Learning your AI, B and Cs

July 12, 2023 | By Joshua Farrington

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In Tech is our regular feature highlighting what people are talking about in the world of technology — everything from crypto and NFTs to smart cities and cybersecurity. 


Education is just the latest field where AI is starting to make its presence felt. Whether for better or worse remains to be seen. 

Savvy students looking to save themselves time and effort when writing essays have jumped on AI services like ChatGPT as a way of outsourcing their work, the Guardian reports. Since its public launch in November 2022, students of all ages have been using their assignments as prompts to try and cheat the system, with nearly a third of all college students trying out the service, according to a survey by Intelligent.  

For teachers and professors who are already up to their ears in grading and lesson planning, trying to spot the artificially assisted essays is a new challenge. Catching a student who’s plagiarized a Wikipedia article or copied from their classmate is one thing; performing detailed linguistic analysis of essays to find signs of a large language model is quite another. 

The solution? It takes an AI to catch an AI. And a whole raft of AI-spotting services are now available for educators who need a shortcut to forensically dissect the work students are handing in. These services, like Winston AI and Turnitin, use their own machine learning to process writing and judge whether it’s the product of AI or a real human. The Guardian describes the field now as an “arms race” where these tools will compete to outsmart one another — at least until stronger regulations and features such as watermarks help clarify which work is the product of AI. 

But AI isn’t just helping students find shortcuts; it will also be used to deliver teaching. According to Stuart Russell, a British computer scientist speaking at the recent UN summit AI for Global Good, traditional classrooms and teaching could be completely eliminated by advances in AI. 

ChatGPT-style tutors could be able to deliver student-led, personalized teaching for children around the world up to a high school level, he predicts. “Education is the biggest benefit that we can look for in the next few years,” he says in an article by the Guardian. “It ought to be possible within a few years, maybe by the end of this decade, to be delivering a pretty high quality of education to every child in the world. That’s potentially transformative.” 

If using AI to scam a human teacher wasn’t enough, imagine how creative students will have to get to scam an AI teacher. 

A watch that watches out for you 

From AI-powered medical chatbots trained on medical licensing exams to the fast-growing use of AI to automate radiology, researchers are finding novel ways to deploy the technology to improve health outcomes. One project is developing new ways to diagnose Parkinson’s disease as much as seven years before symptoms present.

The UK Dementia Research Institute team at Cardiff University used AI to analyze data collected from more than 100,000 smartwatch wearers. By tracking the movement speed of users over a single week, they were able to predict which would go on to develop Parkinson’s, an incurable neurogenerative motor disease characterized by tremors, slower movement and gait freezing.

According to the BBC, the research team hopes to compare these findings with other similar surveys carried out around the world and develop this technique as an advanced screening method for the disease. 

“We have shown here that a single week of data captured can predict events up to seven years in the future,” says Cynthia Sandor, the leader of the study. “With these results, we could develop a valuable screening tool to aid in the early detection of Parkinson’s.” 

It turns out smartwatches may be even smarter than we thought. 

Scaling the heights with low-tech solutions 

Sports is one field where advanced technology has transformed how athletes compete and perform. 

Everything from training regimens to the materials used for equipment has been revolutionized by advances in technology, so that it can sometimes seem like modern athletes are competing in completely different sports than their forerunners. 

Nowhere is that more the case than in professional cycling. The world’s top riders are taking on the Tour de France this month, and they are doing so in a radically different way than the cyclists who first took to the mountains 120 years ago. Every turn of the pedal is now mediated by technology, from the energy gels the racers fuel themselves with to the carbon fiber of their bike frames.  

But there’s always space for something simpler. As discovered by the sports and fitness tech blog DC Rainmaker, some of the riders on this year’s Tour are getting their hydration schedules not via an app or alerts on their digital consoles, but from a piece of paper taped to their handlebars. 

The rider-specific schedules are written up in good old Microsoft Word before being printed out and stuck where the cyclist can see them, team nutritionist Britt Lambrecht tells the site.

As the old saying nearly goes, you can prepare a perfectly engineered nutrition plan for an athlete, but you cannot make them drink.  

Not without a few reminders, at least. 



Joshua Farrington, contributor