The urgency to balance the potential of AI with its inherent risks is evident. Together with Laura Hilliger and Thomas Salmon, I was asked to provide feedback on an AI positioning paper that will be presented at the 18th annual Internet Governance Forum of the United Nations in October 2023.
The position statement is titled “Higher education’s essential role in preparing humanity for the artificial intelligence revolution,” and is written by a diverse group of educators and scholars dedicated to fostering AI literacy and responsible development.
While we largely resonate with the sentiments, this post offers some insights that could enrich the discourse and, hopefully, drive effective action.
- Historical Lessons and Current Realities: The position statement rightly emphasizes the need for comprehensive AI education. However, we must acknowledge that similar calls have been made in the past. Educators rallied around cries to ensure digital literacies, web literacy, computational learning, social media awareness, and other media-centric themes became embedded within our educational systems. We know that such efforts often fall short of equipping individuals for modern society. We have to ensure that AI education transcends rhetoric and results in tangible skills that empower individuals.
- Simplicity and Depth: The statement serves as an accessible introduction to complex AI issues. We applaud the translation. Yes, depth is crucial to understanding the nuanced challenges AI presents. Balancing simplicity with comprehensive content will help people grasp AI’s intricacies. We need to foster deeper engagement with its ethical, societal, and economic implications.
- Regulation Dynamics: The statement aptly highlights the importance of governance, but we should consider the interplay between bottom-up and top-down regulatory mechanisms. Effective AI regulation can indeed emanate from grassroots initiatives, creating a catalytic effect on broader policies. To this end, fostering collaboration between institutions and policymakers is vital.
- Global Engagement and Concrete Steps: This statement encourages reflection, yet it could be even more impactful by delineating a concrete roadmap. How can institutions globally come together to integrate AI education? By providing actionable steps, we can guide educators, administrators, and policymakers in effectively implementing AI literacy programs. This is where the rubber hits the road.
- Balanced Perspective: While cautioning against AI’s potential pitfalls, let’s also emphasize its positive aspects. AI-driven advancements in healthcare, the environment, and education hold transformative potential. Acknowledging both the positives and negatives of AI will provide a holistic understanding for learners. As educators, we do not believe in the fear-focused approach experts in the field are using.
- Policy Discussion and Inclusion: Delving into the policy discourse’s intricacies is essential. By identifying the key stakeholders shaping AI governance mechanisms, such as tech leaders, regulators, and civic representatives, the process is better able to facilitate an inclusive dialogue that transcends diplomatic jargon and centers on practical solutions. We support this statement’s effort to engage directly with matters of concern for education stakeholders at different levels. Inclusive efforts to map out stakeholders and make sure the right people are in the room will resonate with educators, students, and technology practitioners.
- Action-Oriented Approach: We applaud this call to action, but let’s explore the “how” further. Offering a blueprint for integrating AI literacy into curricula, designing cross-disciplinary programs, and establishing collaboration networks can help higher education institutions take tangible steps forward. Institutions are still worried about students using AI to cheat, so it’s clear that we need to advocate for AI awareness.
- Next Steps and Audience Clarity: Elaborating on the immediate next steps will provide a roadmap for institutions to embark upon. Additionally, clarifying the audience—whether tech industry leaders, regulators, educators, or all—will ensure your message resonates with the right stakeholders.
This response to the position statement emphasizes the importance of learning about artificial intelligence and its potential for advancing humanity. Collaboration is key to creating a future where AI is used as a tool for growth and progress. Our main message can be summed up as “taking action instead of just speaking.” In today’s world, language can easily be automated by robots, making action more valuable.
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