Friday, May 13, 2016

Robots for everything: Teaching assistants

From the Washington Post:

(Thanks to @JustinWolfers for his tweet.)

My thoughts after reading this article:

1. Robots can be more valuable when there is more technology in the environment.  In this example, a chatbot was superior to humans in the context of a massive online open course (MOOC),
"where students often drop out and generally don’t receive the chance to engage with a human instructor. With more human-like interaction, Goel expects online learning could become more appealing to students and lead to better educational outcomes." 
This brings up the possibility of increasing returns to capital, at least up to a point. Here, the internet made MOOC's possible, which in turn made robots more valuable.

2. If it's important to make the interaction with the bot human-like, make your robots more human: program them to respond with a delay, to make mistakes, etc. In this example:
"I had the same doubt last week [whether the TA was a chatbot] because we were getting such speedy responses from TAs."
3. Context may be important for how well customers accept artificial intelligence. In this example, the users were taking an AI-related class, so it's natural the chatbot would be welcome:
" '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.' "

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