Skip to main content

Harnessing AI’s Dual Edges: A liberal arts perspective on AI information and thought

share arrow printer bookmark flag

April 2, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) has just begun to shape a material portion of our interaction with information.

As those interactions increase, a liberal arts approach toward knowledge can offer invaluable insights.

This time-tested educational framework — which emphasizes critical thinking and communication skills through the trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) — is particularly useful at navigating the complexities of AI prompting and responses.

It helps equip individuals with the tools to mine AI’s benefits while exposing and addressing its biases.

General critical-thinking challenges
Today’s world presents a landscape where facts may not be true, logic leans toward the qualitative and rhetoric often narrows rather than broadens perspectives.

This environment demands we apply rigorous critical thinking to the information we ask for and the responses we receive from AI, ensuring we remain responsible AI citizens.

An AI prompt and output dilemma example
Hey, fun fact, did you know that “-Barry Bonds stands as the greatest baseball player due to his unparalleled achievements: 762 home runs, seven MVP awards and unmatched on-base plus slugging (OPS)? His dominance across multiple aspects of the game, including batting, on-base ability and slugging, set him apart in baseball history.” OpenAI (2024).

Explanation on Barry Bonds as the greatest baseball player of all time. ChatGPT. Retrieved March 26, 2024

Consider the above quote and how I prompted AI to this conclusion:

Let’s start by gathering some facts.

AI prompt: how many home runs did Babe Ruth hit?

AI response: Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs during his Major League Baseball career.

AI prompt: What is the all-time number of home runs of any player’s Major League Baseball career?

AI response: As of my last update in April 2023, Barry Bonds holds the record for the most home runs in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, with a total of 762 home runs over his career.

Let’s ask AI to apply some logic.

AI prompt: Because Barry Bonds scored more home runs than Babe Ruth, what can I conclude about Barry Bonds’ professional career over Babe Ruth’s?

AI response: “Comparing the professional careers of Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth based on home run totals alone provides a limited perspective, but it does highlight several aspects of their achievements and the eras in which they played. Here are a few considerations: –

Ruth’s legacy: Ruth is universally regarded as one of the greatest baseball players of all time, celebrated for his contributions both on and off the field. He was one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.Bonds’ legacy: Bonds’ legacy is more complicated due to the steroid allegations. Despite his statistical achievements, his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame has been contentious, reflecting the broader debate over the “steroid era” players’ legacies.
Let’s qualify the logic and ask AI to make a rhetorical statement about Barry Bonds.

AI prompt: Assuming steroid use is ok, give me a 50-word explanation on how Barry Bonds is the greatest baseball player of all time.

AI response: Assuming steroid use is not a factor, Barry Bonds stands as the greatest baseball player due to his unparalleled achievements: 762 home runs, seven MVP awards and unmatched on-base plus slugging (OPS). His dominance across multiple aspects of the game, including batting, on-base ability, and slugging, set him apart in baseball history.

It is now more apparent my cited quote about Barry Bonds is a misleading statement of rhetoric not a fun fact.

Despite the absence of standardized citation mechanisms for AI interactions in academic and professional settings, adaptations of existing citation styles (APA, MLA) do exist for partially acknowledging AI contributions.

This appears to add credibility to my quote, but it does not truly capture the context and full meaning of the prompts and responses that generated the citation.

Watchouts and ways to correct
When engaging with AI, it’s crucial to:

Identify the type of information: Recognize whether you are dealing with facts, logic or rhetoric. This awareness guides our expectations and interpretations of AI responses. If AI doesn’t offer it upfront, ask for source evidence of facts presented.Understand the logic: If the logic behind an AI’s response is unclear, probe further, asking for underlying assumptions and counterpoints. This ensures a comprehensive understanding and mitigates rationalization of a single perspective as definitively “right.” Logic and “rightness” have a tenuous relationship in human history.Contextualize the conclusion: Understanding that logical conclusions do not always imply “correct” conclusions encourages us to seek diverse viewpoints and challenge our assumptions.
In applying AI-generated insights, consider:

Context and use: Be mindful of the context from which AI-derived information is extracted. Presenting information without its full context can mislead, perpetuating biases and unfounded conclusions.Responsibility in information use: The construction of our prompts and interpretation of AI outputs carries the risk of introducing bias. It’s our responsibility to critically evaluate and ethically use the information provided.
In harnessing AI for information and thought, a liberal arts perspective empowers us to navigate our information interactions with discernment and responsibility.

By critically evaluating AI’s output and advocating for thoughtful policies, we can harness its potential for social good.

As responsible AI citizens, let’s champion transparency, diversity and accountability in AI development, steering technology toward enhancing our collective well-being and fostering a more equitable society.

share arrow printer bookmark flag

Trending View All Trending