AI- Empathy and Human Interaction. What are the implications for educators?

On Radio 4 this morning Rabbi Jonathan Sacks discussed AI with some of the world’s leading thinkers.


The programme started by highlighting the amazing advantages that AI can bring to the human race. For example, AI will enable cheap and fast diagnosis of medical conditions.  They already have an algorithm that can diagnose 40 important conditions just from scanning your eye. The debate then lead to the guest speakers agreeing that a human would still need to be part of the diagnosis process, to add empathy (if telling a patient bad news etc), and to take over all responsibility for the information they have gained through the AI.


One speaker argued that lack of empathy could be a strength of AI.  Infact, attempts are made to programme empathy into AI.  But a big flaw at the moment is that algorithms are based upon passed human behaviours, and therefore include the biases and blind spots of our history.  For this reason, it is feared that AI could perpetuate the disadvantages we already face in society, e.g. in education and healthcare.


They then discussed which jobs AI would be useful for and which should retain a human quality.  For example: should parents have the choice to use AI to read their child bedtime stories or sing lullabies? Some feel parents should be trusted to choose.  Others feel that raising a child is such an important human interaction that computers should not be relied upon.  They mentioned how these days (in Michael McIntyre’s words): “parents Frisbee an ipad when their child comes in to their room at 6am”.  Tech has become a 21stCentury pacifier for children. British 6thForm students also gave their opinions.


Humans are afraid of AI and for good reason.  Will people use it ethically and morally?  Also there is the fear that human activities could become replaceable. However, a good point was raised by a Radio 4 speaker.  Hunting and gathering was once seen as a vital human activity. You can’t stop progress. You can prepare for it.


Some main questions for HE educators could be:

What can we use AI for when supporting student learning?

Which human interactions (in teaching and learing) are the most important and should not become automated?


There could be instances when AI, plus an educator working together would be most appropriate.


To listen to the programme in full:


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