Generative Futures symposium at the Institute

SpeakerDavidJoynerisanExecutiveDirectorattheCollegeofComput- ing. Joyner spoke on historical pros and cons of developing technology. // Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has recently come to the forefront of the cultural and societal consciousness. As such, any significant change or shift in technology is bound to make an even bigger impact on the Institute. 

To address this change, on Sept. 28, the Center for 21st Century Universities (C21U) hosted Generative Futures: Revolutionizing Learning with Artificial Intelligence, a symposium focused on AI and its implications on education and the arts. 

C21U hosts the Generative Futures symposium every year with topics focused on changes in education. C21U’s goal is to be “the catalyst for transformation in higher education,” said Stephen Harmon, Director for educational innovation of C21U. 

AI has existed long before the introduction of ChatGPT, with examples including search recommendations, autocorrect, and navigation systems. While these technologies also made great changes to the way people work and live, they seem to have caused less panic than ChatGPT and similar systems, some may wonder, what makes ChatGPT so different? 

“It feels more human,” said Dr. David Joyner, Executive Director of Online Education within the College of Computing, the keynote speaker of the symposium.

As keynote speaker, Dr. Joyner focused on the changes AI can have in education, starting his presentation by discussing how previous technologies have caused similar outbursts. For example, he pointed to calculators and autocorrect as technologies that are used by students everywhere and drew criticism from educators in the past who believed the inventions would make education lose its meaning. 

The second part of the symposium focused on the implications of generative AI on the arts, another controversial topic brought to the forefront recently by the strike of the Writers Guild of America (WGA). One of the major demands of the guild was protection from the use of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, to write scripts. 

Issues with generative AI have also merged in the visual art space with work produced with AI winning the Colorado State Fair art competition, sparking the conversation about the morality  and use of artificial intelligence. When asked about these situations, Harmon invoked the title of an article by Karim Lakhani, a professor at Harvard School of Business, saying, “AI will not replace humans, but humans with AI
will replace those without it.”

Harmon cited productivity or the lack thereof as being central to the conversation and that AI could be the answer.  

“There are certain sectors of society that don’t enjoy the same increase of productivity that others do. It takes a string quartet the same amount of time to learn a piece of music as when it was written hundreds of years ago. AI can help,” said Harmon.

Both students and professionals attended the symposium.

“I’m here to support my professor, Dr. Lisa Yaszek, and hear her speak as part of a panel,” said Amanda Lang,  fifth-year AE.

Harmons hopes for more students at the Institute to continue to invest time and energy into AI.

“Georgia Tech students and faculty are very innovative. We will not only think of new ways to use AI, but we will also become the creators of it,” says Harmon. He adopted an optimistic look at the future of AI, hoping it has a smooth integration into highereducation across the country.

 “There is a more positive outlook on how it will change the way we work and how can we teach students to use it the most effectively,” said Harmon, he continued, “studies show one-on-one tutoring is the most effective. The future of AI could be building individual tutors for students.”

Only time will tell how AI affects education in the long run, maybe it will become as central to learning as calculators. The Institute has the students and faculty prepared for an innovative future.