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AI is Still Here…So What Does that Mean?

When ChatGPT was introduced toward the end of 2022, I largely ignored it.

I am change averse. I am not an early adopter. I like doing things the way I do them.

Really, I like to feel like I’m in control. 

For months, I would open tabs and not read them or listen to conversations with skepticism, engaging just enough to have a general sense of the scene, but not enough to really know anything. 

And then, roughly a year ago, I decided the time had come. It was very clear by that point that generative AI wasn’t going anywhere and would only become more powerful and pervasive. It was very clear that generative AI would have a disruptive impact on pretty much every aspect of our lives. And it was very, to me at least, that pretending it didn’t exist wasn’t going to help anything.

So I leaned in. Research is my comfort space, so I started there: I read the tabs and a few different books, engaged in two different certificate programs, talked to a whole bunch of people. 

And then I jumped. I allocated a day to played with ChatGPT and see for myself. 

I offered workshops and series for professionals and educators about AI as a way to force myself to learn about and interact with the new technology…and as a way to feel a sense of companionship in this scary unknown. 

I started advocating for embracing AI, writing content, starting a Facebook group, and even delivering a TEDx talk about using AI as a catalyst for change in education. 

And now, it’s a year later, and generative AI is still here…and still only becoming more powerful and pervasive. 

So, knowing that AI is here to stay, what does that mean?

1. For professionals – Now is the time to embrace AI and figure out how to make it work for you. 

Yes, there is a learning curve. The first time you interact with ChatGPT, it’s awkward and feels a little like a first date as you try to get to know each other. And, after about 10 hours, you get into a flow. You better understand how to ask for what you want, and ChatGPT has gotten to know you well enough to actually be helpful. You start to get a feel for the places where AI actually can streamline your life..and the places where you’re just not ready to go yet. The key here is that you need to figure out what works for you – and maximize that. 

2. For leaders – Now is the time to help direct the development and use of AI for good.

Yes, there are lots of challenges with generative AI – privacy issues, bias and misinformation, potential for abuse. And, there are so many opportunities for positive. And, we get to decide how it’s used. We can set the policy for our organizations. We can provide feedback to OpenAI and other developers. We can guide those around us in using their powers for good. The key here is that you need to recognize your own power – and maximize that. 

3. For educators – Now is the time to be thinking about how we can be preparing our students for an AI world. 

Yes, the world is changing quickly, and it is still the role of education to prepare our students for their world. Government is starting to recognize this and try to play a role.  The AI Literacy Act (bipartisan legislation), for example, aims to classify AI as an essential part of digital literacy and make AI literacy accessible through public schools, colleges, universities, and libraries. The act focuses on five main areas:

  • Skill development in AI usage and understanding its concepts, applications, limitations, and ethical issues.

  • Enhancing U.S. technological competitiveness through education and certification programs.

  • Providing hands-on AI education in public education institutions.

  • Promoting equity in AI education, especially for minority and rural communities, and addressing the current disparity in AI field graduates among different demographic groups.

  • Ensuring accountability through annual reporting by the assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

And, we don’t need to wait for legislation. We can consider what our students need to know and be able to do and to make we get them there. The key here is to lean into good education and our focus on what’s best for students – and maximize that. 

4. For humans – Now is the time to lean into what makes us uniquely human.

Yes, AI is based around giving machines human-like skills. And they will always be machines. So, where are the spaces that actual humans will always be superior to machines? How can we delegate the things AI can do to AI and truly lean into our humanness through areas like compassion, empathy, critical thinking, and creativity? Sal Kahn, founder of Kahn Academy, in a TED talk that discusses their AI-based tutoring platform, shares that he believe AI should be used to enhance HI (human intelligence). The key here is to partner with AI in order to enhance what we as humans can do – and maximize that.

5. For you – Now is the time to get out of your comfort zone.

Yes, unknown is scary. Yes, disruption and change are hard. Yes, it feels easier to just do things the way that we have been doing. And, with the trajectory AI has already taken, we may not have a choice much longer. We have the opportunity now to engage with AI on our terms in a way that benefits us. We are in control. That doesn't mean that you have to do it alone -- join a Facebook group, talk to colleagues, attend a workshop. Or reach out to me! I'm always happy to talk AI and getting you started. The key here is to find a starting place, any starting place – and maximize that.

(And, yes, you probably fit into many/all of the above categories…)

AI is still here…which means it’ll probably be here tomorrow. 

In a piece for JTA, Dr. Samantha Vinokor-Meinrath (Senior Director of Knowledge, Ideas, and Learning at the Jewish Education Project) shares, “So much of what Jewish education looks like today was designed for a previous generation that we’ve in some ways been able to adapt and update,” she said. “When we think about the Jewish future, we're really trying to plan for tomorrow’s learners today. And I think AI is a tremendous way to think about tomorrow, today.” 

So how are you thinking about tomorrow, today?

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