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On Learning in an AI World

Since late November, ChatGPT has dominated the news headlines. For the uninitiated, Chat GPT is a cutting-edge language model developed by OpenAI. It can generate human-like text, allowing it to engage in natural language conversations and perform various language-based tasks like; writing compelling stories or essays, answering complex math problems, and writing basic code. So, with AI now coherently answering our questions, many wonder if finding an answer is more important than understanding how you arrive at one.

ChatGPT is highly advanced, but it still has limitations. The program creates a sophisticated imitation of information based on patterns it has seen. For example, it imitates an answer by predicting the next best word in any sentence. However, it struggles to understand new or out-of-context input and cannot yet process what to do with counterfactual information. Nevertheless, it’s a lightning-fast way to move from question to a sort of answer, prioritising the destination and removing any stops along the way.

In today’s fast-paced world, we value speed. We’ve used Google to find answers quickly for almost 25 years, and now we can engage with an AI chatbot and get our answers in natural language rather than an index of websites. AI promises that we no longer need to sift through information looking for an answer – the answer will arrive immediately after posing the question. However, at this point, the AI chatbots’ response quality is more of a new jumping-off point for users to refine and expand upon than a complete and fully formed answer reflecting personal experience and contextual nuance.

When it comes to learning, taking the time to research, process, understand, and internalise as you work towards an answer is often what’s most valuable. The tools we use can aid us in this process. Like a Google search, AI’s value is contingent on user entry and the quality of the answer the user wants, and the user can use this tool to get started. Ultimately, however, the journey will prove more important than the destination. Learning is not about quickly finding a single answer but about growing and developing over time through discovery and understanding.

Opinion, New York Times. “The Ezra Klein Show: A Skeptical Take on the A.I. Revolution on Apple Podcasts.” Apple Podcasts, 6 Jan. 2023, https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-ezra-klein-show/id1548604447?i=1000592835492.

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