Where is the wisdom in AI?

Hello dear reader, it’s been a while.  Over the past year I have been finding it harder to write  as regularly as I used to for this blog.  Or perhaps it’s actually that I am finding it hard to focus on what to write, and so half formed ideas in my head never quite make it to the draft then “publish on the blog” stage. 

It’s not that I am not writing. I am writing lots of different “things” for work.  Like everyone else I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT as a writing aide.  I’ve found it slightly discombulating watching “the beast” devour my text almost instantaneously represent it.  To be honest, what it has given back has been ok, more than OK in some cases. The results have also caused a few wry smiles, as I suddenly see all too clearly  the homogeneity of language it perpetuates.

This post isn’t about the using GenAI.  Thankfully there are many far more qualified people doing that. I rely on them to help my understanding of the challenges and opportunities GenAI is creating.  I have to give a special mention to Helen Beetham’s amazing Imperfect Offerings substack (I aspire to that level of imperfection in my writing! ).

But to the point of this post.  I was listening to Elif Shafak talking about story telling on the Great Women Artists podcast the other day.  Shafak is a very wise woman, that’s what makes her writing so good.  During the interview the conversation got around to information, knowledge and wisdom.  She was reflecting on how there was a presumption that with “t’internet” (my word, not hers!) there was a presumption that we would all have access to information, and so knowledge would be more fairly distributed and democracy would spread and develop. As we all know that hasn’t happened.  But access to information is still critical. The neo-liberal politics of silicon valley are still driven by the control of access to information.

GenAI provides a way to access information in an apparently efficient and most importantly speedy way. No need for anyone to write anyone, because ChatGPT and its ilk can do that for us now.  It will “help” us produce the information and by default the knowledge the world needs. But, and this was the bit that really struck me in the interview, what about wisdom? There doesn’t seem to be time now to value the time that it takes to develop wisdom. To understand, critique, ponder information and create our own personal corpus of knowledge which we can share. 

There is a lot of noise in society in general about the ethics involved in AI, but again the “need for speed” to get products “out there” wins over taking time to think how wise these early releases  with their biases are.  The men at the top (and sadly it still pretty much is men) who share their “profound” statements about AI doing everything for us, are in my mind, not wise. The do not have wisdom. They do not value wisdom. They don’t have the time for that. They want to provide seemingly simple and speedy answers to “everything”.

Where is the space for wisdom around AI in education?  The sector is reacting incredibly quickly in terms of policies particularly around assessment.  There is a lot of collective wisdom around how to avoid students “just getting ChatGPT to write their essays” and using GenAI in more considered ways.  But what about the AI learning design tools that are popping up?  Are they wise? Where are they getting their ideas and information from? Where is the wisdom in increasing homogeneity of courses?  Or does the economic “wisdom” of cutting back on expensive human resource (aka teachers) take precedent?

Education should always evolve in  parallel with society.  But if information is so readily available now, shouldn’t we be thinking more of how we develop and value wisdom? Could we (re)develop society so that people can once again have informed, rational discussion and debate, where we understand and appreciate the ambiguities of society, where polarisation of opinion isn’t used as a tool for personal, political and monetary gain?

Who knows, maybe I should try one of those AI learning design tools to develop course around wisdom . . .

Did a (cc) search on google images for “wisdom” . . . lot to ponder there too. . .

4 thoughts on “Where is the wisdom in AI?”

  1. Probably not much wisdom in AI itself. But, if there is any wisdom to be found, I think I can discover it when I am curious and able to listen to those who do not stand to benefit from AI.

  2. I saw your post via Downes’ newsletter on Friday and it stayed with me over the weekend. Yesterday youtube offered me up this gem that I thought might be helpful https://youtu.be/_F9TAyCJXNA?si=zlJbJ5WnStqoMoOB It’s 9 minutes but worth it, about half way in he talks about “wisdom.” I am not so sure I see it as strictly a “time” issue as ytou frame it, or if it’s time, it’s the time to have done the work to bring heart and mind together. But the concern is real. There is no doubt for me in the power of reason and its surrogates science and engineering, but the state of the world we are in strikes me as exactly what happens when they rule without wisdom.

    1. Thanks Scott – will check that out. I think I am concerned with time as we are always in a rush to move onto the next thing, forget the past, find the next “shiny thing” . . .

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