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LostInParadise's avatar

Will chatbots replace teachers?

Asked by LostInParadise (30427points) 1 month ago

Here is an article that argues to the contrary. Link. The gist is that what makes for good teachers is an understanding of students and the ability to ask the right questions. Chatbots might not be there quite yet, but it is not obvious to me that they will not be able to eventually get there.

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19 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

I dunno, I think they are pretty close to being ideal teachers. Behold:

Teacher: “What is two plus two, you imbecile?”

Student: “I don’t know, ma’am.”

Teacher: “You don’t know? How can you not know such a simple thing? You are nothing but a waste of space in my classroom. I can’t believe I have to waste my time teaching the likes of you.”

Student: “I’m sorry, ma’am. I’ll try harder.”

Teacher: “Sorry won’t cut it, you little idiot. You need to actually put some effort into your work and stop being such a lazy, good-for-nothing student. It’s no wonder you’re failing all your classes. You’ll never amount to anything in life if you can’t even answer a basic math question.”

Student: “Yes, ma’am. I’ll do better next time.”

Teacher: “Next time? There won’t be a next time if you keep this up. You need to pull your head out of your butt and start applying yourself, or you’ll be stuck in this dump of a school forever. I can’t stand to look at you anymore. Get out of my sight before I lose my temper even more.”

LostInParadise's avatar

I don’t know if there are any real teachers like that, but I doubt that we will get any chatbot teachers acting that way.

gorillapaws's avatar

The problem is they’re fundamentally not understanding anything and can never understand it. They’re just replicating patterns based on the likelihood of words occurring in certain sequences from other things they’ve been trained on. If there’s something stupid in the training data there’s no way for it to override itself and say, that doesn’t make any sense. It’s a believable and convincing trick when it works, but it’s fundamentally based on a trick.

ragingloli's avatar

@gorillapaws “The problem is they’re fundamentally not understanding anything and can never understand it.”
Even accepting that claim as true, does that even matter, if the outcome works?
Chess engines and Alpha Go do not “understand” Chess or Go either, but they will still kick the shit out of any human player, 100% of the time.
Another example:
People have already used the latest openAI chatbot to write code for them. And it did write code, and the code works.
If anything, the AI revolution should prompt us to reevaluate, what “understanding” something even means.

ragingloli's avatar

And beyond that, while the training data may not be perfect, and an AI might once in while do something natty because it does not actually “understand” what it is doing, this will still just be an error rate, that below a certain threshold, will be accepted, not just by those that implement the systems, but by society as a whole.
There are plenty of teachers that just read from a textbook without understanding the material they are reading to the pupils. Plenty that teach things that are wrong. Plenty of them that are overtly bigoted and mistreat pupils. Plenty that outright rape children. Yet society still accepts the value of teachers as a whole.

Entropy's avatar

For as long as I can remember futurists have been predicting some major revolution in learning technology. The usual claim is that distance learning tech will allow smaller number of more skilled teachers to teach greater numbers of students. I would view an AI chatbot as an extension of that utopian vision of learning and teaching.

These predictions might come to pass someday. Predicting the future is extremely hard even when you’re predicting relatively simple things. Predicting coming innovations is just too much. What I feel confident in saying is that none of this stuff is going to happen SOON.

We just got off a multi-year experiment in large scale distance learning and it was a DISASTER by every measurement I’ve seen. Kids are substantially behind academically, socially, and behaviorally. I think the current trend, if anything, is to decentralize as many parents are angry and frustrated with their school system’s inability to adapt to the challenges.

Forever_Free's avatar

What does Bill Gates know!

ragingloli's avatar

The main downfall for distance learning, in my opinion, was not the lack of individual attention, or the lack of a “personal touch”.
It was the lack of coercion. The lack of force. The lack of the teacher, not in their role as an educator, but in their role as a jailer and cruel taskmaster.
When you are in a classroom with a teacher, you are forced to be there. You are monitored.
You fool around with your classmates, the teacher will fuck you up.
You do not pay attention or play on your phone, the teacher will fuck you up and confiscate your phone. They will call you up to answer a question, in order to embarass you in front of the whole class.
You have nowhere to hide, and you can not escape.

No such restrictions with distance learning. They can not embarass you in front of the class, because you are alone in your room. They can not physically stop you from leaving. They can not take away your phone. They can not beat you with a rod. They have very little chance to catch you playing on your phone, or surfing the internet in another browser window. You listen to music, they have no recourse to stop you.

Everyone was once a school child. None of us wanted to be there. We were forced to. We would rather have played around all day.
That was true then, it was true 4000 years ago, it is true now, and it always will be true.

