Academics should use generative AI wisely

LETTERS: The widespread use of generative artificial intelligence in academia appears inevitable.

Even Malaysian academics who use generative AI sparingly and tentatively foresee a transformation in their work through more efficient and cost-effective practices.

We've seen how generative AI helps with writing papers, grant applications, presentations, emails, coding, coursework and exam questions.

But the parameters of this "assistance" are still ill-defined, owing to the immaturity of regulations and consensus on AI ethics. As a result, just as generative AI can overly benefit students in terms of assessment, it may also overly assist professors.

The benefits of generative AI for academic work seem quite evident, but determining when and when not to employ it will be difficult.

The problem is that enthusiasm for generative AI as an efficiency tool obscures the tasks that academics should focus on. The triumph of generative AI in productivity gains may result in its indiscriminate use.

By accelerating already overburdened work regimes in universities, generative AI may exacerbate an epidemic of burnout among academics, causing them to abandon their positions in even greater numbers than before.

It may also serve as a snare for individuals whose employment is the most precarious and dependent on the promptness and consistency of their performance.

When generative AI replaces human-generated content, burying calls for slow scholarship and taking away the motivation to do the hard, long-term work of intellectual research, the academic's contribution becomes less valuable and more open to criticism.

These considerations about technology-aided or technology-diminished contributions help to clarify the extent to which academia is already automated, characterised by a culture of profligate repetition and duplication — "copy and paste" — and shortcuts to productive accumulation.

Perhaps, the emergence of generative AI should be a chance to reflect on and respond to what is obsolete in academia.

If we do not, academics' reliance on generative AI to meet productivity expectations will most likely increase, as will exploitation by those whose aims are focused on extracting maximum revenue.


Faculty of Major Language Studies, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times

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