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Feature Article
Google "We Have No Moat, And Neither Does OpenAI"
Dylan Patel, Afzal Ahmad, SemiAnalysis, 2023/05/05

The text is a leaked document, which was shared by an anonymous individual on a public Discord server who has granted permission for its republication. It originates from a researcher within Google. The document is only the opinion of a Google employee, not the entire firm. I've put this post on my own website because there's a warning on the original post on SemiAnalysis about it requiring a paid subscription, and I wanted to make sure it didn't disappear behind a paywall.

[Link] [Local copy]

The Five Pathologies of EdTech Discourse About Generative AI
Phil Hill, Phil Hill & Associates, 2023/05/05


Related, I think, to my other post today about TruthGPT Coin is this post outlining 'five pathologies' of discourse about AI in our field. There's no doubt these are trends; I've seen them in the literature (both formal and informal) myself. Here they are, for the record:

Just as I observe in my other post, these are not properties of the technology, they are properties of the community. Or to be more subtle, Phil Hill argues, "it's less that responses to AI are indicative of the current state of HE and more that the responses typify the common pathologies of EdTech discourse." It is a fine distinction, and we can draw it, but I would be hard pressed to say that these pathologies exist only in the discourse. Higher education itself has a lot to answer fo.

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Generative AI: Opportunities, Concerns & Solutions from MozFest 2023
Creative Commons, 2023/05/05


I haven't looked deeply into this initiative but Movement for a Better Internet strikes me on the surface as a good idea and worth following. It's looking at web3, federated social media, and all the rest of it with an eye to what it is we want out of an internet "guided by a public interest vision and agenda we build together, reflecting shared values like openness, diversity, privacy, and equity." Easier said than done, as those with power tend to gravitate toward initiatives like this and steer them toward more self-serving objectives. Related: Mozilla's setting up shop on Mastodon and trying to reinvent content moderation.

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TruthGPT Crypto Scam Claimed to Be an 'Unbiased' Chatbot
Corbin Davenport, How-To Geek, 2023/05/05


The story in a nutshell: "Much of the hype train around cryptocurrencies last year has transitioned to AI-related topics, including an entire ecosystem of scammers. The latest example is 'TruthGPT Coin', a project that jumbled together AI and crypto buzzwords and was ordered to cease operations." I've long maintained that the sketchiness around blockchain and crypto derives not from the technology itself but from the financial services industry that used it. The same with ed tech; some pundits notwithstanding, it's not the technology that's sketchy, it's the hucksters and promoters trying to make a quick buck. We're seeing a similar pattern in AI. Again, there's nothing inherently wrong with it, but rather, the problem is the people pretending it's some sort of snake oil.

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OATutor: An Open-source Adaptive Tutoring System and Curated Content Library for Learning Sciences Research
Zachary A. Pardos, Matthew Tang, Ioannis Anastasopoulos, Shreya K. Sheel, Ethan Zhang, ACM, 2023/05/05


Zachary Pardos announces what he says is the release of "the field's first open-source intelligent tutoring system and creative commons content library." I'm not sure about whether it's the first anything (why do people always claim to be first?) but it's definitely the release (GitHub) and publication (17 page PDF) of the Open Adaptive Tutor (OATutor). In a nutshell, a community of users records resource locations in a Google spreadsheet, and the tutor uses these to create adptive learning paths for individuals. It's a lot like a cMOOC, in other words, except that the algorithm, rather than the student, selects from the list of contents and quizzes to attempt. Demo.

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From Big to Bold Thinking in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Andrea A. Davis, Academic Matters, 2023/05/05


For those outside Canada, 'Congress' is an annual gathering of social science and humanities scholars from across Canada; there's a core conference and dozens of specialized conferences from the many associations and fields represented. This year the organizers are very deliberately "disrupting" (their word) traditional academic power structures and "positioning Indigenous and Black thought as the lens though which to attend to the major crises of our times (the climate catastrophe, racial justice, gender and sexual violence, displacement and poverty)." I think it's great that they're doing this (not that they need my endorsement or permission).

I do have two criticisms, however. First, this article suggests that it is "empiricist research methodologies" that have "further entrenched the presumed deficiencies of these groups." I don't agree; empiricism doesn't produce racist thought, though it is often used by racists are a form of illicit rationalization. Second, while I applaud the effort to replace "big thinking" forms of knowledge production, I don't think merely inviting some scholars to give lectures at, by and for a university audience (and their publishers) really disrupts the power and centerism of the traditonal academic environment. Academics, especially those that attend Congress, should talk to each other less, and to get out into the community more.

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Copyright 2023 Stephen Downes Contact: stephen@downes.ca

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