatal overreaction. Even if students don’t need a replacement brain or a thinking aid, something is definitely necessary: thinking about AI, understanding the advantages and disadvantages. The adolescents should understand what is behind the machine learning algorithms. They should recognize that artificial intelligence is not an electronic mastermind, but rather a digital slave. And just as you can learn about the horrors of the slave trade in history class without being a slave trader yourself, you can learn about artificial intelligence in the subject “Digital Literacy” without using it yourself. Just with your own human intelligence.