Published on Feb 02, 2023
I remember when email was new. A friend of ours at university told us about this thing called email where you could send letters to each other via computers. It’ll never catch on, I said. What’s the point of that when you can just speak to each other or write with a pen and paper.
I have a terrible track record with this kind of thing. I thought cameras on phones was a terrible idea. Now I have a daughter doesn’t ring the doorbell, but instead sends me a photo of herself outside the door, looking impatient.
Which is why I’m a little hesitant about damning ChatGPT, the new AI tool that everyone seems to be talking about, as if it’s going to change the world.
Because it probably will change the world.
Look back at my last blog post, about learning Euskara. Half of it was written by ChatGPT. Being a copywriter myself, and being picky about what I write, I edited with a heavy pen, but ChatGPT wrote an entire 800-world blog post in about 30 seconds.
Microsoft, who own the tool, are going to integrate it into Excel, Word, Powerpoint and the whole Office suite so that eventually you can just tell it to write your presentation for tomorrow morning and then build a spreadsheet calculating your department’s finances.
Buzzfeed recently decided to fire 12% of its workforce and replace them with ChatGPT. So it’s already happening. The robots have taken over.
Of course, my example of writing with ChatGPT is perhaps the way we’re heading – not a total replacement of human effort, but a support to human effort. Do some heavy lifting for me, perhaps do the research I might have done on Google for me, and then I’ll add some flavour, rewrite the parts I don’t like… and what do I save, 30 minutes?
In Buzzfeed terms, that’s potentially quadrupling their output, which frankly is a blight on us all anyway.
And so, continuing the theme from the last blog post on learning Euskara, I asked ChatGPT to teach me Euskara. And it had a go. Here’s what it said:
Euskara is the Basque language spoken by the Basque people of Spain and France. Here are some basic phrases in Euskara:
That’s nice, isn’t it.
Will AI ever actually be able to train us human beings to do things – or are we just going to rely on AI for everything so we never need to be trained? We’ll just sit there eating crisps, watching Bargain Hunt while ChatGPT makes us money, is that where we’re heading?
I think what’s most likely is that AI will provide us with some support, much in the way that we’ve been using Google to do our research and find documentation or thought pieces. We can now ask ChatGPT to do that searching for us and compile something unique so that we can learn from that.
But what about more structured learning?
I asked ChatGPT to build me a one-day syllabus for learning French. And here’s what it came up with in the space of just 25 seconds.
9:00 AM - Introduction to French language and culture
9:30 AM - Basic Greetings and Introductions
10:00 AM - Numbers and Telling Time
10:30 AM - Basic Vocabulary and Grammar
11:00 AM - Verb Conjugation
12:00 PM - Lunch Break
1:00 PM - Basic Conversational Practice
2:00 PM - French Reading and Writing
3:00 PM - French Media and Culture
4:00 PM - Review and Assessment
Note that this is just a sample syllabus, and the pace and content may be adjusted depending on the level and needs of the learners. It's also important to create opportunities for speaking and listening practice, as well as encourage students to immerse themselves in the French language and culture outside of the classroom.
Now – yes, this is amazing. But would you really want to spend just 30 minutes on French grammar? I’ve spent 30 years on French grammar and the very idea of the past historic still sends me into spasms of fear. However, putting that aside, we now have a tool that is able to design educational programme outlines for us that are – in theory – completely unique.
Again – for ideation purposes – this is fantastic, but relying on AI to produce a tool for humans to pass on learning to each other? Perhaps not. Remember how we learn, and the many different ways of learning that we use – reading/writing is just one, but there’s also kinesthetic – actually doing it and learning from our experiences. Visual is another.
And there may be a way for ChatGPT to replicate these experiences, and perhaps one day artificial intelligence may be able to train us without human intervention, using many different learning styles.
But we’re not there yet. But where we are at is very interesting, because we now have the ability to ask an AI tool to think on our behalf, design things on our behalf and write things on our behalf. And if we’re creative enough, and we remember that AI is a tool to support what we do ourselves, then that’s a very powerful thing indeed.
Published on Feb 02, 2023 by Gareth Cartman