Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Ethical Questions Related to Discriminative and Generative Artificial Intelligence

It suddenly seems that everyone is talking about artificial intelligence, computers doing things that look like they require intelligence. Tools that generate images or text have gotten fairly good and easy to use.

These generative AI tools are trained to create new content based on their input data sets. Discriminative AI tools, on the other hand, are trained to differentiate among different classes of input and predict which class a new observation should belong to.

My impression is that people are more comfortable with discriminative AI, with applications in autonomous vehicles and facial recognition, than with generative AI that seems to intrude on our uniquely human creativity. Of course there is a spectrum of opinions from excited techno-optimism to worries that this will bring about the end of civilization.

Lately I've been a part of many discussions about ethical questions surrounding artificial intelligence, particularly in education. For many of them there aren't, or aren't yet, good answers, but they certainly make for interesting debate. These are in no particular order, and feel free to use them in your own conversations.

  • Is it plagiarism or cheating to use generative AI tools?
  • Can we accurately detect if students are using these tools? Is this something we should worry about?
  • What are we training students for? Is school about job training?
  • Why do we make students write?
  • What are uniquely human skills and competencies we need to foster?
  • If we block AI tools on our educational networks and devices, does the problem go away?
  • Are we comfortable with doctors or drivers using AI?
  • Can AI take over some of the mundane parts of our jobs (or lives)?
  • How would we feel about a facial recognition attendance system?
  • Is it ethical to have AI help us draft emails, or blog posts?
  • What does education look like if teachers use AI to help generate questions and students use it to help generate answers?
  • Are we okay with corporations using student questions and responses to help train their models?
  • Will bias in the training data lead to increased societal polarization?
  • Are there analogies to historical inventions that we can learn from?
  • Will AI disintermediate students and learning?
  • Does over-reliance on AI lead to skill loss?
  • Will we lose jobs? Will this change jobs?
  • Does AI exacerbate inequality?
  • Will AI lead to homogenization of culture?
  • Do we like spell check, autocorrect, autofill, predictive text, and autoreplies?
  • Will generative AI answers spell the end of internet search?
  • If we enjoy doing things, should we use AI or machines to do those things? Should we try to prevent AI or machines from doing those things?
  • Is AI worth the environmental impact?
  • What might AI tools look like in six months? How about in five years?

Hopefully these questions can help spark some thoughful and spirited discourse.

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