‘Rethink education in wake of ChatGPT’

IF you have yet to try out ChatGPT, go ahead and check it out before it disappears behind a paywall. You will be impressed.

For the uninitiated, ChatGPT is one of the latest conversational artificial intelligence (AI) language models developed by OpenAI through which you can ask to write you a speech, a report, a song, an essay or even a whole book in a matter of seconds! Within 40 days of its launch, ChatGPT managed to attract more than 10 million daily users, surpassing Instagram, which took 355 days to achieve 10 million registered users.

The first sector that is feeling the impact of this technology is higher education. With ChatGPT reported to pass the United States bar examination and successfully complete the Master of Business Administration (MBA) examination papers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, educators will need to develop more personalised and authentic types of assessment if they want to be able to quality-assure learning in this new environment.

The business sector will also be affected, as AI continues to improve its ability to perform tasks such as report writing, data analysis, market studies and presentations.

So, how should we respond to the latest AI development? What value can we still add to life as humans?

I believe we should embrace the new technology. The genie, so to speak, is out of the bottle, and a Luddite approach has never worked in the past. As for the question of value, I believe that the ultimate value is human by definition and this will always be in our realm.

Our unique capabilities to be self-aware, purpose-driven, empathetic and emotionally intelligent, and our proclivity to be fair, connected and motivated will become more important.

These aspects of our lives will need to be cultivated further through our education systems and business practices.

Humans bring value to life and its endeavours through the application of three types of capabilities: physical labour, cognitive labour and emotional labour. Whatever we do requires a combination of these three labours.

The history of human civilisation and progress can be seen as a journey of attempts to get our technologies to replace us.

We managed to create tools and machines that were faster, stronger and more accurate than us, and that largely displaced us from the physical domain of work.

With the latest AI development, the transition of the machine to the cognitive domain is reaching a critical stage.

During the prehistoric era, humans spent most of their time either collecting food or defending themselves against predators or other people.

With the invention of agriculture, people had – for the first time in history – time to spare, which led to further innovation in areas including but not limited to writing, the arts and culture.

Harnessing the power of steam during the industrial revolution had a similar effect on life with higher standards of living and more time to spare for leisure and other pursuits.

With AI promising to do more cognitive heavy lifting for us, we are at a fork in the road of our civilisation. We have the option of reinventing our education, economy, community, business and government to encourage a greater pursuit of what really matters to us – the fulfilment of our ultimate potential through discovering and articulating our purpose, and working towards mobilising it to effect positive impact on the world.

We also need to make sure that we use the power of AI to take care of ourselves, each other, and our planet. While it is early days for AI, its potential for performing standard cognitive tasks well holds the promise of encouraging us towards achieving our highest purpose.

Think about it, no employer will pay a salary and no customer will pay a fee for something they can get for free or at minimal cost from AI.

There will be a market for more nuanced and sophisticated human interaction skills, as well as the ability to effectively use AI to extend human reach.

When it comes to education, we will see decades’ worth of automated delivery and assessment practices, which were designed with a mass production mindset, being replaced by more personalised delivery and portfolio-based assessment.

Interestingly, this will require more human effort from educators, and it will mandate that they are retrained in these more “human” techniques. This will necessitate new business models for running higher education institutions.

Successful delivery and assessment will require that educators know their students personally. The traditional wisdom indicates that to teach John chemistry, an educator need not know chemistry, but need to know John. How interesting if this became a reality because of AI.


Provost and chief executive officer

Heriot-Watt University Malaysia;


Vice-Chancellors’ Council for Private Universities

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Next In Education

Bridging the pharma-business gap
RM5mil HELP awards for students
News by youths for youths
Don't Miss It: Malaysia Teacher Prize 2024
HOTS done right
The post-SPM headache
‘Not funny to talk about my body’
Not so hot after all
VI team unlocks DNA study
UTAR alumna is Japan govt scholar

Others Also Read