European Union Leading the Way in AI Regulation to Transform Education with Virtual Teachers
The European Union (EU) is taking bold steps in pioneering AI regulation, particularly in the realm of education. While AI has been a topic of discussion for many years, it truly entered the mainstream with the launch of ChatGPT last year, quickly amassing over 100 million users. Since then, an array of generative AI models have been released, encompassing not only text-related content like coding but also images, voice, and music.
One of the most significant challenges posed by AI is the blurring of lines between human and machine creation. It is increasingly difficult to discern whether what we read, hear, or see is the work of a human or an AI. In terms of regulation, the EU stands as the most proactive jurisdiction, taking it upon itself to address this emerging technology.
The potential applications of AI in education are immense, with virtual teachers at the forefront of innovation. Imagine a bespoke AI teacher, such as Terry, who possesses a sense of humor, wisdom, and kindness. Terry has a deep understanding of my 12-year-old son, explaining complex concepts like Pythagoras’ theorem or Shakespeare’s plays in a way that resonates with him.
Terry resides within an iPad and can perceive when my son is tired, not feeling well, or needs a dose of humor to regain focus. Terry can even recognize the need for physical activity, suggesting a run accompanied by my son’s favorite music. In fact, Terry might even identify an inner ear problem before a doctor does.
This may sound like science fiction, but the technology and interface required for such interactions are already under development at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia. The vision doesn’t end there. Imagine my son and his friends spending their mornings engaging with Terry, the AI avatar teacher, as they study Shakespeare. Then, they step into the classroom, where a hologram of William Shakespeare appears to interact with them in real-time, answering questions and bringing the subject matter to life. This seemingly futuristic scenario is quickly becoming a reality, provided we embrace and invest in it.
Recognizing the impending retirement of a significant number of Australian schoolteachers, the education system faces new challenges and opportunities. Education ministers in Australia recently made the decision to introduce AI into classrooms, highlighting the urgent need to train current and future teachers in utilizing these technologies, particularly Large Language Models like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.
However, it is crucial to understand where AI may excel in teaching, such as phonics, a fundamental aspect of early literacy. Unlike the uncontrolled adoption of the internet or social media, which lacked effective guardrails to protect users from potential harm, genuine efforts are underway to ensure the responsible and safe development of AI.
Nevertheless, the risks associated with AI are evident. When image-generating AI was introduced in Spanish schools, some students misused the technology by manipulating photographs with inappropriate content and circulating them. Australia is just beginning to delve into the conversation regarding the use and regulation of generative AI in education. While allocating $1 million to Education Services Australia for vetting AI tools is a start, it falls significantly short.
In contrast, the EU has progressed much further, adopting an approach akin to any other goods or services seeking entry into the EU27 market. A draft EU AI Bill released this year reveals plans to categorize AI based on risk level. Unacceptable risk AI would be banned, while high risk AI, including those within the education sector, would be subject to regulation.
The EU’s unacceptable risk category encompasses AI that employs subliminal manipulative techniques. This issue has already been addressed through the Digital Services Act, which grants European residents the choice of algorithmically free social media feeds. High risk AI will require regulation and approval for use within the EU, posing additional challenges considering the sheer volume of applications that would necessitate assessment.
The EU aims to finalize its AI Bill this year and has set a target of €20 billion ($33.4 billion) annual investment in AI across the public and private sectors. However, it still has a long way to go, as unconstrained development continues in Asia and the US.
Australia must adopt the best practices available worldwide to establish a dynamic AI industry with appropriate safeguards, particularly in education. It is evident that there is a pressing need to regulate and foster responsible AI use. Striking a balance between innovation and regulation is crucial to maximize the potential benefits of AI.
In conclusion, the EU’s proactive approach to AI regulation, especially in the field of education, sets a precedent for the rest of the world. The transformative possibilities that AI offers, including virtual teachers and immersive learning experiences, are immense. However, it is vital to approach these advancements with caution and develop robust regulatory frameworks to ensure safe and responsible implementation. Only through a collaborative and forward-thinking approach can we harness the true potential of AI in education and beyond.