Education

ChatGPT and the Bureaucratic Nature of Higher Education

David Pan, Telos
ChatGPT can apparently do much of the homework, essay writing, and test taking currently assigned to students, and teachers have been wondering how to redesign their curricula in response. Moreover, there is a larger issue of the role of education in general. If ChatGPT will be able to do the work that students normally would do in college, it should also be able to perform what many college graduates do in the workplace. This conclusion points to how higher education has historically been closely linked with the development of bureaucracies. As Greg Melleuish and Susanna Rizzo discuss in today’s episode of the Telos Press Podcast, state and church bureaucracies have generally been the main actors in introducing formal schooling, starting already in the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages. The graduates functioned as administrators of state and church policies and in enforcing ideological conformity. These functions, based on carrying out and maintaining predetermined formulas for thought and action in a hyper-rationalist way, are well suited to the particular strengths of artificial intelligence. Its ability to gather information and apply algorithms may obviate the need for humans to do this work, and state bureaucracies are already using such tools to automate the processes for managing and controlling their populations. If university graduates no longer need to perform such tasks, we could see a transformation in the purposes of higher education. Melleuish and Rizzo note a decline in the importance of universities during the Enlightenment, when new thinking was important and was frequently carried out outside of formal educational contexts. Will there be a similar future decline in the significance of formal education and an increasing importance of innovative thought, perhaps outside of colleges and universities? In addition to our podcast, you can read Melleuish and Rizzo’s full discussion of the history and prospects of university education in their full essay, entitled “Universities: Truth, Reason, or Emotion?”

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