Memo to faculty: AI is not your friend (opinion)

I was approached on LinkedIn with the opportunity to work to help train an AI, for an hourly wage that’s much higher than I would get for teaching an extra class at my university.

I thought about it. I told myself it would help me do my job better if I have a clear sense of what the bots are and aren’t good at right now. And the pay would be pretty good.

But I decided against it. Ultimately, I felt like one of the cattle who power the machinery at automated slaughterhouses by walking up ramps so that gravity can do the rest.

I don’t like the AI-powered voiceovers. I don’t like the apps that use AI to tweak people’s faces, or that put familiar logos into funny situations. I don’t like the apps that put public figures into artificial circumstances that confirm and intensify the biases you and your friends already hold about that figure.

Nope, nope, nope.

Initially, professors will be convinced that AI is an assistant or partner. The first AI classes will be listed as human-taught and led, but AI-enabled. After several semesters, the course will be listed as co-taught. Under the co-taught or AI hybrid model, professors will function in a quality control or supervisor capacity. One professor may oversee numerous AI-led sections ensuring that the AI agent effectively develops the course, delivers instruction, and evaluates students’ performance. It will be a stark departure from the faculty’s traditional instructional role—in effect, faculty will be managing AI bots. Eventually, AI won’t need its “professor training wheels,” and will be able to run courses without human supervision.

As someone who teaches technology, innovation and disruption, the best case study for illustrating these dynamics is Kodak, the once great film company. While many teach the case from a technological perspective, arguing whether Kodak could have responded differently to the advent of digital photography, the company’s demise is best approached from a human bias perspective. Kodak should have dominated digital photography; they invented it! Yet, Kodak employees at all levels of the company could not believe that digital would replace film; they were so biased in their thinking about film that they underestimated the power of digital cameras. How did that work out for them? It is important that faculty across the country learn the Kodak lesson. —Scott Latham, Inside Higher Ed

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