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22 May, 2024
 
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ChatGPT's rise sparks academic debates

Universities seek effective AI strategies

Opinion

Opinion

By Dr. Demetrios Devetzis

On November 30, 2022, a small revolution took place on a global scale. ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence software based on advanced language models, capable of generating texts from corresponding programs, was put into use. The use of ChatGPT can be considered as an evolved form of internet search engine. Well-known web browsers, initially, do not differ in terms of usefulness from ChatGPT or similar software. The difference lies in the fact that ChatGPT goes beyond a "passive" presentation of research results: it not only provides information but also critically evaluates the relevant search information it possesses - which is continuously updated - generating original, unique answers as a result of an autonomous intellectual process. For this reason, until detection software, which recently made an appearance, is developed, several universities have limited or prohibited the use of this software. Universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Manchester, Edinburgh, as well as New York University, and the famous University of Tübingen in Germany, have banned ChatGPT. As of May 6, 26% of German universities had either fully or partially prohibited the use of ChatGPT.

The use of ChatGPT is not limited to academic research. On January 31, 2023, the attorney of Cartagena, Colombia, Juan Manuel Pantigia Garcia, issued decisions citing results provided by ChatGPT, much like they would with corresponding legal precedents and references. In April, the European Data Protection Council (EDPC) established an action group to investigate serious allegations of personal data breaches by the software management entity, while tech giants like Amazon and Baidu are intensively working on developing similar software. The software is also checked for possible uncritical reproduction of biases, making it unlikely to refer to, for example, a female leader or academic, raising obvious equality issues.

The prohibition of using ChatGPT in universities doesn't come as a surprise. It hasn't been long since classic calculators were not allowed in educational settings. However, these prohibitions are relative, as students are not restricted from using the software privately. Nonetheless, the inevitable nature of its use is what necessitates its boundaries. The adverse impact of using similar AI software is evident at a higher level (beyond mere copying) in their potential negative effect on academic creativity and weakening critical thinking. However, this is not new. If copy-pasting is the "curse" of school and undergraduate life, the clumsy stitching of controlled, accurate information is a wound in the academic world as a whole. In this sense, ChatGPT does not present novel problems but potentially renders existing ones uncontrolled.

For this reason, a more realistic approach would be appropriate. The fourth industrial revolution is manifested through the adoption of new productive patterns that generally redefine accepted truths. The prohibition of similar AI forms is not unjustified or unsuccessful in the short term. However, it is counterproductive in the long run. "Banning" similar applications and their reconciliation through educating students on using ChatGPT, regulating their use uniformly at a central level, and adopting alternative evaluation and research methods (e.g., oral development of student work, group research activities, synthetic questions, and creating structures for research, study, and continuous evaluation within the academic environment) are necessary prerequisites for positively parameterizing their adoption. The development of a healthy approach to their use, as well as the necessary realization that many traditional forms of evaluation are now outdated, bring to the forefront the core of the problem: beyond the use or non-use of specific AI software, a holistic redefinition of academic development is necessary.

Dr. Demetrios Devetzis (LL.M, M.L.E.) is an associate professor in the Department of Law at Frederick University. He has worked at the Legal Service of the European Commission in Brussels and taught in Germany, Austria, Greece, Italy, Belgium, and Congo.

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Cyprus  |  chatgpt  |  AI  |  computing  |  university  |  education

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