People should “wake up and smell the silicone” about the risk artificial intelligence (AI) poses to children, a university vice chancellor has said.
Sir Anthony Seldon warned that the technology could manipulate young people into doing “unspeakable” things, by impersonating teachers, or even celebrities.
Speaking at the launch of the UK’s first Institute for Ethical AI in Education (IEAIED), Sir Anthony, from the University of Buckingham, said AI would either be the best or the worst technological development.
He explained: “These machines can impersonate teachers, they can either impersonate people who they don’t know but look plausible, they can impersonate public figures.
“Or they can impersonate teachers – the headteacher of the school – and insinuate and manipulate children into thinking that this is the real teacher telling them to do things.
“So it can either be impersonal or it could even be personalised figures that will come on to the children’s screens and impersonate those teachers, and manipulate them, gain their trust and get them to do appalling things.”
He added that AI could enable online predators to carry out horrific, exploitative activities.
Sir Anthony said: “We are naturally overly trusting and our education system is not teaching critical thinking.
“We are teaching passive learners in a factory exam-obsessed system that does not develop the critical thought and the discrimination to discern ‘Is this real? Is it really the person?’.”
Asked whether AI could be sinister of its own volition, he said: “The worry is that it gets out of control – that we get into the Frankenstein syndrome whereby they replicate themselves. These machines think for themselves.
“I would say we are one 1,000th of the sophistication at the moment, so when they become far more sophisticated it is going to be really, really worrying.
“So we are just saying – wake up and smell the silicone.”
Sir Anthony said AI could mean a more personalised teaching experience as the technology learned what suited a student.
But he warned it could pose as that trusty teacher to manipulate the child into doing things such as making bombs or divulging bank account details.
Leading IEAIED with Sir Anthony are AI in education scientist Professor Rose Luckin and social impact entrepreneur Priya Lakhani.
It is supported by an advisory council made up of senior academics, politicians and entrepreneurs.
Also talking at the House of Commons launch was Speaker John Bercow, who welcomed guests to Speaker’s House.
Based at the University of Buckingham, IEAIED will see how data and AI within education can be designed and deployed ethically.
The institute will look at how ethics can be “designed in” to every aspect of AI in education and has been set up because the growing volume and diversity of data generated raises ethical concerns about what happens to that data.