At 94 years old, the always eloquent and reflective linguist, philosopher, and political scientist Noam Chomsky gave an interview with a German YouTuber @edukitchen, where he discussed various topics, including his opinion on the new chatbot platform, ChatGPT, and its potential uses in education. We bring to you this interview originally published on Youtube
Edukitchen ( Eduk): So chat GPT I’m a teacher and you know it’s the fad of the day Chad GPT children around the globe assign uh their homework to check but they give a prompt and they will say: – please write a book report about I don’t know ‘The Withdrawal’ which we’re going to talk about it later and check GTP will generate a very nice book report so, what do you know about GPT? have you heard of this development of this latest fed in education?
C:- Well, I don’t think it has anything to do with education except undermining it. Chat GPT is basically high-tech plagiarism. it’s a system that accesses an astronomical amount of data and finds regularities and strings them together look more or less like what somebody could have written on this topic, basically, plagiarism just happens to be high-tech well plagiarism can be a nuisance.
Teachers I mean, in the universities for example and departments where essays are required for years there have been programs that help professors detect plagiarized essays. Okay, now it’s going to be more difficult because it’s easier to plagiarize but it’s about the only contribution to education that I can think of that it makes it harder to detect plagiarism the systems have absolutely no value with regard to understanding anything about language or cognition, they tell you nothing about that any more than plagiarism does and there, in fact, the more they improve the greater their flaws for a very simple reason, these are systems that do just as well for actual languages as they would do for impossible languages so it’s as if somebody produced a new version of the periodic table of the elements which includes all the elements all the possible elements all the impossible elements and doesn’t make any distinction between them could be if absolutely no value to science or understanding and that’s basically what these systems are. They may have some value for something it’s not obvious what.
E:- you were a university Professor how would you deal with these kinds of problems students using chat GTP to generate reports and doing you know homework?
C:- I mean when I spent most of my life at MIT it wouldn’t happen there simply because the students wouldn’t even think of doing it they were interested in the topics so they pursued the topics a student learns nothing from this of course absolutely nothing it’s just a way of avoiding learning and there were places where the way to deal with it is to make the educational program interesting enough so that students don’t want to avoid it this is a way of avoiding education its kind of like.
I mean there are colleges I’ve talked to teachers who do it who’ve banned iPhones in class because the students will sit there you know having a chat with somebody on their iPhone, well one way to deal with that is to ban iPhones another way to do it is to make the class interesting enough so that nobody would think of it and that’s the challenge.
E:- Well doesn’t this development you know the fact that millions and millions of students are using chat GPT to make their homework assessments and book reports just to tell you there is a huge pandemic going on in education boredom
C:- It’s a sign that the educational system is failing. If students aren’t interested, they’ll find a way to around. It means we’ve all taken classes in which we had no interest and you studied for the exam. You know, got a good Mark two weeks later you forgot what the course was about, well that’s one form of Education not a very good one and unfortunately that’s the form of Education that’s being uh driven forward under the contemporary neoliberal programs designed for efficiency what’s called efficiency metrical results that you can put down somewhere used to read teachers and schools. It’s a kind of education that was ridiculed during the Enlightenment was compared with pouring water into a vessel and letting some of it drip out taking a test. Now it’s considered the right way to do it, it’s called ‘teaching to test’ absolutely the worst form of Education and if you have a form of Education which has no appeal to students, doesn’t interest them, doesn’t challenge them, doesn’t make them want to learn, they’ll find ways out maybe not come to class.
E:- Chatgpt is based on artificial intelligence so it can have a great impact on the way we educate and the way we experience education. I know for a fact that Elon Musk is trying to connect the brain to computers so how long will it take do you think before a company like Neurolink will be able to connect the brain to a computer and program I don’t know part of the brain so that we don’t have to learn French anymore
C:- Well, I wouldn’t worry about that’s science fiction. Almost nothing’s known about the brain but allows us even to conceive of this. I mean, you can’t get to the point where you can detect neural signals which might lead to an action being performed like raising your hand um maybe at that level but learning French I wouldn’t worry about
it. Actually, we already have that you don’t need a neural link to take your computer. I have a laptop computer sitting here if I want to look up something in French I just tap a couple of keys and I get it so.
E:- Nowadays, Google Translate is fast enough to have a live conversation with a Frenchman for example you don’t have to speak French anymore I’ve experienced it not really
C:- I mean I use Google Translate but you never trust what you see it’s a way of determining whether some article is worth reading you get the gist of it and figure out what it’s about if you’re really interested in understanding you would never trust Google translate or GPT chat
GPT that’s if you want to get a general idea nothing I mean I have nothing against things that are useful right now I’m using live transcription is basically achieved the same way Brute Force but it’s kind of useful I mean I don’t actually trust it if you but if you look at it you’ll see plenty of errors but uh it’s much better it’s it’s fine assistance for someone who’s hard of hearing so that’s good it’s like a visual aid if you’re a slight side has been or wearing glasses if you can’t see
E:- Neurolink is not going to be a threat to education anyway soon AI at least yet GPT is not going to be an improvement at least, not the way it is now so if you have to guess what education looks like in 30 years we don’t have a neural link to be afraid of we don’t check GPT is not get really going to be a threat, so what is education going to be like do you think in 30 years?
C:- It’s the choice of Educators, planners, government, officials, those who fund are usually defunded education. They’ll determine if education is not appealing to students meeting their needs and concerns there’ll be all kinds of ways to avoid it I’ll tell you my own experience when I went to college back in 1945 we had to take a course in chemistry big lifter course. I mean it was so boring I couldn’t stand it so I never went to class never I had a friend who took pretty careful notes and they used their notes to pass the exams. I never went to the lab and I had the lab manual, it’s obvious the way the lab experiments were going to turn out so I just filled in the lab manual they knew what I was up to because when they registered for the next term I was charged for breakage at the lab and I couldn’t say I never don’t even know where the lab is but you know that’s the worst kind of education so the question what the future of Education, of course, I took courses which I was very interested in I would pay attention work hard you know, try to learn what was going on well that’s what education ought to be cultivating those interests and concerns If it fails to do students will do what I did in chemistry now they can do it with chat GPT.