January 29, 2023

WEIRENS | Artificial Intelligence at Cornell: The Potential and Pitfalls

Print More

In today’s fast-paced world, technology is constantly evolving, and one of the most exciting developments is the rise of Chat AI. As a college student, it’s essential to understand the benefits that Chat AI can bring to your education and future career. In this article, I will argue why Chat AI is a valuable tool for college students and how it can help them to succeed in their studies.

The first benefit of Chat AI is that it can provide personalized, on-demand tutoring and homework help. College students are often faced with a wide range of subjects and concepts to understand, and sometimes they need extra assistance to grasp a particular topic. Chat AI can help students by providing explanations, examples, and feedback on their answers, making it easier for them to understand difficult concepts. This can be particularly beneficial for students who may struggle with certain subjects or who need additional support.

Another benefit of Chat AI is that it can improve students’ writing skills. Chat AI can provide feedback on grammar, sentence structure, and style, helping students to improve their writing and communication skills. This is particularly important for college students who are preparing to enter the workforce, as good writing skills are essential for success in many careers.

But hold your horses — I didn’t write any of that. In fact, nobody did. All of the above text was the result of this Chat GPT prompt: “Write an opinionated article arguing why Chat AI is good and make it about college students.” 

Chat AI, recently released in November 2022, is a large language model that provides highly detailed responses to almost any prompt of your imagination (given that it’s appropriate). Once I got past the initial disbelief of Chat AI’s capabilities, I quickly became fascinated. A couple of minutes of playing with it made me realize that Chat AI is no Siri. I made up the most chaotic prompts possible to test Chat AI’s capabilities, but, to my amazement and slight horror, couldn’t seem to stump it. Discounting the amusement factor, there’s something eerily creepy about a computer being able to tell you on demand “how a dozen Swiss hogs would dance if hogs could dance,” as if it already knew you were going to ask it for years to come. 

Entertainment aside, I believe that Chat AI is going to forever change what it means to be a college student, especially at Cornell. We’re currently in a brief gray area of addressing usage of AI, particularly in regards to schoolwork. For example, despite being enrolled in five writing-heavy humanities classes, none of my current professors made rules this semester for Chat AI in their syllabus or even mentioned it. In upcoming semesters, I predict that Cornell staff will undoubtedly take a stance on Chat AI, professors will edit their syllabi and the Student Code of Conduct will be adjusted accordingly. 

However, I’m not sure how enforceable these regulations would be. A Princeton student, Edward Tian, made an app to detect Chat AI use, and I have noticed that Chat AI does have a slightly distinctive style and authoritarian tone. Still, I foresee the use of AI being difficult to prove and easy to mask. The few comments on Chat AI that I’ve heard from my peers’ professors have been cautionary but accepting of some of its features, like outlining first drafts or editing. This seems like the most reasonable stance, as it accepts the difficulties in detecting AI-generated content while still setting boundaries.  

Chat AI has great potential if used responsibly. However, its high probability for academic abuse makes me leery. Additionally, as a writer, the idea that computer software can replace us so easily is quite humbling. On a similar note, image-generating open AI like DALL-E can generate unique and beautiful works of art, no artist needed. As someone with no artistic ability, I find it extremely entertaining and useful. 

I am hopeful that the Cornell community can put Chat AI and other large language models to the best possible use. If you haven’t tried Chat AI yet, I highly recommend creating, discovering and exploring it for yourself. AI will change everyone’s lives and futures forever, and I see Cornell, and its students, at the forefront of its emergence and evolution.

Aurora Weirens is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]The Northern Light runs alternate Sundays this semester.