Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to fundamentally change the scientific landscape. In a state parliament hearing in the Committee for Science and the Arts, Prof. Dr. Enkelejda Kasneci, co-leader of the Generative AI Taskforce at the TUM Think Tank, was asked together with other experts about the opportunities and risks of AI in higher education. The discussion revolved around preparing students and faculty to use AI, the role of AI tools such as ChatGPT in writing, and the need for open and accessible use of AI tools in libraries. Despite some concerns, the experts emphasized the positive impact of AI and advocated for an optimistic view of the future of academia.
The co-leader of the Generative AI Taskforce emphasized that generative AI is steadily advancing and has ever-shorter technological cycles. This, she said, opens up opportunities for active, collaborative and immersive learning environments that are individually tailored to learners' needs, thus paying into the UNESCO Education 2030 Agenda, which calls for a human-centered approach to AI in education to advance inclusion and equity. Under the motto "AI for All," everyone should benefit from the technological revolution and reap its rewards, especially in the form of innovation and knowledge.
Basic competency goals in academic writing will still be maintained and will not be replaced in the long term. However, the introduction of AI writing tools requires adaptation, where integration should be done responsibly. Legal issues were also highlighted during the hearing, such as copyright, privacy, and liability. Universities should carefully consider these issues and take appropriate measures to protect the rights of all stakeholders, Kasneci said.
Although some students and faculty appreciated the efficiency and support of AI writing tools and certainly saw advantages in time savings, generation of ideas, and error detection, there was also some skepticism about automated text generation. Concerns about plagiarism and data protection could also lead to acceptance problems. According to Kasneci, students and faculty have reservations predominantly about the accuracy, reliability, and ethics of AI-generated texts. There could be a sense of loss of control if AI writing tools are perceived as a substitute for traditional writing skills. Therefore, she said, it is important to acknowledge these concerns and provide comprehensive education, training, and guidance to promote student and faculty confidence and acceptance.
In general, the experts agreed that a "calibrated trust" in AI is necessary in the scientific community. This means that students and teachers should be prepared for the use of AI in order to make the most of the opportunities offered by this technology. It was emphasized that AI tools such as ChatGPT can automate writing and increase creativity, allowing students and faculty to focus on more challenging tasks.
Kasneci appealed, "Education needs to move from routine and impersonal tasks to more personal, complex and creative tasks. We need to find ways to enable the promotion of multifaceted competencies beyond curricula and syllabi in higher education, with a strong focus on creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication."
She adds, "Overall, we are facing an exciting time of change in education. The question will be how do we make innovation and knowledge accessible to all, enable a more equitable and inclusive education landscape that meets the demands of a disruptively changing world."
It is not only in higher education that there is an urgent need for action. In the Handelsblatt, Kasneci recently called for a " revamping of the curricula". Teaching is "far too fragmented" - with the support of AI, it will be easier to teach "holistically" in the future. To achieve this, however, the education ministers must ensure that all teachers acquire a basic knowledge of AI.
Enkelejda Kasneci is a co-founder of the newly established TUM Center for Educational Technologies, where interdisciplinary research teams investigate the effectiveness of digital tools for learning and teaching and develop new applications. The center will bring these into practice through advanced training and by supporting start-ups.
On Friday, June 23rd 2023, members of the Generative AI Taskforce participated in a working meeting organized by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency (ETDA) of Thailand. One main focus of the meeting was to learn more about Europe’s approach to AI governance, and in particular to take a close look at the EU AI Act (AIA) and explore how Europe deals with the rise of generative AI. Christian Djeffal, Assistant Professor of Law, Science and Technology and member of our Gen AI Taskforce gave a short input on this issue. In this blog post, he shares his key takeaways.
The AI Act of the European Union could serve as an effective balancing act between risk regulation and innovation promotion. In my view, the recipe for an ideal equilibrium includes:
- Preserving the AI Act's lean, clear approach and avoiding over-regulation of too many topics through this Act. It is worth noting that clear rules can be assets for innovation, minimizing liability risks and enabling even smaller entities to venture into risky areas.
- It is undeniable that regulation imposes costs on developers. However, there are numerous strategies to alleviate these costs. Establishing infrastructures for legal advice and knowledge organization could prove invaluable, especially for start-ups.
- Implementing frameworks like responsible research, human-centered engineering, and integrated research can position legal regulation as an integral part of the innovation journey. This mindset lets developers incorporate legal, ethical, and societal considerations early on, enhancing their products and turning potential challenges into opportunities.
Therefore, the AI Act has potential with its blend of a broad framework and specific sector regulations and enforcement. However, it is the finer details that need refining for it to truly thrive. A key area of focus should be honing the high-risk system's definition. For example, the current outlines in Annex III are so expansive they could include applications that hardly meet the high-risk criteria.
Against this backdrop, AI sandboxes are brimming with potential, serving as a breeding ground for innovation and a practical tool for regulatory learning. Current proposals around the AI Act are mostly about establishing general structures as well as coordination and cooperation among member states. The success of these sandboxes relies heavily on their effective rollout by these states. Interestingly, other European legal developments, like the Data Governance Act—which allows for protected data sharing—might be game-changers, possibly boosting sandboxes to an entirely new level, as they would also allow sharing data under the protection of data protection or intellectual property law.
If I could make a wish concerning the AI Act, I would wish for more participatory elements, particularly in risk management. Engaging users and citizens in identifying and mitigating risks is crucial. Hence, it would be beneficial to incorporate such practices "where appropriate". Analogous provisions already exist in the General Data Protection Regulation and the Digital Services Act. It is a fallacy to believe that only companies, compliance departments, and bodies responsible for algorithmic assessments can fully understand the societal implications of new systems.