Artificial Advantage: Big business for A.I.

NOW: Artificial Advantage: Big business for A.I.

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Artificial Intelligence has been in the news, but some may be more familiar with the term from science-fiction movies such as The Terminator franchise, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, WarGames and books like Neuromancer, and it's usually portrayed as a negative force that may potentially end the world.

Fortunately for humanity, the reality of A.I. is much less sci-fi.

"Intelligence is kind of the wrong word. It can't generate its own thoughts, but it can predict answers, so it seems intelligent more than it actually is intelligent," said Nick Brittin, Chair of Communication and World Language at Lake Michigan College.

He's been fascinated by what A.I. can bring to the table.

"I'm kind of the tech-guy at LMC and so I've been keeping up with-- hey this is coming out," said Brittin. "And it sort of was just released in the fall, and some students and my own kids were saying 'hey this is available now.' So I went and checked it out. Ever since then I've just been trying to play with it and see what it can do."

So, what can Artificial Intelligence be used for?

Some programs are used to create pictures based on user input-- which you may have seen on social media, or even experimented with yourself.

Other programs like ChatGPT and Google Bard can answer questions and reply to responses.

Brittin demonstrated: "Let me create a new chat here: I'm going to explain to ChatGPT what I want it to do."

He told the A.I. bot that it was a confused college freshman and explained that he was going to give a lesson on how to write an essay.

"I'll give it some basic ideas like something I would teach a class and then it will play the part of somebody, you know, a confused student, who's going to then ask me questions," he said. "This is going to be really useful."

Brittin compared it to a dress rehearsal and used the questions the A.I. asked to help prepare his lesson plan and better educate his students.

The A.I. is quite simple to use; all you need to do is open ChatGPT or Google Bard in your web browser, and you can either use one of their examples prompts or suggest your own, such as 'create an itinerary for a day at the beach in St. Joe,' and the results will show up in seconds.

It's programs like these that Brittin believes are game changers, particularly in the field of education.

"What I think a potential use for it could be the way I'm trying to promote it, is as personal tutors," he said. "You can have a personal tutor that's accessible twenty-four hours a day, it never gets tired, it never sleeps, it's always available to you, and you can ask it questions."

He also believes that students engaging with A.I. can use it as a tool to improve their writing.

Students have embraced it.

Recent Notre Dame graduate Chase Harding said, "I've used it for study plans. I'm studying for the CPA this Summer. I've also used it for-- you can put in your own paper, and have it grammatically correct it, so I've used it to do that, like edit my papers."

Another Notre Dame student, Andrew Hennessee said, "For most students, its just a tool that gives them a push in the right direction. For me, if there's something I'm stuck on, I can use the resources available online to ask it a quick question or two. It's like a really tailored Google search, almost, in that it gives you the information you need and you can go forward."

But it's not just college students; thanks to a research study by Brainly from January 2023, using a sample of 700 high-school students in the U.S, 62.2% used A.I. to help understand their assignments.

Nearly 40% hoped to see more of it in the classroom.

And when they're not using it for class--

"You can use it for fun," said Harding. "I know friends who've used it to text their girlfriends and stuff."

Brittin said the uses go far beyond the classroom, such as coding, medicine and perhaps even reporting.

It's possible that some professions will be very different in the coming years.

"I think that there will be a shift in the job market," Brittin said. 'I think that we will see jobs shifting, and that some jobs that humans perform now will be outsourced to either A.I. or something similar, they will be automated in some fashion. But I don't really fear that either, because there was a time when we had milkmen. Before we had good refrigeration a guy would brink milk to your house and now we have refrigerators and the milkman had to find a different job, but we don't lament-- 'we should get rid of our refrigerators because we need to hire milkmen.' They moved on."

A.I. is already being adopted to fill in gaps left behind from the worker shortage.

Business Insider reported restaurant chains like Wingstop and McDonalds are adopting 'A.I. powered' services to take orders from customers.

Some of them have been experimenting with these services even before the pandemic.

A study conducted by Yell revealed that A.I.'s efficiency could save businesses-- on average-- around $35,000 annually.

But locally, it's unclear what impact is being made.

I've reached out to several consulting agencies to see if A.I. is seeing more wide-spread adoption in Michiana.

None were willing to comment.

Perhaps because the tech is too cutting edge, or out of fear of admitting some jobs are being phased out.

But even if some jobs may no longer exist, Brittin looked on the bright side.

"I think that A.I. will-- yes, it's going to cut off some jobs, but I think it's also going to create new ones, probably that, we don't even know what they are yet," he said.

Ultimately A.I. is just a tool, one that may augment rather than replace workers.

"You might think of it like a nail gun," Brittin explained. "You can't take a nail gun and set it next to some boards and say 'okay, I'll have a house tomorrow.' You still need a person to operate the nail gun, you still need a person to make the schematics to make the blueprints to put that house together. The nail gun makes the construction worker more capable, more effective. We will still always need good, old- fashioned reporters and good, old-fashioned educators, but their tools have changed, and this is a tool that we will need to use."

And for concerns about A.I. taking over the world?

"I think we're pretty safe as far as the Terminator goes," he replied.

The use of A.I. is still in its early stages, and it's unclear exactly where it may go, as there's still plenty of debate over whether or not it should continue to be used.

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