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Welcome to “Illini Insider,” your regular dose of University of Illinois news from celebrated writer Luke Taylor. He's fresh out of college, and is always looking for story tips, photo ideas, and social media tags. Send him an email at email@example.com He will chase.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Robert Bruner, chief disruptor at Gies Business, and his upcoming online class created with the help of generative AI.
Bronner and I did not have a chance to speak prior to this column, but we have since been able to connect and dig deeper into the process behind creating that course and the future of AI as Broner sees it.
“I'm a firm believer that if you want to understand how things will affect the world, you have to experience them,” Bruner told me.
That's a call to action for his fellow professors, but it's also one of the reasons he's willing to try using AI to bring the classroom together.
He is quite confident that the use of AI at this level will not become the new norm; He used it to create text from his course outlines as well as repeating his voice and image.
Although it made editing easier and reduced scripting time, training the software and creating audio and visual elements were new processes for the entire team, so it was still a lot of work.
Bruner was still in the midst of the project when we spoke, so that may have swayed his opinion, but he's starting to think it's actually more work than simply recording the class in a traditional way.
There are some potential benefits to creating classes this way: The fact that it is much easier to translate text and quickly record courses in other languages will make it possible to deliver these classes to people all over the world.
This is especially important for a land-grant university, Brunner said.
“It would be so aligned with our mission that it would be kind of exciting,” he said.
Here he sees AI changing things for professors, not for standard in-person instruction.
Overall, Bruner expects it will take three to five years for generative AI techniques to hit their stride and become truly mainstream in everyday life.
“In the short term, people overestimate what these technologies can do, but in the long term they underestimate it,” Brunner said.
It's like the iPhone: When it was first introduced in 2007, the little touch-screen device was groundbreaking, but compare that to smartphones today.
This means we have an opportunity to put some “guardrails” in front of generative AI and answer complex questions, Brunner said.
“What would it mean to have an AI version of me that can be programmed to say things?” is Broner's immediate question.
Sure, AI Broner is providing useful instructions now, but could someone take it and make it look like the real Broner is saying something insulting or offensive?
Can anyone do this with any public figure who has enough audio and video content?
(Short answer: They can, but it takes a lot of work and knowledge to do it convincingly using current technology. To be fair, deepfakes have been around for a while already and caused many of the same concerns when they first arrived on the scene.)
This could easily be considered a form of defamation, but should written law expand to include possibilities related to artificial intelligence?
Answering these kinds of questions will take time, but for now Brunner says it's time to start learning how to use AI.
Like some other professors at UI, he assigns homework that involves the use of ChatGPT, hoping to teach them how to use it well and raise the scores they achieve.
“It's really doubled the skills that I'm confident the students will take away from the course,” Brunner said.
At the same time, he watched the students experiment and discover what exactly generative AI programs could achieve.
“I don't know the best way to use ChatGPT,” Brunner said. “And that's some of the beauty of it.”
Bruner's job as a disruptor is to shake things up, always looking for the next big thing.
He's excited about the ways in which he can imagine a lot of the latest technologies working together in the future – one example of this is using artificial intelligence to create worlds to explore in an artificial reality headset.
It may seem simple, but AI generation could be big for video games; One of the biggest selling points of Bethesda's latest release, Starfield, is that it uses procedural generation to create endless, unique planets to explore.
Brunner looks to the future with hope, seeing science fiction become reality.
“We often get caught up in the negativity, and there are real concerns, but technology has done amazing things for people,” Brunner said. “There are a lot of problems in the world, but things will get better.”