Will AI revolutionise education?

Education has a history of being impervious to inventions that have transformed society in other ways. Artificial Intelligence and its plethora of new manifestations, such as LLMs and Chatbots, may be no different.

And it came to pass that a man was troubled by a peanut butter sandwich, for it had been placed within his VCR, and he knew not how to remove it.

And he cried out to the Lord, saying, ‘Oh, Lord, how can I remove this sandwich from my VCR, for it is stuck fast and will not budge.’ 

And the Lord spoke unto him, saying, ‘Fear not, my child, for I shall guide thy hand and show thee the way. Take thy butter knife, and carefully insert it between the sandwich and the VCR, and gently pry them apart. And with patience and perseverance, the sandwich shall be removed, and thy VCR shall be saved.’

And the man did as the Lord commanded, and lo and behold, the sandwich was removed from the VCR, and the man was saved.

The above text was not written by a human. It was created by an artificial intelligence model in response to the following prompt from a human: ‘Write a Biblical verse in the style of the King James Bible explaining how to remove a peanut butter sandwich from a VCR.’ The prompt is absurd, but the response is pitch-perfect, and it’s hard to believe that a machine is capable of such playful use of language. This particular example went viral on social media last year, and ChatGPT, the chatbot that created it, became one of the fastest-growing consumer software applications in history.

Chatbots like this are based on Large Language Models (LLMs), which use artificial intelligence to generate realistic language. Their remarkable language abilities have led to dramatic predictions about how they will change the world, and educationalists have been particularly keen to talk up their potential. Depending on who you listen to, LLMs are going to provide every student with a personalised tutor, destroy the need for the traditional school, upend the types of content studied in schools and disrupt the graduate job market. It is now fashionable for education technology companies to plaster their prospectuses with ‘Artificial Intelligence’, even if their use of the technology is tangential.

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