Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been dominating the headlines over the last few months. For years people have speculated how this technology will affect our lives. Now that generative AI has hit the mainstream, we’re starting to see some of those effects.
Language models such as Chat-GPT are among the most recent breakthroughs. The program has revolutionized AI with its ability to produce coherent text, and it has upended the entire industry.
Suddenly, tech leaders and politicians are sounding the alarm over this new technology. An article from the New York Times this year reported that leaders from AI labs such as OpenAI – the people behind Chat GPT – warn the technology poses a risk for human extinction.
These warnings sound extreme – but what effect will this amazing new technology have on the way that we interact with the world around us? Are we right to be wary of this new technology? Or is it a useful tool to help us live our best lives? Let’s take a deep dive into the world of generative AI and find out more:
Why are there warnings about artificial intelligence?
In the last six months, the chatter around generative AI has tended to focus on the risks, rather than the benefits. Even bad-boy tech billionaire Elon Musk is worried. The Tesla founder has labeled AI “a danger to the public.” He’s urged caution in the widespread adoption of this new technology. So, what exactly is going on?
It seems undeniable that this new technology will lead to huge social changes. There is a growing fear of job losses because this new technology is more efficient than human workers in many roles. So, the widespread adoption of this technology could lead to significant changes to employment trends. This includes potential high unemployment and the economic disparities that follow.
What’s more, there are ethical considerations around the way that AI systems are already being used. AI systems aren’t perfect. There can be biases and discrimination in their training data, which makes the decisions they produce unfair.
Another AI-related fear is that, as these systems creep into our daily life. Could we grow reliant on them? If so, some of our human skills might atrophy.
These worries are not without a basis. Our reliance on smartphones has definitely meant that some skills have disappeared. For example, anyone who was born pre-1990 probably still knows their best friend’s old landline number by heart, but not their current partner’s mobile number! So, there is a rational fear that AI will have a similar impact on our creativity, judgment, empathy, and ethical reasoning.
Artificial intelligence and government regulation
The EU is currently working on legislation to regulate the implementation of AI systems. At the moment, legislators are more concerned with minimizing the risks of discrimination, rather than more dystopian fears.
The EU competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, told the BBC, “Probably [the risk of extinction] may exist, but I think the likelihood is quite small. I think the AI risks are more that people will be discriminated [against], they will not be seen as who they are.”
In Britain, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is calling for a global conference on AI regulation. A whitepaper from the British government recognizes that this new technology means both opportunity and danger.
“These risks could include anything from physical harm, an undermining of national security, as well as risks to mental health,” said UK Science and Tech Minister Michelle Donelan.
“The development and deployment of AI can also present ethical challenges which do not always have clear answers. Unless we act, household consumers, public services and businesses will not trust the technology and will be nervous about adopting it,” she added.
An optimistic view of AI’s potential
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, there are also many reasons to be optimistic about the potential good this new technology can do. Some people see the AI revolution as a way of freeing ourselves of the boring and repetitive tasks of modern life.
With AI systems, it’s possible to automate dull tasks like email management, paying bills, grocery shopping and various forms of personal admin. By giving these tasks to an AI machine, people can free up their time for more interesting and meaningful activities- For example, that might be spending more time with friends and family, engaging in creative practice, or learning a new skill.
Removing the burden of boring tasks isn’t the only way that AI can help humans. When it comes to creativity, AI can be a partner to humans, offering ideas, solutions, and insights that come from analyzing tons of data. Writers’ block is a thing of the past. Creators can take their ideas from concept to finished product without the need for a big budget. Musicians can explore different sounds far more quickly than otherwise — Paul McCartney was even able to release a new duet with John Lennon last month, despite his Beatles bandmate having died in 1980.
What’s more, AI makes a fantastic educational partner, providing personalized learning by analyzing data with experiences tailored to individual needs. Thanks to its ability to process data and recognize patterns, AI quickly understands each learner’s strengths, weaknesses, and learning style.
AI in education provides assessments, targeted feedback, and personalized recommendations for each learner. AI platforms can be digital tutors. They provide real-time help and guidance to learners. The technology can generate content and curate resources to support learning. This includes interactive classes – and much more.
What ELSA is doing with AI technology
AI in education is also driving change and revolutionizing learning by building immersive environments and on-tap instruction. At ELSA, we have thought hard about how this new technology can be used to help our learners unlock their English skills and achieve their goals.
Our ELSA Voice AI Tutor is already making waves. It can provide students with roleplays, conversations, and free-flowing natural interactions, along with real-time feedback and guidance which makes learning more engaging.
So, students can choose their own adventure as they learn. They decide which goals to focus on, such as improving their professional English, social chit chat, or ordering at restaurants. Conversations adapt to the learner. The AI tutor takes into account their English level, style, and speaking environment. Then, the AI tutor provides tailored feedback on many areas of users’ spoken English skills. These include pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, intonation, and rhythm.
Ask ELSA Anything (AEA) lets them follow up with ELSA in real-time. That means they can ask spontaneous questions when they want, as they would with a human teacher. Learners can ask for more detail, request extra examples, or seek clarification.
A new future with AI
As we have written before, Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha students – people born between the late 1990s and the year 2024 – want cutting edge tech for their education.
They are going to enter an employment landscape rendered vastly different by AI. Not only do they need to know how to use this new technology, they also need to be familiar with it. Using AI in education is a sure-fire way to help them in this endeavor.
Of course, that is not to say we can ignore the warnings around AI development. It is vital that we approach AI safely and responsibly. But it’s important that a cautious approach doesn’t blind people to the exciting possibilities that AI offers. Revolutionizing our approach to education and the way we learn languages is just one of many beginnings as we take our first steps into a future with more powerful technology.