What happens when robots not only learn to write well, but the tech becomes easily accessible and cheap? As Hal Crawford explains, it’ll likely be teachers who feel the effects first.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to artificial intelligence: there are the people who have heard of the GPT-3 language model, and then there are those who have heard about it, gone to the OpenAI site, created a guest login and tried it out for themselves.
The first group contains people who are wondering what the big deal is.
The second group does not. I haven’t heard of anyone who’s actually used GPT-3 and doesn’t think AI is going to change the world profoundly.
Education in particular is going to feel its influence immediately. That’s because although GPT-3 has been around for a couple of years, the ability for anyone to create a guest login and begin using the machine is recent. This is not some techno future. If I had an essay on a tough topic, or a particularly dense piece of writing I couldn’t easily understand, I would now take it to GPT-3.
In fact, I already did. It’s always hard to come up with intros, so I asked GPT-3 to compose this feature for me. I typed in my draft headline – AI language models have entered a new dimension, and it’s going to change education (and almost everything else) forever – and it burped up 474 perfectly readable words in just over a second:
AI language models have entered a new dimension, and it’s going to change education (and almost everything else) forever. If you haven’t heard of GPT-3 yet, it’s a new AI language model developed by OpenAI. It’s the world’s largest model of its kind and can accurately predict the next word in a sentence. GPT-3 is not just a better version of GPT-2; it’s an entirely new way of doing AI. (…)
What is this thing?
This is me writing again. The human. As the AI says, GPT-3 (the name stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer) was built by Silicon Valley’s OpenAI in 2019. The machine is a vast network of nodes – a structure that mimics aspects of the brain – that can be trained by playing a game with itself, billions of times over. The game is to guess the missing word in a sentence. One part of the AI guesses, another looks at the answer and adjusts the network’s pathways depending on whether the answer was right or wrong. Where do the sentences come from? Books, articles, essays, stories, conversations, social media posts. Billions and billions of lovely words, waiting to be fed into the machine. Something that couldn’t have happened without the internet.
Educational technology researcher Mike Sharples, of the UK’s The Open University, says transformers like GPT-3 are set to disrupt education. To make the point, Professor Sharples asked the AI to produce an essay on “learning styles”. It came back with 401 words that had all the look and feel of a competent undergraduate with the confidence to make this assertion:
Ultimately, we need to understand the interactions among learning styles and environmental and personal factors, and …….