Faculty at the University of New Mexico are preparing for the impact of artificial intelligence for the upcoming academic year after professors weighed its benefits and risks at a Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee meeting on July 24.
The committee was created by the New Mexico Legislative Council in May. AI was one of three topics the committee discussed, and the subject was given additional meeting time to develop legislation.
The meeting took place at the UNM Los Alamos branch. Melanie Moses, a computer science professor, and Lydia Tapia, a professor and chair of the Department of Computer Science, represented UNM.
Tapia discussed the current AI research taking place at UNM, including in the fields of medicine and robotics. She also broke down the past, present and probable future of AI and chatbots.
“Because they’re getting easier and everywhere, it’s becoming even easier to interact with them. They’re gonna be everywhere in our lives,” Tapia said.
In the English department, Diane Thiel – Regents’ Professor and associate chair – regularly confronts AI in her work and fears its ramifications for the arts and humanities.
“Writing is an art and a field of communication,” Thiel said. “If art and essential communication are outsourced to artificial intelligence, we are likely to lose far more than we will gain.”
The project, “Making AI Generative for Higher Education,” will take place for over two years at UNM. Leo Lo, dean and professor of the College of University Libraries and Learning Services, leads the research project in collaboration with other universities and the company, Ithaka S+R.
The research will focus on teaching, learning and information discovery, Lo said. The six-person team will interview faculty to assess their needs to support them, then implement a university-wide AI policy. The Center for Teaching & Learning, Lo said, is also hosting a session before the fall semester to help returning faculty learn how to use AI in their teaching.
“We need to support both instructors and students on their AI literacy. Right now, most of us don’t really know much about the technology, the implications, the ethics,” Lo said.
At the July meeting, Moses brought up concerns that AI might worsen the existing issue of misinformation.
“We certainly live in an ecosystem where there is a tremendous amount of misinformation, particularly in social media, and the real concern with generative AI is that it will be very good – it already is – at producing convincing stories that sound true – that are convincing, but are in fact just based on falsehoods,” Moses said.
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
Thiel’s most recent poetry book, “Questions from Outer Space,” addresses the way technology has been misused in a society unprepared for the fallout, which she related back to AI.
“The scaffolding cannot yet handle the ethical questions AI is ushering in for all fields,” Thiel said. “Already, our uses of technology have supplanted deep thinking, creative approaches and complex analysis to a significant degree.”
The potential of AI when employed by creative people is a superpower, Lo said, however it requires effort, critical thinking and communication skills, especially when used in the classroom. Lo said he wants people to use AI to its full potential.
“I want our instructors to be fluent in AI so that they know how to teach their students to use it in the right way,” Lo said.
AI could potentially be a useful tool, but Thiel said one that’s applications need to be considered. “We would be wise to remember the cautions of dystopian novels and films that communicated such concerns about AI developing beyond humans’ means to manage it.”
Lily Alexander is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @llilyalexander.
Lily Alexander is the news editor for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @llilyalexander