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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.

Exploring the future trajectories of the Metaverse as tomorrow’s digital frontier at a moment in time where technology, business models, and regulatory systems are still malleable, our interactive multi-stakeholder workshop was centered around four cases that affect and involve different user groups. 

Key insights from the discussion

XR Spaces and extended reality infrastructures by the XR Hub Bavaria.

Our partner from the XR Hub Bavaria presented a variety of different projects aiming at the creation of a digital infrastructure which can serve as common good technologies. Being a state-funded initiative, the focus of the XR Spaces as a use case for Government-to-Citizen project is on value-driven activities while commercial aspects take the backseat.  

Metaverse pilot by the EU Global Gateway Initiative.

The EU communication campaign provides another example for a Government-to-Citizen project. When public actors use Metaverse-applications to engage with citizens, it is a challenge to find the right balance between providing content as information and allowing visitors of the Metaverse to create, interact and change the environment. This leads to two suggestions: How can we educate across societal groups about the capability to interact in virtual spaces? And how far can the state be involved in the provision of Metaverse infrastructure as well as content creation? 

Digital twins in manufacturing for Small-Medium Entreprises by Umlaut @Accenture.

An example for Business-to-Business case was provided by the startup Umlaut which was recently acquired by Accenture. There is still a lack of knowledge concerning the high potential of digital twins for the training and education sector, demonstrated in the manufacturing use case. In addition to this, there is still a high inequality to access across the globe as some areas might not have access to the necessary data or still might not have access to the technology. 

Virtual Reality speech trainer through Artificial Intelligence by Straightlabs.

The last use case was presented by Straightlabs as an example for a Business-to-Consumer application. The tool shows the immense potential for different areas, especially capacity building and training, of application of immersive technology, but also the complexity caused by the degree of involvement of personal data and the human itself in a hard to explain and complex technology. 

The Metaverse workshop brought together stakeholders from academia, startups, business, government, administration, and media to jointly explore and experience the promises and pitfalls based on selected Metaverse applications from different areas.

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