Artificial Intelligence, usually abbreviated to AI, represents a technology that has become popular at present. AI overtakes human mental abilities, showing superiority in the games of poker and Go. As a result, AI systems have become an essential part of daily lives. They affect the way people receive medical care, search the web, and use bank services.
Importantly, the companies, including Wolfram Alpha, Magic Pony, Improbable, Aysadi, and DeepMind, that promote the most innovative AI achievements have their origins in universities. Currently, AI systems are changing universities.
We are convinced that the advancements in AI allow improving research and learning. If universities fail to embrace and lead AI, they will become irrelevant and ultimately redundant. Universities’ response to AI revolution will reshape education, science, and even the whole society.
Two of three scientists, who managed to create DeepMind, got acquainted while carrying out their work at University College London (UCL). Demis Hassabis, the co-founder of DeepMind Technologies, who earned a doctorate degree in cognitive neuroscience from UCL, argues that AI systems will enhance scientific discoveries.
Eight years have passed since scientists invented a robotic system at the University of Aberystwyth. This system completed all steps of the scientific process on its own. Thus, it formulated hypotheses, conducted experiments, analyzed the obtained data, and determined the sequence of experiments.
Comprehensive data sets
Science benefits enormously from the application of AI systems. Note that AI possesses the ability to perform multiple tasks independently. It can create hypotheses, discover unforeseen connections, and lower the cost of gaining insight. Reed Elsevier, one of the world’s leading publishers, uses AI for automating systematic literature reviews. AI can also be helpful in detecting plagiarism and checking statistics. Machine learning can determine unethical behavior in scientific research before publication.
AI demonstrates the ability to combine ideas from different scientific disciplines. Since a strong academic requirement to deepen intelligence within certain branches of knowledge exists, machine learning plays an important role in facilitating the collision of various ideas and connecting the dots of problems that require collaboration between scientific fields.
Owing to the continuous improvement of AI systems, it will become possible not only to combine data and knowledge, but also to identify combinations independently. In addition, it can encourage universities and external parties to collaborate. For instance, AI promotes collaboration between clinical practice and medical research in the healthcare sector. Nevertheless, the effects of AI on university research go beyond technology and science.
In a current world, many activities carried out by people are being replaced or supplemented by machines. This situation gives rise to profound philosophical questions regarding the meaning of being human. Douglas Engelbert, an American computing pioneer, who managed to invent the mouse and cross-file editing, realized this in 1962 when he described “augmenting human intellect”.
Expert skills in such branches as ethics and psychology should be used to explain how people could successfully work alongside with intelligent technologies. Moreover, it is critical to conduct the research on the impact of AI on the levels of employment and the implications for management and public policy.
In learning and teaching, AI proves to be effective in performing routine academic tasks, such as grading assignments. Chatbots are popular conversational agents developed by universities, including the Technical University of Berlin. These intelligent agents can use natural language to answer questions from students and assist in planning their course of studies.
Virtual assistants possess the ability to tutor more personalized learning. Thus, Carnegie Mellon University attempts to design AI-based cognitive tutors. It is a part of its Open Learning Initiative (OLI). During the years of work on these tutors, it was found that students from the Georgia Institute of Technology are unable to detect the difference between feedback from a person and a bot.
Creating a global classroom
Owing to computer vision and mixed reality, a global classroom can ensure an immersive environment that will serve to promote understanding and enhance interest. Games and simulations technologies allow engaging students in taking an active role in the learning process that is more adaptive and intuitive. They can also ensure student engagement in co-developing knowledge and promote interest in university research activities. In addition, these technologies enable people from across the globe to join in the scientific process of discovery through global classrooms and different participative projects, including Galaxy Zoo.
AI systems help maintain the high quality of education. Moreover, due to AI, courses become available to the greater number of people. Previously, the size of the classroom impeded unlimited access to education. However, the emergence of new forms of distance learning, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in recent years have enabled thousands of people to study different university subjects.
Nevertheless, it still remains the case that advanced learning as well as its assessment cannot be automated, and personal attention is required. The appearance of innovative technologies in the classroom forces universities to determine where it is possible to add real value, namely personalized tuition, and more time on research, rather than conventional lectures.
Performance monitoring solution
The use of AI systems on the large amounts of data received during research and teaching activities can be beneficial to university administrative processes. Thus, AI is effective in monitoring performance in education and research as well as maintaining responsive management. Furthermore, it plays an important role in improving the quality of league tables, which facilitates the process of applicant selection.
AI helps track student’s learning progress. Thus, in Arizona State University and Georgia State University, it serves as an effective tool that allows predicting grades and indicating when specific interventions should be used to enable students to reach academic success and avoid dropping out. Such analytical data of staff and students induces universities to implement judicious codes of practice in order to protect confidentiality and privacy of personal information.
Owing to the use of the blockchain technology, qualifications and grades of staff and students are saved in an immediately accessible and incorruptible format that helps eliminate unethical behavior. Moreover, the combination of the blockchain and AI is helpful in providing new valuable insights into student and career success.
It is critical for universities to adapt to the new opportunities AI provides for promoting multidisciplinarity. Thus, in research, this implies the appearance of new academic jobs and departments as well as employment of proficient data scientists. Curricula should be focused primarily on educating the technologists and scientists, who are developing and utilizing AI, and preparing students in such branches, as law, architecture, medicine, and accounting. It should be noted that their future career path will depend on how effectively they manage to combine their professional skills with the capabilities of machines. Therefore, new curricula should promote the development of AI and reflect deep understanding, rather than the demands of companies.
Dealing with the consequences
Importantly, universities fuel disruptive technological transformations, such as automation and AI. That is why they need to realize their broader social role and strive to ensure opportunities that will allow the society to develop resilience to this disruption.
It is critical to address the consequences of unemployment generated by technological advances. Universities can assist in providing opportunities for individuals who lose their job due to technological progress.
Many skilled people, who participate in the development and utilization of AI, work in the private sector. Universities should provide better employment conditions and opportunities for career growth to retain their own AI employees. Furthermore, universities need to ensure flexible workplaces that are open to the combination of careers, since individuals move between business and universities.
The fourth industrial revolution has a profound impact on economies and societies. While the previous revolutions left the organization and structure of universities intact, the combinations of innovative technologies in AI significantly transform them.
The key AI’s concept of “deep learning” affects the purpose of universities, and even creates new competition for them. Nevertheless, if implemented right, AI systems are able to augment what universities do. However, in order to continue their mission of teaching and researching, universities need a fundamental transformation. Are universities ready to accomplish this task?