Where is AI where we really need it?

With the help of my readers, I’ve found out about several typos in my recent books that went undetected by me, my editors, and my early readers. They also went undetected by Microsoft Word and Grammarly. (I have not found Grammarly helpful for style, but it is useful for catching some typos).

But what about ChatGPT? Surely a technology that can mimic human texts so convincingly that professors are to turning to AI detection tools (to determine whether their students actually wrote their papers themselves) should be able to take an existing paper and detect all its typos.

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Can the AI read?


It can’t!

This probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but I’m cutting myself some slack because I have no idea what the AI is doing if it’s not reading. Given its ability to produce prose that’s both cohesive & clichéd, I assumed, or more accurately felt, it was doing something I call “reading” in order to achieve these effects.

That’s what we humans do to write prose that’s cohesive and clichéd. We read.

Katie tells me I’m late to the party: AI people have been writing about the barrier of meaning for years. I need to catch up.

Katie also wonders whether the AI can parse negatives. I wonder, too, though difficulty parsing negatives probably doesn’t explain why the AI got all three facets of Mike Rose’s experience completely wrong.

That said, maybe a story that hinges on mistaken identity (Rose’s IQ scores were mixed up with those of another student) is a kind of negative?

Parsing capability aside, the extreme and striking inaccuracy of the AI’s “reading” of “I Just Wanna Be Average” seems to come from its bias toward progressive education. Ergo: standardized testing bad.

But of course this explanation makes me wonder how the AI’s creators managed to build a non-comprehending entity that can so perfectly capture a fundamental tenet of progressive education.

How do you give the AI a bias?

Do you program bias in directly, or do you train it on carefully selected (and properly biased) materials? If the latter, why would it be “worth it” to the AI’s creators to spend time deciding which edu-texts a properly progressive AI should be trained on? How many people care about–how many people even know about–the education wars outside education?

How conscious and intentional did the AI’s creators have to be to produce the egregiously wrong paper my student handed in?

The whole thing is a mystery.

Artificial intelligence: other posts

Is there really no Theory of Mind deficit in autism? Part V: Do Theory of Mind tests fail to predict understanding of goals and desires?

Cross-posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org). 

In my last four posts, I critiqued the arguments in Gernsbacher and Yergeau’s 2019 article that ToM (Theory of Mind) tests lack empirical validity—in particular, that the original test results with autistic subjects have failed to be replicated, and that the tests themselves fail to converge on a meaningful psychological construct and fail to predict autism-related traits and empathy and emotional understanding.

Morton A. Gernsbacher, Professor of Psychology, University of Wisconsin

Gernsbacher and Yergeau’s final line of argument concerns the question of whether the ToM tests, as is generally claimed, tap into the ability of autistic people to infer other people’s goals and desires. Here they return to the argument made in Gernsbacher et al. (2008), and claim that “autistic people of all ages skillfully understand other persons’ intentions, goals, and desires.” In support of this claim, they cite several dozen studies. The problem here is that, as I discussed earlier, the kinds of intentions, goals, and desires are all basic, instrumental level goals, intentions, and desires—the kind represented by instrumental physical activities like reaching, pulling apart, and inserting. Thus, we are not talking about social goals and intentions like making a good impression, or complex psychological desires like romantic interest.

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Metaphors in autism–a failure of imagination?

As I noted in and earlier post, metaphors proliferate in the typed output that is extracted from autistic individuals via facilitated communication (as in “My senses always fall in love / They spin, swoon”, attributed to Deej).

But at the same time that the pseudoscience of autism attributes metaphorical language to autistic individuals, much of the science of autism would appear, perhaps a bit prematurely, to preclude it.

This is a topic I address in my recent book:

Here’s an edited extract on the topic from an old Out in Left Field post:

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Special Needs Kids and the Common Core Straitjacket

Here’s an update of an old post, based on an article I published in the Atlantic, The Common Core is Tough on Kids with Special Needs, that I think is just as relevant today as it was 9 years ago.

