min read

AI Risk in the Learning Domain

As AI systems become more powerful and widespread, risks increase in consequence and scale. What risks are most pertinent to the world of learning?
Written by
Coleman Numbers
Published on
June 2, 2023

Last week, the Center for AI Safety (CAIS) issued a succinct Statement on AI Risk:

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war."

The signatories included Sam Altman, Demis Hassabis, and Bill Gates as well as a slew of other high-profile AI practitioners, visionaries, and business leaders.

We take this proclamation seriously. As a company leveraging the power of AI to transform learning, we know we have a responsibility to address risks in relevant domains; we pledge to make mitigation of these risks a priority.

The Risks

We identify 6 primary areas of AI risk associated with the field of learning:

Loss of Human Touch: AI could inadvertently sideline educators, creating an overreliance on technology that eclipses the human element integral to effective learning. A learner's need for emotional connection, motivation, and nuanced guidance could be inadequately addressed by AI. And the reverse is true: over-reliance on AI could limit opportunities for human teachers to refine their teaching methodologies and lead to skill atrophy in the discipline.

Cognitive Deficiency: In addition to attenuating emotional fulfillment in the classroom, an overuse of AI in teaching could deprive learners of critical-thinking skills and creativity.

Data Privacy: With AI amassing vast volumes of learner data, the potential for privacy violations is high. In the wrong hands, sensitive data can be used unethically or illicitly.

Biases in AI: AI algorithms can unconsciously reinforce societal biases, creating skewed learning environments. Unchecked, this could lead to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.

Cybersecurity Threats: As powerful tools, AI systems can be exploited for malicious purposes, leading to data breaches, AI-powered cyber-attacks, system manipulations, or even becoming a launchpad for insider threats.

"Mechanistic Mimesis": While the term is one I fabricated from whole cloth moments ago, the phenomenon it alludes to is quite real: AI might encourage our tendency to adopt a mechanistic or digital understanding of ourselves, thereby eroding the richness of organic, human experience.

While these risks are substantial, they are manageable. Recognizing them is the first step; strategically addressing them is the next.

What We're Doing

At Mindsmith, we're committed to proactive, ongoing strategies to curtail these risks.

Ensuring Human-AI Collaboration: We see AI as a tool that augments, not replaces, human educators. We're dedicated to fostering a balance, integrating AI as a means to streamline processes and personalize learning, while preserving the human connection crucial for learners' emotional and intellectual development. By early 2024, we plan on releasing an adaptive AI assistant that will tailor a lesson to a learner's interests, organizational role, and cognitive ability. This feature will enhance rather than flatten their learning experience.

Prioritizing Data Privacy: We take data privacy seriously. We're implementing robust security measures and constantly refining our practices to protect the data entrusted to us. We will uphold transparency with our users about how their data is collected, used, and protected. Our commitment to privacy extends to adhering strictly to relevant data protection regulations.

Addressing AI Bias: Our aim is to ensure our systems promote an equitable and reliable learning environment. Our AI Assistant tool allows users to automatically realign lessons with the source text, reducing the likelihood of hallucinations and bias.

Strengthening Cybersecurity: We acknowledge the cybersecurity threats associated with AI and are fortifying our systems accordingly. Our aim is to not only defend against potential cyber threats, but also to detect and respond to them swiftly.

Emphasizing Humanity: We're conscious of the modern tendency to mechanize and digitize human experience. We commit to creating a platform that amplifies the best parts of being a person--relationships, good food, challenging art, new experiences, and opportunities for growth and service.

We acknowledge these challenges and pledge to address them head-on. We're prepared to learn, adapt, and improve in this evolving landscape.

What are your thoughts on the CAIS statement? Do our commitments make sense? What holes do you see in our approach to safety? We'd love to hear from you through email, LinkedIn, or elsewhere.

The Mindsmith Team

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