Dr. Shlomo Argamon Shares How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Education and the Workplace, Answers Key Questions about AI
In the last decade, artificial intelligence broke out of the realm of science fiction into real life, spurring endless headlines and debate among pundits, politicians, and scholars over its uses—and its dangers. In 2024, Touro University will take a lead in addressing—and shaping—AI’s impact on higher education by appointing American-Israeli computer scientist and forensic linguist Dr. Shlomo Engelson Argamon, as the nation’s first Associate Provost for Artificial Intelligence.
“Touro has decided to take a proactive role to address AI’s promises and challenges now and for the future. With this new effort, Touro University will emerge as a national leader in the use of AI’s power to educate and support our students and improve the University’s operations,” Kadish said.
In the newly-created role, Argamon will lead the formation of University-wide policies and programs to integrate AI throughout all of Touro’s 30-plus undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs.
Here, Argamon answers some top-of-mind questions about artificial intelligence and the future of learning.
What AI skill do you think is most important for students to learn? The fundamental principles of “AI thinking” are critical and will enable students to grow in their careers more effectively in a world where change will come at them at increasing speed. This includes the critical analysis skills necessary to understand when AI gives misleading results and what to do with them, being able to work with data and data models effectively, and intercultural communication skills.
Fundamental to our approach at Touro is that teaching AI is not merely teaching technology. We are teaching students, in all areas, to bridge between the human and the technological, which is the essential direction for human, professional, and societal growth in this new era.
Will AI take away people’s jobs in certain fields? Which careers will be most affected? AI will not eliminate any job categories in the very near future. However, the nature of many jobs will change, as the use of “AI assistants” and “augmented intelligence” becomes widespread. All professionals should start becoming familiar with any existing tools related to their work, as well as the potential of AI to help them, so they are prepared for the changes to come. The most affected careers will likely be those involving repetitive tasks or data analysis, where AI can significantly increase efficiency. However, jobs requiring human empathy, creativity, and complex problem-solving may see less impact, as these are areas where AI still has limitations.
Can AI be used in a positive way for students from elementary school through college? If so, how? AI can be useful to the educational experience at all levels, as long as proper cautions are observed. AI can directly help students in practicing material—giving immediate feedback on assignments, and tailoring practice to student performance. In general, individualized learning is an area where AI can help, giving students relevant material where they need it most, as well as enrichment material where they can use it. Another area where AI can contribute is in the area of digital simulations, such as for virtual dissections or design, that can provide varied interactive and immersive learning experiences.
Care must be taken, however, that AI does not replace the human relationship between teacher and student that is essential to effective learning. Also, the use of technology, including AI, in elementary school should be limited and specifically targeted to educational goals where the tools fit the students’ need. Research shows that social-emotional learning, done through human relationships, is a critical element of learning at this stage, regardless of the content area.
What are the dangers AI presents to education, the workplace, and society? How can these be managed? The key risks AI presents in these areas include privacy violations, bias and misinformation, job disruption, and the possible widening of digital inequality. The large tech firms that provide most of the current leading AI systems like ChatGPT take user data to improve their systems, leading to significant privacy concerns. This is particularly an issue when using AI in education, where leakage of student data can put minors at particular risk. It is important to understand the tools, their terms of service, and the data privacy implications, and how to manage data appropriately.
The currently dominant AI methods work by analyzing and creating, based on similarity to their training data, but have no concept of a real world, hence no concept of “truth.” They are therefore prone to make things up (often called ‘hallucination’) and amplify biases present in their training data. No methods have yet been devised that can reliably eliminate these issues. All users of these systems therefore need to learn how to use them critically so that biases and falsehoods are not taken as fact.
Jobs will not be destroyed wholesale by AI. However, they will be transformed, which means that there will be a great need for job retraining, reskilling, and up skilling. Workers must prepare for an evolving professional landscape. AI technology will continue to evolve, so people must develop not just skills for the immediate future but also the mindset and skills that will enable them to adapt to changes over the next decade and beyond. We must foster agility, critical thinking, and a growth-oriented mindset.
Like any technology, the fruits of AI may be unevenly distributed throughout society. If it becomes necessary to have access to a state-of-the-art AI system to get or keep a good job, there is a real risk that some, without access to such systems, will be left behind. Ensuring widespread AI education and access to AI will be essential to prevent the social difficulties that would ensue from the development of such inequality.
How will AI impact Torah study? Modern AI provides powerful digitization and language translation methods, that can make Torah texts accessible to more people by breaking down language barriers while also providing a wider set of historical manuscripts available to Torah scholars for study and comparison. Also, advanced text analysis methods promise the ability to cross-reference and analyze vast arrays of texts and commentaries, uncovering patterns and connections at an enormous scale, opening up the possibilities of greater insights.
The interactive capabilities of AI raise other intriguing possibilities (while there are also serious concerns). Imagine having a virtual study partner or tutor, available at any time, capable of discussing complex sugyot, debating interpretations, or simply guiding you through the text—this could become a reality with AI-driven chatbots and virtual tutors. Furthermore, augmented reality (AR) technologies can bring historical and theoretical scenarios to life, offering immersive and interactive learning experiences. n