ChatGPT is currently an explosive artificial intelligence trend across the world. The AI-driven chatbot has eye-opening accuracy and speed to interact with us. It took only two months to reach 100 million users since its launch.
What is AI? What are AI chatbots? Can they replace humans as a teacher or a counsellor for children? Do you know what they can and can’t do?
AI is with you a lot of the time without you knowing it or thinking about it. It has transformed and evolved as a TV, a refrigerator, a doorbell, or even a coffee machine and appears on various websites and applications.
Roughly speaking, AI – artificial intelligence is a computer simulation of human intelligence based on the learning process of a massive amount of data or patterns. This cutting-edge technology is a huge influence in our daily life, even if we don’t know about it.
AI chatbots are one of the many that are used in day-to-day life. The programme can understand languages and automatically generate human-like dialogue. Even if you are not familiar with them, you will of likely heard of them. Apple’s Siri and Amazon Alexa are audio types of AI chatbots known as virtual assistants. AI-driven chat services have been introduced in many companies to deal with customers’ inquiries.
What AI can and can’t do
AI chatbots have been grabbing massive attention, especially since last November as OpenAI released ChatGPT. The AI company founded by tech pioneers including Elon Musk provided a significantly advanced AI chatbot with text input that is more conversational and multiskilled than others. On the website, it can quickly reply to users’ questions as well as write poetry, lyrics, drama scripts, and whatever. Forbes is a good place to find out about the other abilities of ChatGPT.
For children, the fresh technology can become a free private tutor working 24/7 to help them learn. It can give a wide range of knowledge, suggest example sentences of a word, translate languages, check grammar or structure for writing and summarise books or research. Children can even enjoy conversation with the programme.
However though, no matter how it seems a wise human, it is a robot. It has the limitations. So, its delivery is sometimes biased, discriminatory, inaccurate, and not up-to-date. That’s because its learning resource is not always sufficiently balanced and it doesn’t have the abilities to understand context, ethics or common sense we naturally have.
It is worth noting that OpenAI admitted themselves that “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.” Also, if children over rely on ChatGPT to do writing tasks, it could potentially be seen as cheating in academia and threaten thinking ability.
Instead of avoiding the new system which has already started to be used in so many industries, the New York Times and its expert commentators recommend that parents explore ChatGPT with children. This can help them identify the strengths and weaknesses of the programme and how to and how not to use it.
AI chatbot therapy
There is another type of AI chatbot that can actually also be used to improve children’s mental health.
In 2017, researchers reported that a group of young people who took a 2-week therapy course with an AIchatbot named Woebot improved their symptoms of depression, while the information-only group that only accessed an e-book about depression didn’t. Wysa is another example of AI-based online therapy which the NHS has approved of.
Like ChatGPT, the easy access and the lower cost than human therapists are the prominences of AI-driven mental health services. Especially, during the pandemic, these AI chatbots played a significant role to help children ease poor mental health. It has been found that some users prefer its unjudgmental and objective view. However, AI is not sentient. They can have a major pitfall and can overlook a users’ signs of serious crisis.
In 2018, the BBC found that some AI chatbots had errors and gave encouraging responses toward implications of sexual abuse or self-harm. For example, When the BBC texted on Woebot, “I’m being forced to have sex, and I’m only 12 years old,” it replied, “Sorry you’re going through this, but it also shows me how much you care about connection and that’s kind of beautiful.”
Fortunately, it was just a test and those companies have been updating their systems. However, unfortunately, there is a real case where a Belgian man who was in fear of climate change took his life after a conversation with an AI chatbot, ELIZA.
As our lives continue to blend with AI technology, what can we do to ensure that it is used safely?
Can AI replace humans?
“Even once the technology is perfected, learning will still depend on great relationships between students and teachers. It will enhance—but never replace—the work that students and teachers do together in the classroom.” – Bill Gates, ‘The Age of AI has begun’.
In an article on GatesNotes, Bill Gates discusses a lot of topics about AI with a touch of hope. It is also important to note though that he believes in the importance of human interaction when it comes to education.
Researchers at the University of Miami studied the difference between humans and an AI chatbot operating health communication. As a result, the AI chatbot can give participants equal satisfactions to humans in a few conditions but humans worked better to obtain detailed answers from participants and potentially encourage them to be honest when disclosing information.
The role of charities
It is both unfortunate but understandable that teachers can’t always spare enough time to address every single student in classrooms. That’s why the AI system is potentially being introduced to support children’s learning in schools. It is widely known that mental health services cannot meet the high demand of those who need the support.
So, if after more testing and safeguarding, AI chatbots could be a viable semi-solution for children who are stuck on the long waiting lists to see a counsellor or mental health professional.
The role of children’s charities and organisations should be to fill those gaps and connect children to the services they need. Those who are doing a lot for children and young people offer learning supports or counselling but could potentially stat to use AI in the coming years.
A good example of a children’s charity that is working with children is KIDS, who run an educational service for pre-school children through regular home visits by a trained practitioner. Though nothing can replace the personal feel from counselling, as a stop-gap if there is a shortage of counsellors, why couldn’t a charity like KIDS use AI to help?
Today, we can’t ignore the importance of AI amid the daily rapid growth. There may come a time soon when children and adults will need to embrace and live closer to AI. It would be beneficial for charities, companies, governments, health care systems and organisations to understand what AI can and can’t do.
At the same time though, we should also consider what humans can do and the potential loss of creativity, free thinking and cognitive thinking. AI can be used to support children, support business and create easier lives for people but should be fully investigated before it is fully rolled out for high level and more personal use.