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This professor's teaching assistant was a bot

Everyone fears of Google becoming Skynet, but after reading a bunch of news, I'm beginning to think IBM's Watson is much, much closer.

News broke out recently how a Georgia Tech professor hired a bunch of teaching assistants to help him answer all the questions students have during the semester. One of the TAs was actually an artificial intelligence bot, and the students didn’t realise until the professor told them, after they had submitted their final exams.

The bot, which he named Jill, is based on IBM’s artificial intelligence, Watson.

According to the Washington Post, the professor, Ashok Goel, felt his teaching assistants were too overwhelmed with questions, which often repeated themselves. Thinking about speeding things up, he came to the idea of using Watson to automate some of the answers. He fed it questions and answers from previous semesters, and allowed it to answer questions only when it was 97 per cent confident it had the right answer. For everything else, humans were involved.

“To me this is a grand challenge,” Goel said. “Education is such a huge priority for the entire human race.”

Students were also amazed, the Washington Post writes, citing one student that said they felt like a part of history now. Others were actually thinking about nominating Jill as an outstanding TA in the CIOS survey.

Next semester, Jill will be involved once again, but its name will be changed, so that the students don’t know who’s human, and who’s not. “A really fun thing in this class has been once students knew about Jill they were so motivated, so engaged. I’ve never seen this kind of motivation and engagement,” Goel said. “What a beautiful way of teaching artificial intelligence.”

Photo Credit: Willyam Bradberry/Shutterstock

Sead Fadilpašić

Sead is a freelance journalist with more than 15 years of experience in writing various types of content, from blogs, whitepapers, and reviews to ebooks, and many more, across sites including Al Jazeera Balkans, TechRadar Pro, IT Pro Portal, and CryptoNews.