AI and Four Things I Can’t Stop Thinking About

Circumstances force continued conversations about AI, currently leaving me with four pressing topics, now six months later. AI, of course, comes in ever-increasing variations, but my focus here is mostly on ChatGPT and its cousins. There are also AI tools including those that transform text to images or videos.


Artificial Intelligence must be viewed within a larger historical trajectory.

Good or bad, AI will likely rank among the more transformative events in the annals of History. Like language, agriculture, the printing press, the Reformation, the American and French and Haitian Revolutions, the Industrial Revolutions, and the internet, AI is challenging authority and disrupting tradition.

The printing press aided the distribution of knowledge. Web 2.0 made everyone a publisher. Both transformations were concerned with fostering creativity, guiding personal enrichment, and encouraging expression.

AI is more like an Enshrined Magic 8 Ball with “your wish is my command” at its core, its centerpiece. Bard, ChatGPT, Claude, Grammarly, Quill, and the like are not oriented toward fostering curiosity and creating new knowledge.


AI is challenging seemingly everything about education as we know it.

Students are finding AI’s promises of instant answers irresistible given the insurmountable pressure they are under to maintain work and family responsibilities and to graduate.

AI is further attempting to turn education into a series of checkboxes to quickly mark off.

AI is disrupting the value of instruction from an actual expert and all the individual insights, even quirks, we bring to the conversation. And when I say “expert” here, I don’t just mean those with advanced degrees: Every person has unique expertise.

Worse, AI is divorcing older and newer knowledge from expressions of this knowledge. And it’s allowing humans to outsource what would be human thinking and human creativity.


“How is using ChatGPT different from using a calculator?”

Standard calculators help with equations that have specific, single answers in our base-10 number system.

There is a profound difference between using a calculator (if allowed) to determine the solution to “8 x 12 x 5” and asking AI “What are four different types of liberation theology?”

The math problem has one correct answer. It requires no prior knowledge beyond an elementary skill level and requires no original thinking. The calculator will return the correct answer (480) every time.

Recalling Linda Adler-Kassner’s words that “writing is never just writing,” the religious studies question requires advanced language skills, ongoing learning and research, synthesis and analysis, planning, writing, and editing. There is no correct answer. There is nearly an infinite set of possible responses. ChatGPT might, sometimes, return a partially correct response to such a query.

There is also a profound difference between using a calculator and AI-powered Grammarly.

Again, a calculator is perfected to return the one and only correct answer for the small set of problems it can handle. There is no such thing as editing in this case. (And let’s not forget that process is always important, especially in academic spaces.)

AI-powered editing tools step in without knowledge of the writer’s specific learning, intent, or voice and without any individual knowledge, effectively becoming a really terrible co-author (who even adds errors). When any part of writing is outsourced, the rest loses authenticity.


What to [fill in the blank] is AI?

Frederick Douglass’s “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” comes to mind.

As its proliferation continues, AI will certainly impact everyone—from what jobs are available and what job descriptions include to how people place orders and pay bills.

Capitalism has assumed such a firm place in society that I highly doubt that much-needed economic restricting, such as Universal Basic Income, will accompany this groundbreaking moment in world History.

Thus, I ask: What to the poor is AI? What to the disabled is AI? What to the child is AI?

AI is not a liner trajectory to utopia. Who will AI help? Who will AI hurt? Who will AI forget?


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