Academics concerned about ChatGPT advancing at warp speed

A university lecturer says we need to shut down schools until the education sector's worked out how to deal with warp-speed developments in artificial intelligence.

He said teachers need time to properly upskill and come to terms with the impact of websites, such as ChatGPT, that can write entire essays for students.

By now you've all heard of that clever internet friend known as Chat GPT. But the artificial intelligence chatbot is raising some pretty serious questions for the education sector. 

"My most crazy idea is to say we need to shut down schools and give teachers that time, because this is not something that can be done incrementally, over multiple years, it's something that we need to address immediately," said Dr Simon McCallum, a senior lecturer in software engineering at Te Herenga Waka/Victoria University.

McCallum's call comes just a week after tech leaders Elon Musk and Apple founder Steve Wosniak made their own call for a six-month halt on major developments in AI.

He said an education pause would allow teachers the time needed to upskill and time for students to get used to AI that learns faster than they do.

McCallum told Newshub: "The challenges in computer science is that the 'GitHub Copilot', which is one of the large language models systems, is already better than our first-year students, and my fear is that the AI is learning faster than our first-year students."

Turnitin, a plagiarism software used at universities across the country, now has the ability to spot AI-generated material with 98 percent accuracy.

And while that might stop students from using ChatGPT to write an essay for them, many are already using the chatbot to assist their learning.

One person told Newshub they use it "every day, [on a] daily basis."

Another said they primarily use the chatbot for "coding [and] debugging. So if there's a problem with your code you can put your code in and it will tell you where your problem is."

One person unfamiliar with the service said: "Chat GPT? I do not know what that is."

"It's useful for finding sources on what we talked about, like it can be used in a good way if we wanted it to be," a student told Newshub.

"Literally last week is the first time I heard of it," said one person.

The topic might still feel relatively new, but it's a conversation being had on a global scale.

Italy blocked ChatGPT because of privacy concerns, and US President Joe Biden met with scientific advisors on Wednesday to discuss the threats posed by artificial intelligence.

"AI can help deal with some very difficult challenges like climate change and disease, but we also have to assess the potential risks to our society, our economy, and our national security," Biden told reporters.

Dr McCallum said: "We need to get ahead of it, and not just wait for it to happen to us."

Because it is happening whether we want it or not.