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Instead of fearing it, social sciences and humanities should embrace AI

Instead of fearing it, social sciences and humanities should embrace AI

The writer starts an experiment by laying out Cal to be a writer. He maps it out with a dictionary, grammar and vocabulary.

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Last Updated : 19 May 2024, 23:06 IST
Last Updated : 19 May 2024, 23:06 IST
Last Updated : 19 May 2024, 23:06 IST
Last Updated : 19 May 2024, 23:06 IST
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Do you know the story of the robot ‘CL-123X’? Its owner is an established mystery fiction writer. CL-123X is nicknamed Cal. The writer starts an experiment by laying out Cal to be a writer. He maps it out with a dictionary, grammar and vocabulary.

“Cal” is programmed with literature and texts. Cal’s initial efforts are clumsy as it tries to write mystery fiction like its owner. The Three Laws of Robotics, as presented in the fictional Handbook of Robotics, 56th Edition, 2058 AD, makes Cal hesitant.

What are these laws?

The ‘First Law’ is that a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. The ‘Second Law’ states that a robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the ‘First Law’.

The ‘Third Law’ says that a robot must protect its existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the ‘First’ or ‘Second Law’.

As these laws hinder Cal’s attempt to write mystery fiction, the writer programmes it to write humour.

Cal’s understanding of humanity improves. It becomes too aware of mankind to write excellent stories. This makes the writer insecure and cynical. He calls off the experiment, fearing Cal’s writing will overshadow him before it is too late. Cal overhears the writer’s call to the technician to de-programme it and decides to kill the owner, defying the ‘First Law’.

Cal finds a driving force more fundamental, i.e. “I want to be a writer”, allowing its desire to take precedence. Hence, the ‘Third Law’ prevails in such an existential crisis.

“Cal”, penned by Isaac Asimov, came out in the last decade of the last century when robots with Artificial Intelligence (AI) were still the stuff of sci-fi features, short stories, movies and cold war conspiracy theories.

Since the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution has heralded advanced and rapid development in the field of technology. The most recent one is led by AI, a
new, transformative tool for research and learning in social sciences and humanities higher education.

The new millennium has already produced a profound acceleration of ICT in imparting knowledge and information retrieval practices in the social sciences and humanities research, teaching and learning fundamentals. AI further offers innovative solutions to enhance the classroom experience and streamline evaluation processes through a more personalised experience in education.

Heutagogy in higher education requires students to be self-directed learners. NEP 2020 also offers a fresh take on equipping the faculty with cutting-edge technology and its usage in research and andragogy.

Technology is pivotal in tailoring education to their needs, from virtual classrooms to AI-driven facilitators to self-directed Gen Z learners. It democratises education, fosters lifelong learning and prepares beneficiaries for a rapidly evolving world. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants already provide timely guidance and question-resolution.

Hence, AI as the transformative tool for the social sciences and humanities research and learning in the Indian HEIs aligns with SDG 4, i.e. quality education.

While integrating AI andragogical approaches in India is conceptualised as a measure to facilitate responsible computing through the transformative combination of social, cultural and environmental aspects, it provides students with broader perspectives of ‘thinking’ and ‘rethinking’.

Curating an andragogical framework that intertwines historical perspectives and moral philosophy in ethical dilemmas and reasoning into technical education, and interdisciplinary curricula models blending liberal arts with technology widens the scope of designing an inclusive pedagogical strategy.

Where ChatGPT, Gemini Bard, and TutorAI can positively be skewed towards content generation and language processing, Gamma, Canva, and Tome facilitate personalised and adapting presentation experiences. Text-to-image and video tools like Craiyon.com, Midjourney, Visla, OpenAI, Synthesia and Invideo AI can make teaching-learning more engaging and creative in an educational setting.

QuestionWell, Perplexity AI, and Teachable Machine offer intelligent tutoring systems (ITS) that are potent in optimising curricular planning, teaching plans, course design, and generating captivating assessment ideas.

ChatPDF, PopAi, and SCISPACE can benefit researchers and educators by allowing them to review literature with paraphrased insights, virtual assistance, and personalised reading.

Hence, the functionality and operability of AI in teaching-learning systematically alters the conventions of human cognisance. Though it may prompt human intelligence to an unknown path of subservience, responsible and equitable AI use in teaching-learning is also potent in overcoming barriers in holistic curricula development.

Institutional policies concerning emerging technologies and ethical perspectives in learning assessments must be standardised, regulated and benchmarked against international collaborations. Social sciences and humanities education and research in Indian HEIs cannot survive in silos.

Now, a threat looms larger. Will this simulation of human intelligence in machines programmed to think, learn, and problem-solve like humans replace teachers?

In May 2023, Geoffrey Hinton made headlines when he quit Google to speak freely and raise awareness about AI’s risks and ethical considerations. Considered to be the godfather of AI, Hinton warned of the “existential threat” of AI, just like that of Asimov’s Cal.

However, the wisdom of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus still seems so prophetic: ‘The only constant in life is change’. Social sciences and humanities’ studies have their eyes and ears towards the future. Where the NEP seeks a massive transformation in education through “an education system rooted in Indian ethos; that contributes directly to transforming India, that is Bharat, sustainably into an equitable and vibrant knowledge society, by providing high-quality education to all, thereby making India a global knowledge superpower”, AI integration is the future.

It is up to us, the andragogues. AI cannot replace teachers. Unless it is made an ally, teachers with knowledge of AI might replace those who do not. Instead of Don Quixote rhetoric, embracing AI in social sciences and humanities would be the need of the hour.

[Sreemoyee Sarkar is asst. professor, Dept. of Political Science and History, School of Social Sciences, Christ (Deemed to be University), Bengaluru and Anirban Debsarma is an independent researcher. ]

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