Just Another Calculator?

3 min readMay 8, 2023

Define cheating when 9 out of 10 do it

Hewlett Packard | HP-35 calculator (1972)

The education sector is struggling to handle generative AI. How can we tell if the student wrote the text or an AI tool did the job? How can we block it? Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, the ChatGPT maker, comments: “We adapted to calculators and changed what we tested in maths class.” But what if this is not just a calculator?

The term disruption is frequently used to describe the impact of new technologies, but this feels different from “Uber disrupting the taxi industry” or “Airbnb disrupting how we book accommodation.” Can an invention be so huge that the word disruption is too small?

In 1992, David Nye wrote “Electrifying America,” describing how the electrification of America was not just a technological transformation but also a cultural and social one that transformed how people lived, worked, and thought about the world around them.

Exchange “electrification” with “AI-fication,” and we have a much better parallel for understanding the impact of AI. Imagine what it would have been like if the 70 years of electricity roll-out covered in Nye’s book had been condensed into just a few years.

That is likely what will happen with AI! Prepare for a collision!

David Nye | Electrifying America (1990)

In order to effectively manage AI in education, we need to understand the world we are preparing our students for. Students today are referred to as “digital natives” — born with the internet, tablets, and smartphones. The next generation will be “AI natives” and know only a world where AI is an integral part of our homes and jobs, politics and business. Just like David Nye documented the roll-out of electricity.

Searching will become a natural conversation between humans and machines — voice and text. The Google list of links (sources) will be pushed to page 2 — who ever goes to page 2?

Text production
No more “blank paper syndrome.” AI is fully integrated into our text editors whether you write a text message on your phone or work in Word or Google Docs.

To save time AI will rapidly lead to automation of any repetitive work process regardless of industry. Those who master this fastest will have a significant competitive advantage.

When people try to downplay the importance of AI by comparing it to the “calculator” it is simply a misconception — on purpose or not.

In education, we need to ask ourselves. What if what we see with ChatGPT is the “new normal”? And, how do we handle written work when 9 out of 10 students use generative AI?

According to the financial markets, it is not a matter of “what if” but “when.” Chegg, an American online tutoring and homework service, experienced a 48% decrease in the stock price in just one day due to lower results caused by students’ growing interest in ChatGPT.

CNBC | May 2 2023

We are rapidly approaching a “new normal.” It is our responsibility to question if priority should be on blocking AI and categorising students using AI for written work as “cheaters.”

Today’s students will evolve in a future where AI will play an integral role, both professionally and personally. It is our job to equip them with the necessary skills to thrive in this changing landscape.

The die is cast.