Some people have cited the following passage from the Common Core State Standards as allowing teachers “a huge amount of leeway” to provide their special needs students with what they need:

Teachers will continue to devise lesson plans and tailor instruction to the individual needs of the students in their classrooms.

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Best students, best graduates, and/or neurodiversity: what should colleges be looking for?

The elimination or downplaying by more and more colleges of applicant SAT scores, along with a recent article on why that’s a bad idea, reminded me of an old OILF post.

The article highlights how the SATs used to benefit a type of student that today we might call “neurodivergent”:

the kind who is bright and talented but who had failed to live up to their potential in class. These students tended to be the brilliant dreamers; they were the ones in possession of uncommon cognitive skills, but who performed poorly in knowledge-based exams because of bad time management, resistance to the indignities of organised education, or an inability to prioritise school over their own interests. For decades, excellent SAT scores got students into colleges that they wouldn’t ordinarily get into, creating opportunities to find diamonds in the rough who had perhaps never found their footing in school.

Which raises the question of…

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Why would a promoter of free-range childhood promote coercive quackery for society’s most vulnerable children?

In a recent article at the New York Post, “free range kids” proponent Lenore Skenazy inadvertently promotes what all the available evidence suggests is the opposite of a free range childhood: spending hours drifting one’s finger over a letterboard and, in response to subtle subconscious cues and not so subtle prompts from the person holding up the board, slowly picking out one letter after another in sequences that sometimes number several dozen letters long.

Talk about helicopter parenting! This is about as bad as it gets.

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Is there really no Theory of Mind deficit in autism? Part IV: Do Theory of Mind tests fail to predict empathy and emotional understanding?

In recent posts, cross-posted at FacilitatedCommunication.org, I critiqued the arguments in Gernsbacher and Yergeau’s 2019 article (“Empirical Failures of the Claim That Autistic People Lack a Theory of Mind”) that ToM tests lack empirical validity—in particular, that the original test results with autistic subjects have failed to be replicated, and that the tests themselves fail to converge on a meaningful psychological construct and fail to predict autism-related traits.

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Does technology improve student writing?

I decided to begin the new year by asking ChatGPT two questions that I broached in a long-ago blog post.

1. Should students learn touch typing?

2. Should students do multiple revisions of their papers?

On the first question, the AI chatbot replied:

Yes, it is a good idea for students to learn touch typing. Touch typing is the ability to type quickly and accurately without looking at the keyboard. It is a valuable skill to have because it allows you to focus on what you are writing rather than where to find the keys on the keyboard. It also increases your typing speed and efficiency, which can be helpful in school and in the workplace. There are many resources available online to help students learn touch typing, including typing games and typing tutorials.

And on the second question, it opened with:

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The sad legacy of Everyday Math, II

Here’s a follow-up post to my first “sad legacy of Everyday Math” post, in which I concluded by saying that

You can’t blame the mathematical deficiencies of these 4th and 5th graders on their parents: both the private school and the after school program select for parents who care about education. You can’t blame it on the kids: my kids, who clearly wanted to learn, had been admitted [to our after school program] in part based on their behavior.

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The sad legacy of everyday math

[Everyday Math, I gather, is still very much in use, and so I thought it worthwhile to recycle this old post from Out in Left Field.]

Twice this past week I saw shocking examples of the cumulative effects of Everyday Math. Last Thursday I visited a nearby private school with sliding scale tuition and a diversity of students. For years the school had used Everyday Math, but recently, with the encouragement of a friend and colleague of mine who advises schools on math curricula, they’d begun to use Singapore Math. They’re phasing it in gradually, however, and currently don’t introduce it until 4th grade. For the first few grades, like nearly every other school in Philadelphia, they use Everyday Math.

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False choices in remediation: “addition and subtraction over and over again” or Marxism and Shakespeare

I suspect the rejection of true remediation has only grown over the years since I posted this on Out in Left Field, as schools, bowing to the Common Core standards, increasingly expect nearly all students to engage with the same material based not on academic readiness, but on what year and month they happened to be born in.

Another false choice in remediation: “addition and subtraction over and over again” or Marxism and Shakespeare

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