To Bot or Not to Bot?

To Bot or Not to Bot?
Photo by Alex Knight / Unsplash

The debate over AI is far from settled. Competing views on appropriate use of generative AI chatbots range from allowing full, unfettered implementation to blocking their use altogether. Some advocate age restrictions. I wrote on the topic of AI in this post and have not been persuaded into a changed stance as of yet—frankly, there has been little noteworthy informed conversation on the topic in my circles. Still, I wanted to revisit the topic and frame the dialogue through the lens of education. Nothing compares to the potential for expediting the learning process the way that AI does. When leveraged wisely, AI chatbots hot-knife-butter learners through topics that take much longer to accomplish in a more traditional learning situation.

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One undeniable advantage of AI chatbots is their ability to foster critical thinking skills. By engaging with these virtual assistants, we are encouraged to ask concise, probing questions and go deeper into subjects than we might in a traditional classroom setting. This process not only enhances understanding of the material but also cultivates a habit of inquiry that will serve well in all pursuits. Practice posing the right types of questions, and you will start to get better and better results—kinda a garbage-in-garbage-out situation—that improves through active engagement. If doing is learning, then the act of asking questions to a chatbot is honing the skill of inquisition, which in turn, unshackles the brain to ask more creative questions.

However, the vast sea of information accessible through AI chatbots also presents a potential pitfall. With so much knowledge at our fingertips, we may find ourselves easily distracted or led astray from the intended learning objectives. Without proper guidance and structure, the allure of endless information could hinder rather than help the learning process. It’s the problem of ignorance; we don’t know what we don’t know. 

At best, AI chatbots mirror our language and provide a believable response. It’s not entirely a blind-leading-blind situation, but we should be careful not to crown king the cyclops only because we ourselves are cannot see. My prescription? Seek professional help. If you really want to or need to know, ask someone who does—or get a book and put in the work to really learn.

There's more to the issue of accuracy and reliability. While AI chatbots can provide instant answers to a wide range of queries, raising the risk of encountering misinformation, we can develop discernment skills to distinguish between credible sources and dubious ones, lest we inadvertently internalize inaccuracies. Learning takes on a new degree of completion when we sit in the judge’s seat and weigh the validity of whatever facts or arguments we encounter. AI can and should be instrumental in cultivating a healthy skepticism. At least according to Bloom, there is only one more step to complete mastery.

On a more positive note, AI chatbots can also inspire creativity. They can expose diverse perspectives and ideas without bias. These virtual assistants may not directly promote ideation, but their output can become the seeds of great epiphany that would otherwise have been left unplanted; they are a wildcard in the brainstorming process. We still need to think outside the…noodle and approach problems from new Blickwinkeln. This injection of creativity is the pinnacle of the learning experience and the very essence of our humanity.

Summing it all up would be an exercise in futility, as I assume the debate will smolder on for quite some time. In the meantime, I see no reason to bar anyone from exploring the possibilities that chatbots offer. If anything, I see a sound reason in exposing even the youngest of learners to AI, so long as it is done responsibly. Whatever that may look like, I encourage you to explore it out loud in the comments below. #commentifyourenotabot