Is ChatGPT the end of education as we know it?

Rapid technological advancements that have challenged the norm have hardly been received well. Most of the times the resistance has been well justified because we have to accept that technology advances much faster than ethical or philosophical principles do; and technological power in the hands of an unethical man has always led to catastrophes. Even when the common man was handed unprecedented power with the advent of the internet and specifically social media, there were a lot of disbelievers who assumed the worst. And none of us believers can claim that they were completely wrong in their apprehensions. The downside of technology has always been just as prevalent as the upside, and it is a constant battle to maintain the balance, at least on the middle class man’s end.

I am a little late to the party, because while I am writing, the discussion about this newest technology that poses a challenge to everything as we know it has almost died down. It’s not completely new but people discovered it at one phase and everyone seemed to be obsessed with it. ChatGPT.

It’s been more than a month since the obsession seems to have died down. There is little to no statistical data that I can use to understand how many people are actually still using it but I can confidently claim that all of them who once explored it still go to it at least once or twice a week. Surely no one has forgotten about it like people forgot the Koo app that once surfaced to challenge Twitter and died down in a matter of weeks. It is more likely that people are secretly using ChatGPT to get their tasks done and not speaking about it because it is extremely convenient that way. If that is the case the artificial intelligence might already be challenging a lot of existing norms without there being too many news reports about it.

If you have been living under a rock, ChatGPT is basically a chatbot. You can ask questions to it and it will give you the answers. The selling point is that you can literally ask it anything and it will answer you, including creating reports, writing proposals, curating synopses etc. It answers both technical and creative questions with the greatest of ease and considerable precision. It’s knowledge was limited to 2021 when the developers perhaps stopped developing it, but that is a negligible glitch, as ChatGPT still serves almost every educational purpose and it has competitors being developed globally.

Academicians and the stern stakeholders of culture and heritage have always been the first line of resistance to technology that made lives easier than they probably should. The ease of access to information and knowledge, as wonderful as it is, is also a threat to protecting intellectual material, conducting genuine research and recognising true academic potential. One cannot deny that the ease of acced has killed the power of retention and memory, hindered the spirit of inquisitiveness and lowered educational standards in a lot of educational institutions to a great extent. Surely there are students in advanced institutions making the right use of ICT and making an actual difference; but the average Joe is using his phone and the access to unlimited knowledge and information it provides to plagiarize his assignments and watch random strangers’ pitiful attempts to garner attention on the internet. And this average Joe constitutes a great part of the current Indian education scenario; a statement validated by the many reports available on news portals about how a great part of the Indian youth is unemployable.

Artificial intelligence that serves the average Joe – completes his assignments, writes his research thesis, gives him the code to complete his difficult project and even writes a cute poem for his girlfriend; is basically a ticking bomb for the entire education system as we know it today. The entire concept of teaching, learning and evaluation can cease to exist because artificial intelligence solves every problem and no student needs to make any effort other than learning to read and write basic things. The ambitious ones will carve out their path; the world still has so much to offer. But what happens to the millions of average Joes who slack around through student life and yet obtain a degree with flying colours? What is next for them? Can artificial intelligence earn them a living yet?

Don’t mistake me, there is a lot of good to come from artificial intelligence becoming a part and parcel of our lives like that. Man has learnt to make technological advancements to lead a better life after all. And each time there has been an advancement, it has come with skepticism from people who assumed that this will be the end of all human abilities. It started with the calculator, which supposedly made us dumber in terms of our mathematical abilities. Even with the advent of Google and other supporting technologies, there have always been enough people who believed that these advancements are making us lazier, less capable and directing us towards doom. Even though we haven’t exactly been doomed yet, I think it is safe to say that human intellectual abilities are not the same as they used to be.

Interactive artificial intelligence like ChatGPT might well be pushing us further in the same direction. Too much ease of access is not something that the education system as we know it today thrives upon. There is a lot of space for enquiry, research and study; space that artificial intelligence threatens to fill in a jiffy. How the education system will adapt to that will be an interesting development of our times. Resistance is not an option whatsoever. There are already claims that the education system is obsolete; even though it has been making strides to incorporate the newest and the most relevant of technologies. Resisting or even preaching against interactive artificial intelligence will be an irreversible mistake for educational institutes. To adapt is the only way forward. How, is the question.

Change is the only constant the world has known. No matter how much resistance the skeptics and the fundamentalists pose, technological advancement is not something that anybody can stop or even pause. Interactive artificial intelligence will make its way into every single one of our lives sooner rather than later. It already has, but I mean it in a more obvious sense. So if today you think that portals like ChatGPT are bad and must be curbed in their infancy, you’re in for a very uncomfortable ride for the next few decades. Some truly mind-boggling inventions await the light of day. The past decade has been mad enough, but I think the next one will be the real game. Things will change for better or worse and we can do nothing about it but adapt.


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