ISLAMABAD: A study into the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the education sector claims that the increasing use of AI increases the loss of human decision-making capabilities, makes users lazy due to work automation, and exposes students and teachers to increased security and privacy issues.

The research paper published in ‘Humanities & Social Sciences Communications’ — an open-access journal, distributed by Springer Nature — examines the impact of AI on “loss in decision-making, laziness, and privacy concerns among university students in Pakistan and China”.

Based on qualitative methodology, the primary data for the research was collected from 285 students — 164 men and 121 women — studying in varsities of both countries. After data analysis using the ‘PLS-Smart’ technique, it found out that “68.9 per cent of laziness…68.6pc in personal privacy and security issues, and 27.7pc in the loss of decision-making” are linked to the use of AI in Pakistani and Chinese students.

According to the authors of the study, the research on those mentioned above “common challenges” posed by AI was prompted by the ethical concerns surrounding the use of AI, particularly in the field of education, hoping a debate on the subject would result in constructive engagements and a robust regulatory framework.

Research argues for ‘robust regulatory framework’ to mitigate technology’s harmful impacts on education

The rise of AI has also exposed students and teachers to a number of challenges, particularly data hacking and systemic and racial biases. “Many people are now concerned with the ethical attributes of AI systems and believe that the security issue must be considered in AI system development,” the researchers claimed. In order to mitigate safety concerns, the paper said there was a need to “continuously re-evaluate and re-design” security practices. However, academia is poorly equipped to deal this issue due to a shortage of funding and technical staff. “No one can run from the threat of AI concerning cybersecurity, it behaves like a double-edged sword.”

The paper also highlights links between AI, cognitive impairment, and laziness. It argued, “When the usage of dependency of AI is increased, this will automatically limit the human brain’s thinking capacity.” The research argued not only human beings have become “impatient” the overreliance on AI “may degrade professional skills and generate stress when physical or brain measures are needed”.

“It is argued that AI undermines human autonomy and responsibilities, leading to a knock-out effect on happiness,” as per the paper that added the AI effect will extend to the entire education sector from specific groups.

‘Loss of human decision-making’

The researchers argued that despite being highly productive in handling large sets of data the use of AI is leading to a decrease in cognition capabilities and feared that gradually AI would limit the role of humans in the decision-making process. “The speed of adaptation of AI technology is evident from the usage of AI in the strategic decision-making processes, which has increased from 10 per cent to 80pc in five years,” it said, adding that the hybrid model of the human-machine collaboration approach is believed to merge in the future.

As dependency on AI rises, teachers and other workers “lose the power of cognition while making academic or administrative decisions” and are losing the “skills of traditional tasks” to be completed in educational settings. “This [AI] might lead to a decline in educational quality and a lack of personal development among people,” the paper said, urging the need for an educational environment to encourage skills learning.

According to the paper, the issues emanating from the use of AI can be minimised through the provision of guidelines for the government and policymakers to deal with these challenges.

As per the research, AI has the potential to revolutionise the education sector but with certain drawbacks. In order effectively harness this technology, the paper called for steps to ensure AI does not cause at least “severe ethical concerns”, and technology backed by secure algorithms to ensure data security and minimisation of AI’s bias. It also recommended measures to curtail overreliance on AI to address “laziness” and cognitive deficiency.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2023

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