SSE President about chat-bots

Launched in November 2022 by OpenAI ChatGPT chatbot immediately caused a stir in the IT industry.

It attracted attention with its broad capabilities: ChatGPT can do almost anything: answer questions, write code, translate texts, generate stories on given topics, and much, much more.

On February 1, 2023, it became known that a student at The Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) had written his thesis using ChatGPT, and was able to defend it, receiving a "satisfactory" mark.

But on January 18, 2023 the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an article by Lars Strangnegård, President of the Stockholm School of Economics, which already then touched upon the ethical side of the use of chatbots and their threat to education.

Below is a brief retelling of the main points of this article.

The education system is shaken because what is happening affects the very essence of academic activity. There has always been an awareness that students can cheat on their assignments, including plagiarism and outsourcing. Teachers had no choice but to appeal to their conscience and use all sorts of software to check texts and detect plagiarism.

However, when on November 30, 2022 OpenAI introduced the Chat_GPT utility, educators around the world exploded. It's a completely open website where you can ask any questions you want. For free, you can get a reasoned text on the impact of the French Revolution on class society, a clear explanation of Einstein's theory of relativity, or answers to any math test with detailed solutions, all generated by a machine.

The school and university world is in upheaval, with some already saying that individual work and homework are now a thing of the past. No more essays, special projects, and exams in close proximity to a connected computer. No more of the classic kinds of exams that come from the idea of higher education, with reasoning, argumentation, and inference. Instead, new methods are proposed in which control will be total: written classroom exams without gadgets or oral exams.

The response of the educational system clearly shows that the Swedish educational system values factual data and evidence from scientific methods. What matters is intellectual knowledge that is communicated, evaluated, and graded. The university is a place of thought, intelligence, and codified knowledge, so here Chat_GPT becomes the enemy of knowledge control, and indeed the competitor of knowledge itself.

The academic world clearly knows: the representatives of science behave strictly rationally. It is not for nothing that Uppsala University chose a quote from Thomas Turilde, "Thinking freely is important, but thinking correctly is even more important," written in gold lettering above the entrance. Knowledge in universities is produced by the right, scientifically sound approach.

Universities should undoubtedly be pillars of science. But shouldn't they also be places of free thought and expression? Is it not there, if anywhere at all, that the individual should be given the freedom to develop--or, in other words, to be shaped? 

Now that the GPT chat room is up and running, the educational system has a chance to ask more fundamental questions: what really counts as knowledge? What matters? Can we embrace new technology and make it our servant rather than our master? How should we formulate learning goals, design curricula, and set assessment criteria in the age of artificial intelligence?

The fact that the first reaction is so defensive may depend on that universities rarely hold to high spiritual standards. Perhaps the same is relevant for secondary schools.

Soullessness is basically the view of the human being that prevails in the Swedish education system. The system as a whole seems to lose sight of the fact that human beings are multidimensional. Higher-level education does not focus on the corporeal and hardly cares about the spiritual or spiritualized. We have long ignored the aesthetic elements of education, and universities hardly stimulate or develop other aspects of the human being besides the purely intellectual. But human potentiality is not limited to measurable knowledge. Human formation includes the development of the intellect, body, and soul.

With the development of technology as the "foundation of everything," it is time to question the very purpose of education. What to do about it in a world saturated with artificial intelligence, where algorithms write essays, do calculations and write poems about love? The answer is that education should focus on developing more aspects of the human being. Education could be more of a spiritual endeavor.

Educational institutions have everything to gain from becoming more multidimensional. Theoretical-scientific knowledge could be supplemented by practical-productive knowledge. The one that is more tangible depends on the context and the particular situation. A social science student tasked with understanding a particular organization in a local area, or a psychology student who will analyze a living group or individual through interviews and site visits, can use artificial intelligence, but only as a component of their own intellectual work. Presence, not only physical, but also mental and sensual, becomes a central educational component in this expanded view of knowledge.

New technology can be the trigger that makes universities realize the importance of meta-learning beyond critical thinking. The academic mission should be even more clearly directed toward arousing curiosity, enhancing self-esteem, stimulating creativity, and teaching judgment. Flexibility, tolerance, and restraint must be incorporated into the learning objectives.

With this changed view of self, the educational system would be able to offer young people the opportunities for spiritual development that exist in such forms of cultural expression as art, literature, music and the performing arts. The Swedish education system long ago abandoned aesthetic subjects, and school buildings did not receive the aesthetic attention that was necessary at the turn of the last century. Art, music and literature were seen as external influences rather than as something central to a young person's existence and formation.

Universities could take more responsibility for civic development - not just for matching the skills offered to society's skills needs. This should not, of course, be taken as a call to dismantle the scientific knowledge base of universities. Scientific-logical thinking should be the foundation of universities, but perhaps the prevailing academic ideal of cold, machine-like rationality without emotional dimensions can be somewhat nuanced to take into account the "human dimension" and distinguish academic knowledge from the unconscious reasoning of AI. Thus, a conscious and spiritualized university is in no way related to a mere freedom of opinion, where "anything is possible," but to the need to make personal ability and giftedness marked.

If universities are not revitalized, they run the risk of gradually losing the meaning of their educational existence. Algorithms like Chat GPT turn many educational programs in their current form into a game of "cat and mouse" where algorithms are better accommodated. Education should be about human development, not just measurable, explicit knowledge. Universities should be places where algorithms become friends, not enemies. If humans want to become masters of machines, we must systematically learn to use and develop in ourselves what they do not have: the capacity for spirited immersion in the many dimensions of knowledge. Machines, unlike humans, have no consciousness and no soul. Universities should therefore strive to be places of concentration and presence of mind, where knowledge stirs the soul and makes something new sprout in every human being.


Lars Strangnegård
President of the Stockholm School of Economics

The full article may be found on



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