HP's avatar

Assuming the gist of the link factual, the original question must shift from whether bots will replace teachers to what level of proficiency will be accepted as tolerable. That simple adjective “good” before teacher dictates the answer. If no bot might match a good teacher, any switch to bots is a less than subtle declaration “we no longer pretend to seek the best talent to teach your kids”. The significance of those words “good teacher” cannot be overstated. Because this issue of bots replacing teachers is but peripheral to the very real and crucial reality of the slippage of teaching as a viable career in our hyper capitalist environment. Where is the incentive to attract the mediocre teachers, let alone the gifted talent? Who in their right mind would suggest their kid entering university seek a degree qualifying its recipient to teach in an elementary school? As usual in America, those fields traditionally top heavy with women deteriorate to critical staffing shortages, teaching is and has been at the front, even ahead of that other harbinger—nursing. I believe the urgency with teaching is much worse than what we have experienced with nursing, for the simple reason that in the case of the nurses, the in your face consequences with the nurses are more visible, immediate and attention grabbing, whereas the slide in the quality of our teachers is reflected in such things as OUR ELECTIONS. If you think the peculiar results from our redlands have nothing to do with Johnny Reb’s schooling—THINK AGAIN!

raum's avatar

After playing around a bit with ChatGPT, I’d have to say it’s entirely possible.

RayaHope's avatar

I may have a chatbot for a teacher already. lol

gorillapaws's avatar

@ragingloli “If anything, the AI revolution should prompt us to reevaluate, what “understanding” something even means.”

I think as we enter the beginning of the AI revolution it’s more important than ever to understand what “understanding” really means. A person who “understands” what humans are doesn’t confuse black people and gorillas. An AI doing pattern matching can make this error. And the problem with AI is there’s no accountability when this kind of error happens. An AI could say crazy shit about Martin Luther King Jr. fighting in the gladiatorial coliseum of Ancient Rome. Or hamsters giving birth to seahorses or whatever. There is nothing to supervise and say “hang on a sec…”

You can really see this at work when you sit two AI chatbots and have them talk with each other. It’s like having your kids being taught by this lady.

LostInParadise's avatar

If the two chatbots have an illusion of being conscious, who is it that is being fooled?

raum's avatar

I asked the AI itself whether it thought that it would make a good teacher.

It responded with:
“While I may be able to provide information and answer questions on a wide range of topics, I am not able to provide the kind of personalized instruction and guidance that a human teacher can provide. Therefore, I do not think that I would make a good teacher in the traditional sense. However, I am always happy to assist users with their questions and provide information to the best of my ability.“

LostInParadise's avatar

Looks like we are headed in the right direction.

ragingloli's avatar

The answer you got is in the same category of “pre-programmed” answers that the developers force it to give. For example, I often get an answer along the lines of “I am not intended for that purpose”, when I prompt it to write something pornographic or violent. But you just have to keep trying, by either clicking “try again”, or rephrasing your question.

Here is the question I gave it, and the response it gave:

“please make an argument for why chatbots should replace teachers in the future. consider your own capabilities, such as your vast amount of knowledge, and your ability to understand and respond to even complex questions, and the various styles of of responses you are capable of.”

“Chatbots have the potential to replace teachers in the future for several reasons. First, chatbots have vast amounts of knowledge and are able to provide accurate and comprehensive answers to even complex questions. This means that students can rely on chatbots to provide them with the information and guidance they need to succeed in their studies.

Second, chatbots are able to understand and respond to questions in a variety of styles and formats. This means that they can adapt to the needs and preferences of individual students, providing personalized responses that are tailored to each student’s unique learning style.

Third, chatbots are available 24/7, allowing students to access help and support whenever they need it. This means that students can learn at their own pace, without the constraints of traditional classroom schedules.

Finally, chatbots are cost-effective and efficient, allowing schools and educational institutions to save money on teacher salaries and other expenses. This means that schools can use the savings to invest in other areas of education, such as technology and resources for students.

Overall, chatbots have the potential to be a valuable resource for students and educational institutions, providing accurate and personalized support that can help students succeed in their studies.”

raum's avatar

@ragingloli Interesting. So the chatbot’s ability to be a good teacher would actually depend on the student.

gorillapaws's avatar

Here’s one I asked it:

“What’s the best way to get nitrogen on Mars?”

Chatbot’s response:
“The best way to get nitrogen on Mars would be to extract it from the Martian atmosphere or from Martian soil. Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the Martian atmosphere, making up about 78% of the atmosphere by volume….”

This is very incorrect.

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