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How Purdue is helping design artificial intelligence, raise trust in it


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WISH) — Indiana researchers are helping shape world-altering artificial intelligence.

Researchers at Purdue University told I-Team 8 that a computer system that emulates aspects of human cognition will impact every aspect of people’s lives, from farming to medicine and even how students learn and write.

Snehasis Mukopadhyay, an IUPUI computer and information science professor who has 30 years of AI research under his belt, said artificial intelligence isn’t what people imagine. It’s basically computer code called algorithms.

“An algorithm is basically a step-by-step way of solving a problem,” Mukopadhyay said.

Mukopadhyay compared an algorithm to making tea. “First, you warm up the water, put the tea bag in the cup, pour the water, add milk and sugar, stir.”

Those same types of steps can be applied to any thinking problem humans can do. With fast computers and AI algorithms, the task can be done very quickly.

Arjan Durresi, who is also an IUPUI computer and information science professor, said AI “will be everywhere. Already, it’s everywhere.”

Durresi says he and his team of student researchers are coming up with ways to measure how people trust current AI systems in the farming and medicine fields. “Right now, they’re better than doctors at detecting cancer. The problem is that somehow the doctors are afraid to use them because they don’t know how the algorithm reached the decision.”

Durresi’s team is trying to find the Goldilocks zone of usability and trustworthiness for AI systems. “You cannot embrace something or trust something if you do not understand it.”

Durresi described AI as essentially a child that needs supervision or what he calls “humans in the loop.”

“In some distant future, AI becomes really adult and then, instead of considering it a simple tool, as today, we have to consider it as colleague.”

Until then, we’ll have childlike forms of AI, which includes ChatGPT, a prototype launched Nov. 30.

“You log in, you ask it a question, it spits out writing,” said Bradley Dilger, a professor who teaches writing at Purdue and is the director of the Introductory Composition Program.

He says Chat GPT is an AI chatbot that is really good at producing basic writing when you ask it to. It’s not yet good enough to produce papers about very specific and obscure topics, though.

ChatGPT isn’t the only AI chatbot.

In less than 5 minutes, Dilger used another system to create a cover letter for a job. “What’ll happen is if it’s real easy to generate a cover letter, the value of a cover letter will go down and there will be other ways we measure people’s potential for jobs.”

Dilger said professors are already thinking of ways to prevent students from cheating by using AI and chatbots, but the problem of cheating is not new to teaching.

“It’s very hard to stop someone from paying $100 to some company to write a paper for them. We know that happens. We try to do things to make that less likely, like asking students to turn in drafts. Asking students to pick topics and subject matter, that’s not generic, you know, that’s very specific and then actually working with material that they’re interested in,” Dilger said.

All of the researchers who spoke with I-Team 8 were optimistic about the future of AI, but they admitted it could potentially be dangerous if the creators of the technology don’t do it properly.

Durresi said, “The worst-case scenario, in my opinion, is if this is misused. Like anything else, technology in general is neutral. You can use a weapon for good or for bad, so that’s the worst scenario, that somebody uses this for bad goals.”

Mukopadhyay added, “Like a child, if you feed a child a lot of biased views of the world, the child will grow up to be biased.”

The Purdue provost told I-Team 8 that the university has created new computer science and philosophy majors so its students can help create the future of smart and morally sound artificial intelligence.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to correct places of employment for Prof. Mukhopadhyay and Durresi.