🔬 Research Summary by Arun Teja Polcumpally, a Technology Policy Analyst at Wadhwani Institute of Technology Policy (WITP), New Delhi, India).
NOTE: “The views in this article are expressed solely by the author and do not reflect the views of the Wadhwani Institute of Technology and Policy.”
[Original paper by Selena Nemorin, Andreas Vlachidis, Hayford M. Ayerakwa and Panagiotis Andriotis]
Overview: The authors of this paper have adopted the discourse analysis method to arrive at their thematic analysis. They have considered 143 documents related to AI and international education. These documents included policy papers, articles, conference papers, reports, guidelines, and brochures published between January 2019 – January 2021. The researchers of this paper categorized each document using the keywords. There are 26 keywords identified that are associated with AI. Each document has been checked for its association with the 26 keywords. By adopting this method, the authors have identified the final articles for analysis. The paper rightly emphasizes the power of AI to create narratives and discourses that influence public opinion. This is reminiscent of Michel Foucault’s idea that power is intricately linked to knowledge generation and discourse. By applying this framework, the paper highlights the potential for AI to manipulate the narratives in education, a concern that warrants further examination.
While acknowledging that the global market is accepting AI in education to be good, this research paper asserts that AI usage in education has the power to create narratives, which in turn become discourses. These discourses have the power to capture the public’s minds. Thus, AI becomes a political tool. Digging deeper into this, the authors have performed text analysis and categorized their findings into three-
- Global domination through education and technological innovation
- Creation and expansion of market niches
- Managing narratives, perceptions, and norms
The Geopolitics and the Bias of International Organisations
AI has also taken center stage in debates about how school governance, pedagogy, and learning can be rebooted to fit students with the OECD 21st Century Skills. States opt for Public, Private partnership (PPP) models to achieve the latter. However, the authors opine that global initiatives and policy planning are mainly done from the governance perspective but are not anchored to the local needs of various countries. The authors quote the World Economic Forum (WEF) report arguing that the forum understands how new types of colonialism emerge, and with the growing power of China, it encourages the West to gear up its play (p 43). This shows that global institutions like WEF are biased in promoting the supremacy of the West. It is no wonder China wants to usher in a new era by promoting its influence like that of the US. The quote highlighted by the author below shows that the WEF is not focused on enhancing the strength of the democracies but only on that of the West.
Cooperation with other democracies would strengthen the West’s hand: in the realm of data and technology, the West should strengthen ties with India, whose data sets and tech entrepreneurs will be valuable assets in the coming competition, as well as with Mexico, whose technology and infrastructure grids can either be the soft underbelly or the strategic reserve of the West. (p. 15, WEF 2020)
India and Mexico are argued to be geopolitical hotspots wherein the West can strengthen its own power. Such a biased narrative coming from the WEF shows that the global platform is no longer global and considers only the strategic interest of the West.
AI and the high tech Education Tools
AI tools in schools include biometric trackers, behavioral analysis, surveillance, and adaptive learning tools. AI systems that track behavior and mood surveillance will impact the rights of [digital] privacy, cognitive freedom, and dignity of self. However, in the awe of the services provided by AI technologies, the important question is being neglected. Is it safe to have an objective understanding of education?
The EU AI Act effectively bans the AI tools that track and record human emotions. AI and biometrics are also banned in schools that track students’ behavior. This is an effective measure taken from the perspective of protecting human rights. In the same way as the EU, all governments worldwide must understand and define the societal nitty grits like human dignity, privacy, freedom, and education while drafting AI regulations.
The dominance of the West in defining the Ethics of AI
This paper also hints at how ethical norms could be one of the pillars of geopolitics. Though most of the AI policy drafts and discussion papers focus on ensuring ethical AI practices, they differ on the definitional aspects of ethical AI. The agents with different approaches and views on ethics are private companies, governments, and global institutions. Though the difference is acknowledged, global AI ethics are dominated by West – Asilomar AI Principles (Future of Life Institute, 2017), the Montreal Declaration for Responsible AI (University of Montreal, 2017), the General Principles offered in the second version of Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Well-being with Autonomous and Intelligent Systems, (IEEE General Principles, 2017), the Ethical Principles offered in the statement Artificial Intelligence, Robotics and ‘Autonomous’ Systems, published by the European Commission’s European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE Principles for Ethical AI, 2018), the five overarching principles for an AI code in the UK House of Lords Artificial Intelligence Committee’s report: AI in the UK: Ready, willing and able? (House of Lords, 2018), and the Tenets of the Partnership on AI (2018), (a multi-stakeholder organization comprising researchers, civil society organizations, P3 companies building and utilizing AI technology, etc.). This shows how biased AI ethics are and the imminent danger of Western dominance in defining technology ethical practices.
Primary trends in international investment in education
The article argues that four primary trends guide international education investment for development.
- Education as a tool to reduce poverty
- International investment in education uses standardized measurement and testing of student learning.
- The emergence of international policy declarations approved by most world states.
- The growing role of the private sector in design and the provision of education
These four trends move towards the datafication of education. The authors opine that the datafication of education is aligned with positivist thinking and reductionist impulses. That means there will be a more objective understanding of education. There will be more skilling than subjective learning. Concepts will be focused more than philosophy.
The ways in which students potentially become extractable resources to generate [public] data can be understood as viewing subjects as objects, of seeing students as data nodes for extraction and exploitation of valuable data. Students can be seen in this sense as having limited agency and no control over their personal data, including having a say in the decisions made using their data. (P 49)
The above excerpt in the conclusion shows that the global educational AI tools are mired with biased assessment tools and require closer monitoring by educationalists. The paper also asserts that the world requires someone to jot down the approaches and perceptions of the global south in AI ethics, especially when used in education.
Between the Lines
The authors argue that international organizations like the World Economic Forum (WEF) may exhibit a bias toward Western interests. The WEF’s focus on strengthening the West’s power while neglecting partnerships with other democratic nations suggests a possible Western-centric approach. This is a valid point of concern, as it raises questions about the fairness and inclusivity of global AI initiatives. This aspect is increasingly being recognized worldwide, and countries are employing balancing strategies with competing countries to assert their national interest. The authors’ allegations and the biases of WEF could undermine public trust in global AI initiatives if people believe that they are being designed to benefit a select group of nations at the expense of others. It could lead to a more fragmented and competitive global AI landscape, with different nations and regions developing their own AI technologies and standards.
International organizations need to make a concerted effort to engage with stakeholders worldwide, including developing countries and non-democratic nations. Global AI initiatives need to be designed to focus on inclusivity and equity. This means ensuring that all nations and regions can participate in developing and deploying AI technologies. Global AI standards need to be developed transparently and inclusively. This means ensuring that all stakeholders have a voice in the development process. If such measures are not considered, it is better to have regional organizations developing regional AI standards rather than global ones.