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COMMENTARY: Artificial Intelligence and Knowing the Difference Between a Computer and a Human, by MTSU Professor Larry Burriss

Are computers taking over the world – or if they were, would we know? With today’s media commentary, here’s Dr. Larry Burris from the MTSU School of Journalism…

Comment (Verbatim):”Do you remember that only a few years ago there was a raging debate over the use of pocket calculators in math lessons? After all, you might get an answer without really understanding the logic behind it.

Soon came a similar debate about spelling and grammar checkers.

Now, in my own world of education, database searches allow students to directly access information without having to go through primary steps and reasoning.

In the movie “Jurassic Park”, Dr. Ian Malcolm points out that park scientists manipulate genetics without understanding the underlying implications.

And we come to artificial intelligence. Not robots conquering the world, but AI in the field of creativity.

Recently, an academic paper, entirely produced by artificial intelligence, was accepted for publication. The authors, if we can still use the term, simply gave a computer program a few words and a series of commands for an introduction, background research, and so on. The machine did the rest, and the experts who reviewed the article thought it was written by humans.

So if I want my students to write an article, what help from the computer can they get before the article is no longer theirs? If they use a spelling and grammar checker, can we really say that the students have edited and corrected errors?

In fact, these ethical questions are not new. If you have a pro-level camera that can take into account all the elements of a photograph: focus, contrast, composition, when you press the button, did you take the photo, or did you camera ?

With fairly inexpensive software and a few simple instructions, anyone can create works of art, songs or poems indistinguishable from those created by, well, I was going to say, “created by humans”.

So if I create one of these technologies, have I really created anything? Or did the software create it?

No, I’m not afraid of computers taking over the world. I worry if we can tell the difference. – I’m Larry Burriss.”

About Dr. Burriss

Larry Burriss, a journalism professor, teaches introductory and media law courses. At the graduate level, he teaches quantitative research methods and media law. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University (BA in Broadcast Journalism, MA in Journalism), University of Oklahoma (MA in Human Relations), Ohio University (Ph.D. in Journalism ) and Concord Law School (JD). He has worked in print and broadcast media and public relations, and has published numerous articles in academic and popular publications. He has won first place in the Tennessee Associated Press Radio Contest nine times. Dr. Burriss’ publications and presentations include studies of presidential press conferences, NASA photographs, radio news, legal issues related to teens’ use of social networking sites, legal research, and the Earth middle.

Dr. Burriss has served as Director of the School of Journalism, Dean of the College of Mass Communication, and Chairman of the MTSU Faculty Senate. He was appointed by Governor Phil Bredesen to serve on the Tennessee Board of Regents. He was a lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force and served on active duty in Mali, Somalia, Bosnia, Central America, Europe and the Pentagon.

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