What the AI Pessimists Are Missing

WASHINGTON, DC – Pessimism suffuses current discussions about generative artificial intelligence. A YouGov survey in March found that Americans primarily feel “cautious” or “concerned” about AI, whereas only one in five are “hopeful” or “excited.” Around four in ten are very or somewhat concerned that AI could put an end to the human race.

Such fears illustrate the human tendency to focus more on what could be lost than on what could be gained from technological change. Advances in AI will cause disruption. But creative destruction creates as well as destroys, and that process ultimately is beneficial. Often, the problems created by a new technology can also be solved by it. We are already seeing this with AI, and we will see more of it in the coming years.

Moreover, generative AI can help to improve education quality. The longstanding classroom model of education faces serious challenges. Aptitude and preparation vary widely across students within a given classroom, as do styles of learning and levels of engagement, attention, and focus. In addition, the quality of teaching varies across classrooms.

AI could address these issues by acting as a private tutor for every student. If a particular student learns math best by playing math games, AI can play math games. If another student learns better by quietly working on problems and asking for help when needed, AI can accommodate that. If one student is falling behind while another in the same classroom has already mastered the material and grown bored, AI tutors can work on remediation with the former student and more challenging material with the latter. AI systems will also serve as customized teaching assistants, helping teachers develop lesson plans and shape classroom instruction.

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