Double-Edged Ethics of AI

I recently read a letter to The Ethicist in the New York Times, “Can I Use A.I. to Grade My Students’ Papers?”. For the writer, the dilemma stemmed from restricting students to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to write papers, yet use AI to grade the papers. Would that be a double standard?

The teacher made efforts to prevent students from using AI to write the papers. One strategy was to break up the assignment into different working sessions. Some of the sessions were during class time. However, the teacher could still tell some students managed to use AI for the final version. After making efforts to prevent students from using AI, could this teacher benefit from the technology for help with grading?

Last month I faced my own AI dilemma while hiring for two student positions. I received dozens of applicants for both openings. One position had over 100 applicants. I received a nearly 400-page compiled pdf for some of the resumes. Naturally, the time to review and shortlist candidates was short. Plus, who has time to manually review that many. Skimming through cover letters and resumes, I started to get a feel for which ones had been AI-generated vs. customized by hand. One stretch of cover letters were nearly identical, perhaps because they all used the same AI platform and prompt. Would it have been unethical for me to use AI to screen candidates if they were using AI to craft cover letters and maybe even resumes?

Although not quite the same as the teacher’s dilemma, it made me pause. Candidates aren’t forbidden from using AI. For some candidates, it might even help them. As the hiring manager, it meant I had a lot of boring letters to skim. Using AI may have made it easy for some students to apply, resulting in an increase of applicants. But the real question is, would AI have been good at detecting the top candidates? The only way to find out is to try it!

As for the teacher, The Ethicist didn’t find any issue in using AI to grade papers, provided the AI did a good job. The students needed to learn how to think critically and write. The teacher, however, already knew how to grade papers. Using AI to do something the teacher already mastered would leave time available to prepare something different for the students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *