Ethan Mollick on Using Artificial Intelligence in Student Writing

I have added Ethan Mollick’s substack blog, “One Useful Thing,” to our Resources list (above). A professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Mollick writes that he’s “trying to understand what our new AI-haunted era means for work and education.” I have found his posts terrifically useful, in particular his recent discussion “How to Use AI to Do Stuff,” which I recommended to my third-year students recently, drawing attention to these caveats:

Some things to worry about: In a bid to respond to your answers, it is very easy for the AI to “hallucinate” and generate plausible facts. It can generate entirely false content that is utterly convincing. Let me emphasize that: AI lies continuously and well. Every fact or piece of information it tells you may be incorrect. You will need to check it all. Particularly dangerous is asking it for references, quotes, citations, and information for the internet (for the models that are not connected to the internet). …

It also can be used unethically to manipulate or cheat. You are responsible for the output of these tools. [emphasis mine]

Two key points that remain true about AI:

  • AI is a tool. It is not always the right tool. Consider carefully whether, given its weaknesses, it is right for the purpose to which you are planning to apply it.
  • There are many ethical concerns you need to be aware of. AI can be used to infringe on copyright, or to cheat, or to steal the work of others, or to manipulate. And how a particular AI model is built and who benefits from its use are often complex issues, and not particularly clear at this stage. Ultimately, you are responsible for using these tools in an ethical manner.

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