5 AIs in Search of a Campus

How might AI appear on campus?

Last week I published a very short article in EDUCAUSE Review where I tried to imagine how this could play out.  I wanted to try a new approach to the topic, and I also wanted to get readers using their imagination, so I came up with different characters or archetypes for different AI functions.

To be clear, I’m looking ahead several years.  While there are some early stage versions of these characters in operation now, they haven’t really reached archetype status yet.

I wanted to give each a recognizable, easily understood name.  The first four are ones a campus would invite, while the fifth is one that appears on its own:

5 AIs in Search of a Campus

Tutor – software that teaches students directly.

Headmistress – organizes student data and publishes reports to various instructors and staff.

Manager  – gathers data and gives input on campus HR issues, from staff management to faculty hiring/promotion/tenure.

Muse – any AI that assists any member of the campus community in creating stuff, from essays to performance art.

Danger – when AI becomes a threat to some or all of the campus community.  Headmistress, Manager, Muse, and Tutor can each become Danger.

Please note that these are heuristics, small tools to think with about the future of AI and higher education.  They aren’t flat-out predictions.  Other character types will likely appear, including sub-types from these five (I initially had a sixth, called The Spy; that’s one of Danger’s).  And not all institutions will host the full quintet.

I also recognize the risk (even unto Danger) of humanizing the inhuman.  We humans can anthropomorphize almost anything, and lose sight of the thing’s nature.  When it comes to AI we can inaccurately project our mental and emotional operations onto that mix of hardware and software.  I wanted to run that risk in this article for the purpose of helping us imagine a different future, and to think about education and AI in creative ways.

In short, my goal was to spur futures thinking.  Please have at it!

PS: points to the first person who gets the title’s reference to classic American literature.

(thanks to Teddy Diggs and the rest of the very fine EDUCAUSE staff for publishing the article)

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7 Responses to 5 AIs in Search of a Campus

  1. Cassandra Gaul says:

    An ingenious thought experiment!

    “You have created living beings – more alive than those that breathe and wear clothes! Less real, perhaps; but more true!” (a quote from referenced work)

  2. Ted says:

    Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, perhaps?

  3. Alan Levine says:

    Kind of sad EDUCAUSE cannot find open licensed images, it would be a nice habit to demonstrate.

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