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What teachers, students need to know about Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence does not come with the options of “to be” or “not to be” in academia. If nothing, the intelligence that is included in…

Artificial intelligence does not come with the options of “to be” or “not to be” in academia. If nothing, the intelligence that is included in the term makes it “a child of necessity” to intellectuals. Matter-of-factly, to question or dispute the relevance and deployment of artificial intelligence in research works by either established or budding scholars will, in my opinion, be barbaric.

Britannica defines artificial intelligence as a term “frequently applied to the project of developing systems endowed with the intellectual processes characteristic of humans, such as the ability to reason, discover meaning, generalize, or learn from past experience”. It is the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.

Artificial intelligence combines the intellectual knowledge of different fields such as computer science, physiology, and philosophy.  There are several approaches to this interdisciplinary science of artificial intelligence. To solve real-life problems, scientists and researchers apply distinct methods to this advanced technology and improve computer machine functionality.

What comes next to mind with the recent debates on the use of artificial intelligence in academic tasks is the question: is artificial intelligence any recent? With the advent of Google in 1998, we can say confidently that artificial intelligence has been with us formidably since over two decades. It is indisputable that artificial intelligence has been instrumental in the ease of research for academics and students alike.

Only a scholar who still subscribes to traditional pedagogy would question the relevance of artificial intelligence. A scholar in the 21st century should not hold tightly onto traditional pedagogy. So, if artificial intelligence has come to stay and is evidently of advantage to academia. The next concern is whether it comes with challenges or not. Most definitely, it does. Several, in fact.

The rapid growth of artificial intelligence has become a big threat to human intelligence. Human intelligence has been explained as a collection of common mental traits such as creativity, perception, and memory. Artificial intelligence is not capable of human ingenuity. Human ingenuity is the way in which human minds have influenced how we think, work, play, construct and conduct friendships and other relationships, interact with each other, find solutions to problems, cause problems, transform things and rationalize thought.

While artificial intelligence serves as a veritable tool in the hands of a researcher, a budding scholar or a student, it cannot take the place of human intelligence which involves practical assessment of real-life situation and discernment.

To properly narrow this to the academic environment, the advent of certain kinds of artificial intelligence such as ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) is resulting in diminishing return for human intelligence. There is the preponderance of knowledge seekers yet a dwindling number of knowledgeable people.

Wikipedia explains ChatGPT as a chatbot developed by OpenAI and launched on November 30, 2022. Based on a large language model, it enables users to refine and steer a conversation towards a desired length, format, style, level of detail, and language. This tool has become the succour of lazy students in recent times.  They deploy it as a complete replacement for their own intellectual input rather than being a useful guide or insight into their research interest.

You have to be sensitive as a lecturer or supervisor to detect this complete plagiarism and not to even applaud your fraudulent students. One of the simple ways to detect this intellectual fraud is that the ChatGPT does not reference existing works on the subject matter, and if it does, it does not reference locally relevant studies and authorities, and cannot appropriately contextualise a study. You, therefore, must read carefully for traces of appropriate contextualisation to detect the complete use of ChatGPT or otherwise. But again, is the use of ChatGPT and other forms of artificial intelligence wrong? Of course, no! Times have offered them to us and we have to utilise them, but not as a replacement for human intelligence and input.

For researchers, budding scholars and even students, seeking general or background knowledge on any topic through these platforms is not against academic ethics, but this must not replace human ingenuity, proper domestication of knowledge, and application of insights to one’s peculiar situation.

Artificial intelligence has come to stay and nobody’s validation is needed on this reality. However, artificial intelligence cannot, at least for now, serve as a replacement for human intelligence and ingenuity. Therefore, it is a gift for us to use, but not to abuse.


Ganiu Bamgbose, Department of English, Lagos State University

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