Law in the Internet Society

Artificial Intelligence and Education

-- By IndraDan - 16 Dec 2023


Artificial intelligence has become one of the hottest topics of discussion. Advanced language models that replicate human speech have exploded in the last year. Anxiety over how these models will change the workplace - displacing a large number of jobs - has been a heavily emphasized narrative. Yet, the future is not predetermined. Whether these models will be net negative or positive for humanity is still undecided.They will certainly disrupt and change how a number of industries operate.

One industry that language models have the potential to revolutionize is education. Khan Academy, one of the pioneers of effective online education, has already begun to introduce AI chatbots. With an emphasis on the ability to “personalize” a user’s experience, BigTech? intends to transform the educational landscape now. Yet, it is unlikely that the free-market will wait to identify the optimal approach for AI-based education. Instead, a trial and error approach with society is more likely. Thus, it is valuable to analyze the costs and benefits of these developments.

The Potential of AI and Education

The Case for AI

In theory, AI can represent a solution to the consistent undersupply of qualified educators in America. From an optimistic perspective, an AI educator provides each student with individualized attention - teaching students iteratively at their own pace. Students could experiment with and explore areas of their own personal interest - rather than being forced to stay on a single curriculum. Education could step away from standardization (a trend already in place) and re-focus itself on actually providing students with knowledge.

What is the Danger?

Unfortunately, optimistic hypotheticals must be grounded with unfortunate realities. The current iteration of Khanmigo only serves to grade papers, provide students with assessments with limited interactive support and craft lesson plans. Furthermore, the “convenience” of entrusting education to a seemingly all-knowing AI model is less appealing when put in context. Large language models are the newest product of surveillance capitalism. These models were developed by training on the behavioral data of human users. The battle for the collection of personal data is likely to evolve with the use of AI models. The relationship between current network platforms and a number of mental health related diseases illustrates why caution is imperative.

Searching for AI's Impact on Education

It therefore begs the question - how will AI impact education? Here are a few areas to begin discussion: What content should we allow [trust] AI to teach? What features of that content furnish themselves for AI educators?

One distinction that may be relevant is certainty. Some academic subjects are structured around objective, definitive rules. In elementary mathematics, arithmetic operations with numbers rely upon these rules to come to a certain result. The guidelines of the subject matter are so clear that a student of these subjects needs only to become familiarized with the rules in order to “learn”. This example could be compared to a more nebulous subject like art. Art in general does not follow a formulaic approach - its value is often tied to the novel and creative processes involved in its creation. Attempts to establish rigid structure in these subjects is futile. Fundamental to the expression of art is humanity and its imprecise originality. For many, AI models, even when trained upon the most famous and storied pieces of art, are unable to capture the creative process and therefore unable to create products of value. Does the lack of clear principles in this process make AI unable to teach it? Unfortunately, very few subjects are developed upon infallible rules - everything exists on a spectrum of certainty. Even math begins to shift into the theoretical when pursued deeply enough.

Luckily, education is not a pursuit of certainty. Instead, it is an uncertain approach of making the student think, learning from experience (and mistakes) in a (somewhat?) guided fashion. From memorizing the capitals of the 50 states to developing the ability to speak in public, every form of education requires a student to engage with the content itself. Technology already serves as a valuable tool in this process, as it increases student’s access to resources. A successful teacher is one that can facilitate a student’s thinking process - by presenting content in a variety of ways and resolving questions that may appear. AI could be a convenient appliance in the larger education system’s arsenal - even if short-falls exist.

The student’s experience is the crux of this analysis. AI’s introduction to the education system should be heavily weighed against its impact upon the students themselves. While the aforementioned “pros” of an AI based education system are likely to drive adoption, there needs to be a corresponding review of what pains it may cause.

Individualization is a particular aspect to be wary of. Despite its benefits, inherently it would provide less opportunity for collaboration. Students confined in “personal” curriculums would no longer share their experiences with their peers - detracting from an important aspect of the current system. With Zoom school as a prime example, technology can isolate students. As a society, we will deal with the consequences of this isolation for years to come.


In truth, our current education system is not only set-up to make students think. Despite any criticisms, school is the central means that we provide for young people to socialize and develop in a safe environment. There are a number of unanswered questions regarding how AI may impact this social process. Will AI be able to recognize children dealing with emotional struggles and respond to these issues? Intuitively, that would more likely be the realm of our human educators. But, how will AI impact the authority of teachers in the classroom? Will AI push more prospective teachers away from a career in education?

More questions will arise before answers are found. AI is likely to be a mixed-bag, coming with distinct advantages and disadvantages. The severity will depend upon how the technology is implemented. Caution and thoughtful analysis of these issues will hopefully help our educators avoid our prior failures.

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r3 - 16 Dec 2023 - 16:17:28 - IndraDan
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