A Call for Integration of Digital Ethics and Artificial Intelligence Learning Into High School Curriculum

As we enter 2024, artificial intelligence (AI) has gained relevance in every area, from science to arts to political predictions. AI is poised to help in advancing and leading economies, healthcare, and countries. The growing global problems of food shortage, climate change, and geographic disparities in socioeconomic status are solvable, and AI can be utilized wisely to help find solutions. Apprehension about AI stems from ignorance and can be eliminated by relevant education. AI output draws from vast databases and web-based platforms, influencing its conclusions and recommendations. If this original input information carries bias, AI’s output is informed by those biases. To continue educating students well in the Andover community, we must adapt to changing times. Making computer science a required course throughout high school will prepare students better in informing and interrogating AI. Education is also critical to arm students with the know-how to recognize algorithmic bias in AI output and practice digital ethics.

OpenAI was formed in 2015 when Elon Musk and Sam Altman collaborated with others to support the most rapidly moving technology, to make it open-source, and to get ahead of AI advancement. As expected, AI grew exponentially. AI is now being used by healthcare providers to minimize the documentation work and ease the application of evidence-based medicine. It is being used effectively by our defense forces, by our space program, and in multiple other fields. From rapidly evolving large language models (LLMs) that reinforce themselves by learning from text (GPT-4, PaLM 2), to generative AI that can create visual art (DALL.E) and music (Dream Studio), and the advancement of AI toward a cognitive and emotional artificial general intelligence (AGI) is predictable now. LLMs are already interacting with generative AI to enhance the personalization of chatbots and virtual assistants, and multimodal content is actively being developed. Excluding AI education from our high school curriculum leaves us a step behind the needs of our times.

Anxiety about AI’s growing power is not new. Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom, who coined the term “existential risk” in 2002, had predicted artificial superintelligence to be one of the reasons for the human workforce to become obsolete. He called for international action including differential technological development controlled by regulation. Such AI advancement and regulation have become the primary goals of corporations and government agencies now. The White House rolled out a wide-scoped executive order on October 30, 2023, and Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission announced on November 3, 2023 that AI was not exempt from antitrust laws and “innovation was not to be used as cover for lawbreaking.” Two weeks later, OpenAI’s Board removed Sam Altman, making the industry wonder what explosive new advance Altman was about to unveil. While OpenAI continues to advance generative AI and policy-makers find regulatory pathways, students need to learn about digital ethics so they have a voice in the structuring of regulations, which should be balanced between the facilitation of technological development and the elimination of biased data.

AI is also set to play an unprecedented role in day-to-day life. Ongoing developments in AI suggest that current high school students will be negotiating and eventually establishing a rapport with advanced AI within the next three to four years. It pushes education systems to enable students to create and use AI and understand the ethical aspects of navigating and expanding AI into AGI. Computation and robotics classes need to be upgraded and embedded as part of the core curriculum in high school. Ethics, logic, and policy need to be developed into larger curricula focused on digital ethics, algorithmic bias, and strategic implementation of AI. Students need to recognize how algorithmic bias can impact AI, provide unbiased data as input for AI, and interrogate AI-generated data ensuring equity. Education in digital ethics needs to go beyond the expectation of not using AI for homework help. Students need to learn to harness both the input and output of AI and stay in command.

While 58 percent of all high schools in the United States of America offer foundational level computer science courses, only six states require a credit of Computer Science to satisfy high school diploma requirements. Gender and race disparities persist in the uptake of these courses by students. Much more advanced AI literacy content is needed to equip students with a command of AI.

Regulating AI should have a differential approach to promote useful AI and dissuade the generation of misguiding AI outputs. Checks and balances need collective wisdom informed by early immersion of students into the beauty and scars of developing technology, and as a leading educational institution, Andover should take the lead in integrating education on AI as a part of our curriculum. The key to harnessing a new concept is to understand it fully and to ensure the ethical and unbiased use of new technology. Instead of diminishing AI development, we should work towards educating ourselves and using AI for the betterment of humanity.