Academy Debate: “Be It Resolved That AI Will Enhance Human Capacity to Learn” (Winter 2024 Forum #3 Summary)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Artificial Intelligence Debate Team 2024.

With suddenness, the wide-ranging and powerful possibilities of Artificial Intelligence have hit the front pages, thrilling some but not all. New developments in A.I. will drive its impact on education and on learning in general. With a combined total of 47 years in the Academy, four members debated this. (They created their own thoughts; not A.I.!).

Sheila McCook welcomed everybody and introduced the Forum. Virginia Clark  moderated the forum for Mandy Thomson and introduced the topic: “Be It Resolved that A.I. will Enhance Human Capacity to Learn.”

Enrique Biber and Carol Austin argued in support, Linda Tu and Ernie Fallen opposed. Before the debate, 33 were in favour, 14 against and 9 undecided.

Enrique started by saying it’s all about Human Learning: acquiring and retaining knowledge to enhance Peer Learning. It has a positive impact for doing research and can present fewer misconceptions for students. Less time can be spent on the administration of research by teachers; more time to spend with students. There are potential issues of bias and privacy that must be worked around.

Linda responded: the Human Capacity to Learn. Does A.I. enhance this? NO. Does A.I. enhance our brains? NO. Better to learn via effort and time to be smarter, not A.I. Students may not develop critical thinking via A.I. Linda quoted an example of a plane crash when the technology driving the plane broke down and the plane crashed because the people ‘operating’ it did not know what to do. We need human intellect.

For ALLTO learning, we need full attention and human intellect.

Carol commented that A.I. is a new, practical and most powerful tool for research. She gave a couple of examples like Health Care and Urban Planning where the use of data allows better, faster analysis and decisions. It does not eliminate the personal role, but allows people to focus on the data collected.

Ernie said “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” Studies are biased, not random. There can be disinformation. Humans learn from feedback and experiences from other human beings.

A number of questions were raised by the audience, including:

  1. Are there benefits to A.I.? Linda: good for research, but does it change the capacity of humans to learn? Use your brain. Enrique: It enhances our capacity to learn; we progress.
  2. Have I learned from A.I.? Linda: Can consider A.I., but it does not enhance unless you study a lot; A.I. does not help you learn. Ernie: Critical thinking is the question: A.I. does not do this.
  3. Capacity versus learning? A.I. gets information, but how do students learn? It gathers data, but need to take action on it.
  4. Disadvantages? No creativity, must think outside the box. Enrique: A.I. will not replace creativity, but provides data as a starting point.
  5. We need a reason to learn; can A.I. motivate us? Why learn unless it’s necessary (e.g. why do I need to know how to cook?!)
  6. What are we talking about? Learning via ALLTO is better than A.I.!
  7. Bias, Disinformation, Ethics: How do we know? Enrique: there is a risk, but the software can often detect this, and it can be audited, based on algorithms.
  8. Capacity to Learn from A.I.? Linda: A.I. gives you new information, but you need to process and learn (i.e. Capacity).

In summary, Ernie commented on how comical it is to watch his grandkids using ChatGPT. Carol had a number of comments: We are on the cusp of a technology revolution. It is a tool for education and research. We have always developed tools; it is the latest. It’s a tool; it replaces mundane tasks and allows us to focus on critical thing. Will it diminish our cognitive capacity to learn?: NO. The question is: how quickly can we embrace it?

The final vote was 28 in favour, 22 against and 5 undecided. More CONS than PROS than before the debate.

A very entertaining afternoon. Thanks so much to Virginia, Enrique, Linda, Carol and Ernie.

By John Weatherburn