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The launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT was a popular event making generative artificial intelligence a mainstream phenomenon. Data journalist, Katharina Buchholz explains that “ChatGPT gained one million users just five days after launching in November” of 2022 (Statista, 2023). Generative AI can produce stylistically correct sentences, paragraphs, and documents across a multitude of genres (Duin and Pedersen, 2021). It can produce professional-grade visual images and video, which has led to a significant shift in postsecondary educational domains. AI technologies continue to be developed for education, including AI agents to serve in teaching roles. The emergence of “AI digital employees, identified as artificial humans, digital humans, or virtual humans” is occurring (Duin and Pedersen 2023). A category of these AIagents — AI teachers that are embodied and seemingly autonomous — appears in marketing and promotional discourses (Pedersen and Duin 2022). One key component needed for AIteachers will be the appearance of empathy to be used as a persuasive tactic. Empathetic AIinvolves embedding signs of empathy in virtual human interfaces that will convince people that an agent is indeed empathetic. This paper argues that tech companies are releasing these products through a sensationalized, technoliberal rhetoric (Pfister and Yang, 2018) rather than through a measured approach involving intended participants. This paper discusses the situation that educators, students, and university administrators are faced with handling the cultural adaptation to current AI agents and a predicted future involving empathetic AI teachers that challenges aspects of formal education amid obfuscating discourses.
Isabel Pedersen presents at the SUNY Council On Writing.