Panel of SUU staff members discuss artificial intelligence

The latest Ask. Ponder. Educate. [X]. lecture on Thursday, Oct.12, was called “Civil Dialogue: should the government regulate A.I.?” and featured a panel of Southern Utah University staff from a variety of colleges. The discussion was moderated by Provost Jon Anderson. The panel included English and filmmaking professor Todd Petersen, English professor Julie McCown, Director of Administrative Systems Parker Grimes and physics professor Brandon Wiggins. 

The objective of this panel was to allow people with differing viewpoints to hold a civil discussion about artificial intelligence and its uses. The panel was mainly about whether or not educators thought A.I. should be used in the classroom and in students’ future careers.

Before the panel began, Anderson played a video of Gov. Spencer Cox. In the video, Cox stressed the need for open communication. 

“When we engage in healthy, honest dialogue we avoid demonizing others,” said Cox. “We’re more likely to find solutions.”

Speaking respectfully while having differing opinions was what this A.P.E.X. event was all about — especially in regards to A.I. The purpose of engaging in civil dialogue is about understanding respect and having a shared view of what the possibilities might be. 

Once the time was turned to the panelists, Grimes explained that he has been working with A.I. for almost 15 years. While A.I. is not a new technology, it has recently become much more widespread. 

Grimes said, “What brings us here today is the explosion of it.” 

After showing how A.I. can mimic something Anderson might say, Wiggins acknowledged the benefits and the potential drawbacks of the technology. 

“It is a great tool,” said Wiggins, “not a great toy.”

Because there were people representing many different sides of the argument, there were definitely some disagreements. For example, McCown said she was “defiantly optimistic” about the future of A.I., while Wiggins said he was “defiantly fear-based.”

Everyone on the panel agreed that while A.I. can be a helpful resource, it should not be used to replace traditional forms of education. 

“Don’t use A.I. for something you can do yourself,” said Wiggins. “It is a great tool after mastery.” 

Agreeing, Petersen said, “You need to know the rules of your game.”  

Many intimidating possibilities about the future of A.I. were considered during this A.P.E.X. event. Wanting to bring in a light note before the panel ended, Parker encouraged, “A.I. will not replace human creativity.”.

The next A.P.E.X. event will take place on Oct. 19 at 11:30 a.m. Guest speaker Sarah Ford will present her lecture “The Process of Making a Movie Poster” in the Great Hall of the Hunter Alumni Center.

For those not able to attend in person, A.P.E.X events can be watched online live or streamed afterwards on YouTube

Author: Christina Schweiss
Photographer: Joseph Roberts
Editor: Nick Stein