Fears about the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) upon global society have been voiced in an open letter, by over 1000 top AI experts. Business leaders such as Elon Musk (co-founder of OpenAI, the developer of ChatGPT and GPT-4), Steve Wozniak (Apple co-founder), and industry specialists (including engineers from Amazon, DeepMind, Google, Meta and Microsoft) have urged for a moratorium on AI technology until an industry wide assessment and governmental oversights have been made to ensure that the ‘effects will be positive and risks manageable’.
Their open letter observed that recently, competing AI laboratories have ‘locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control…. Powerful AI systems should be developed only once we are confident that their effects will be positive, and their risks will be manageable’. The open letter concluded that if researchers do not voluntarily pause their AI work, then ‘governments should step in’. And this international AI industry-wide call for caution and regulation is seriously at odds with the UK government’s recent AI regulation White Paper (an authoritative government commissioned policy document), which contains no new powers to limit this AI technology.
It is therefore not entirely unexpected that massive recent developments in AI would impact upon education and academia. And in a recent blog news digest, Education Advisers looked at how the International Baccalaureate had embraced AI and would allow students to use it, providing it was correctly referenced.
But globally, the university academic community is seriously worried by the impact of AI technology and their ability to authenticate individual student work. In January 2023, CNN reported that an AI chatbot tool had generated answers, successfully passing the Law exams at the University of Minnesota, and business exams at Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
Redbrick News recently reported that top UK universities have reacted to AI, with a total ban on Chat-GPT, and other AI programmes. This has been done to preserve the integrity of student work. Rapidly developing AI programmes generate sophisticated responses, and plagiarism tools employed by universities are struggling to cope with this new technology.
iNews announced that the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had banned this technology. Oxford announced that ‘until further notice we will not permit the use of AI tools such as ChatGPT in their assessed work’; while Cambridge informed students that ‘students must be the authors of their own work. Content produced by AI platforms… would be considered a form of academic misconduct’. Since November 2022, 6 more of the 24 Russell Group universities have officially announced a ban on this technology, including Manchester, Bristol, and Edinburgh.
This rush to consider the impact of new AI technology, is no doubt partly inspired by the forthcoming exam season, and at least 28 non-Russell group universities are also in the process of reviewing their policies. Others have issued staff advice on how to identify AI generated work which has been submitted as authentic student work. But this is a short term stop-gap response, and a long term, forward looking, UK university wide standardisation, is undoubtedly urgently required.
However, other universities are examining how to live with this new AI reality, and three Russell Group universities have given a more positive welcome to the arrival of Chat-GPT, and other AI programmes. For example, the University of Glasgow is exploring how students can use this technology responsibly in coursework. While University College London has issued guidance to students on the use of AI, promising to support them if they are used ‘effectively, ethically and transparently’. And the University of Birmingham has given advice and guidance to students to prevent unfair advantage being obtained using AI.
The varying reactions of UK universities to new AI technology is compounded by the exponential growth in the capabilities and functions of this ground-breaking science, and despite both academic and wider societal evaluation of the future positive benefits or negative impact that it will bring, one thing is for certain – AI is here to stay and will be a major influence on our lives, going forward.
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Education Advisers. Education Advisers blog. ‘The International Baccalaureate and AI chatbot technology’. https://www.universityadvice.co.uk/our-services/blog/14/the-international-baccalaureate-and-ai-chatbot-technology 14th March 2023.
Herman, Joshua. Redbrick News. ‘Top UK Universities Ban Chat-GPT’ https://www.redbrick.me/top-uk-universities-ban-chat-gpt/ 27th March 2023.
Hern, Alex. The Guardian. ‘Elon Musk joins call for pause in creation of giant AI ‘digital minds’’ https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/mar/29/elon-musk-joins-call-for-pause-in-creation-of-giant-ai-digital-minds 29th March 2023.
Murphy Kelly, Samantha. CNN Business online. ‘ChatGPT passes exams from law and business schools’. https://edition.cnn.com/2023/01/26/tech/chatgpt-passes-exams/index.html. 26th January 2023.
Wood, Poppy, iNews. ‘Oxford and Cambridge ban ChatGPT over plagiarism fears but other universities choose to embrace AI bot’. https://inews.co.uk/news/oxford-cambridge-ban-chatgpt-plagiarism-universities-2178391 28th February 2023 (updated 2nd March 2023).