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AI and U: Interview with Smera Jayadeva

The Alan Turing Institute

Artificial intelligence (AI) is shaping up to become a defining feature of our daily lives, both online and IRL. I figured it would be a great time to chat with my friend Smera Jayadeva, a research assistant working on Data Justice and Global Ethical Futures at the Alan Turing Institute in the United Kingdom (UK). I asked Smera about how AI is evolving and how young people can be involved/affected by this evolution. 

Ethan: How do you see AI technology shaping the future of education and learning for young people?

Smera: With rapid advances in generative AI, such as ChatGPT and similar chatbots, people of all ages now have access to tools that can help them in the future. From suggesting paper outlines to editing final drafts. 

However, these tools must assist and not replace. The journey of learning is filled with exhaustion, anxiety, and stress, but it also helps us learn how the world works. Even answering how AI technology like grammar-editing chatbots or software functions. 

Yet, it is easy to see the use of chatbots in writing entire essays; especially if you think it might do a better job than you. This is where it is important to step back and rethink how we approach education as a whole. 

Memorizing and repetitive tasks can fail to encourage students to be imaginative and discover new ways of observing, understanding, and replicating real-world processes- from the physics behind astronomy to writing eloquent prose and poetry. 

If schools and universities choose to incorporate instead of outlawing generative AI and similar technology, there has to be a sustainable plan that evaluates its design, development, and use.

Ethan: How do you think we can make sure that it is not just young people in richer countries benefiting from AI-enabled technology?

Smera: It is important to educate students, teachers, parents, and the public at large about how technology works. This involves investigating design choices, data collection and use policies, and development methods. Only by understanding the vast array of decisions made to bring the tool to use can one understand the levels of disadvantages at every stage. 

For example, at the data collection and curation stage, many AI models have been found to disadvantage women in job selection because the data used to train the AI model was skewed more towards men, often of higher socio-economic classes. This is an issue that reappears with the majority of models due to them being created with insufficient data. 

Ethan: When young people use AI, what safety precautions should they keep in mind? What sort of data privacy concerns are there?

Smera: It really depends on where you live. If you’re in the UK or Europe there are a lot more safeguards in place. But when you go to the United States or India, it changes a lot.

But it is important to remember that the curiosity of children will lead them to explore no matter what. So the responsibility for how young people use AI really falls on their guardians, schools, and politicians for how best to protect them.

What young people can do is be aware that their data is very valuable and can be used against them in the future. So young people should band together, working with their friends at school, and reach out to decision-makers like politicians.

Ethan: What do you think will be the biggest impact of AI on the daily lives of young people? 

Smera: Large language models and chatbots will become more and more pervasive, and even if they claim to help you with your school assignments, the models don’t actually know anything and you shouldn’t trust them. 

You can use AI as an aid or as a tool if your school allows it, but, if you rely on it, you’ll get bad outputs and you’ll also miss out on the joys of learning and the tools you learn through the process of learning.

It is also important to remember that these models do not have very complete data models. So there is a good chance that answers to your prompts may have bias and provide answers that can be harmful to certain groups of people. 

Just remember, AI does not lack bias, it is trained by humans and humans have bias.

Ethan: If there is one takeaway young people should have about the future of AI, what is it? 

Smera: Folks should not blindly embrace AI. There is an increasing diversity in STEM and in the creation and gathering of the data found in models meaning there is plenty of work being done to make AI tools more inclusive and shaped by more diverse voices in creation and use.

So if AI interests you, you should definitely get involved. If technology can amplify social biases, people need to come together to amplify our social good. And then we can train our AI on that.

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Smera Jayadeva / Alan Turing Institute


 Smera Jayadeva / Research Gate