May 8, 2024


In a recent panel discussion titled “Ethical and Equity Considerations in the Age of AI,” hosted by the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at Vanderbilt Peabody College, experts delved into the significant societal, ethical, and moral questions surrounding AI’s growing role in higher education. The session highlighted social justice, bias, equity, and discrimination concerns. AI expert Hassan Taher provides insights, drawing from the panel’s discussion to explore how these technologies impact society and what measures can be implemented to ensure they benefit all.

The Role of AI in Education

The discussion underscored the transformative potential of AI in education. However, this transformation comes with challenges, particularly regarding equity. Generative AI, like ChatGPT, is praised for its ability to serve as a level-setting tool, potentially bridging gaps in knowledge and skills among students from diverse backgrounds. Yet, as Hassan Taher points out, “The implementation of these tools in educational settings must be carefully managed to avoid exacerbating existing inequities.”

Panelists at the discussion noted the rush to ban AI tools like ChatGPT for fear of cheating, which Hassan Taher believes could hinder the development of AI literacy among students. “If some students are learning to harness these powerful tools while others are not, we risk creating a significant divide in capabilities and opportunities,” Taher explains.

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AI Literacy and Critical Engagement

A key theme from the panel was the importance of AI literacy. Alyssa Wise, one of the panelists, emphasized the need for students to generate answers using AI and engage critically with the results. “AI can produce answers that sound convincing but might not be substantively accurate or relevant,” Wise noted. Taher agrees, highlighting the importance of teaching students to critique AI outputs and understand the underlying mechanisms that generate these responses.

“Engaging with AI should be a dialogue, where students learn to refine their queries and critically assess the information provided,” says Taher. He also points out that using AI for perspective-taking can be a powerful way for students to explore and understand different viewpoints.

Addressing Biases in AI

The panel also touched on the inherent biases in AI, a result of both the data it is trained on and the lack of diversity within the AI workforce. As generative AI systems are designed to detect and replicate language patterns found on the internet, they are prone to perpetuating societal biases and stereotypes. “To counter this, we need a more diverse workforce in AI development that can bring a wide range of perspectives to the design and training of these models,” Taher asserts.

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Hassan Taher suggests diversifying the AI workforce and ensuring more transparency in how AI models are trained. “Understanding the data used in training AI and the values guiding these models is crucial for ensuring they perform ethically in real-world applications,” he adds.

Transparency and Accountability

The panel underscored the need for greater transparency and accountability in AI development. As Charreau Bell suggested, tech companies should provide more detailed explanations of the data on which their models are trained and the values integrated into AI development. Taher supports this view, stressing that “transparency is essential for building trust and ensuring that AI tools are used responsibly.”

The discussion at Vanderbilt Peabody College illuminated the complex landscape of AI in terms of ethics and equity. Hassan Taher’s insights further enrich our understanding of these issues, emphasizing the need for informed, critical, and inclusive approaches to AI in education and beyond. As AI continues to permeate various sectors of society, the principles of equity and ethics must remain at the forefront to ensure that these advancements benefit all members of society equally.


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