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Me, Myself, as Mommy: I’ve embraced the technological future, and you should too

By Meg Sanders - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 23, 2024

Meg Sanders, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The author's daughter, Scarlett, recently took first place in Weber School District as part of a Utah Future Business Leaders of America competition. The topic dealt with artificial intelligence and customer service.

For decades, my skill set of writing and snark served me well. The first decade of my “career” was shoveling scripts for the newsroom, my creative outlet being this valuable local newspaper. From time to time, I played with the idea of heading back to school for a graduate degree in English. Eventually, those thoughts triggered PTSD remembering the homework and parking stress. The intimidation of the undertaking was real.

My current job, again with the writing (less snark), introduced me to a program called Tech Moms, a partnership with Weber State University. The class schedule was optimal, the information new and the price right, so I decided to sign up for the winter cohort. Both the Zoom and in-person classes schooled me in the basic coding language that allows one to construct a website. Do I dream of a career in that industry? Not at all, but it felt so good to learn something completely new, completely necessary; now I feel like I’m not falling behind on what the future is pushing through to the present.

As I age, a great fear is the eventuality of irrelevance. This is not to say older people are irrelevant, only those who choose to stop learning what will engulf the future. I imagine there does come a point when there is no point to learn, instead enjoying what you already worked so hard to know and still remember. Tech is changing so fast, particularly with the addition of artificial intelligence, there’s so much to learn that you’ll never get bored.

A perk of having a teenager at home is knowing what’s coming, including AI. I initially introduced Scarlett to ChatGPT, showing her how this simple language tool can be given a prompt, which then works out a human-like response. My example was asking ChatGPT to construct a breakup text that would allow the people to remain friends. This AI tool churned out an accurate response, literally in a split second. Months later, she’s showing me the next phases of AI from images to a chatbot that responds as if it were Jesus.

Unlike Google, ChatGPT, along with similar AI programs, writes out responses that could almost be copied and pasted into usable answers. Prompts I’ve written ask Chat to “pretend you’re a 12-year-old boy who needs to write an essay about the importance of learning math.” I clarify the response shouldn’t use big words or add a lot of adjectives. Seconds later, my answer sounded like a young kid. Disclaimer, I have not used AI to write this column, just sleep deprivation and booze.

Photo supplied

Meg Sanders

The way communication is shared is changing, and the way students will construct that communication is in a constant state of metamorphosis because of AI. Often times when Scarlett has struggled to answer a question, I suggest she use ChatGPT, and she quickly chastises me with “It’s cheating.” When I was in school, sites like Wikipedia were considered cheating. Now it’s the go-to for work cited. Every math teacher pre-2009 railed against the use of calculators, claiming there wouldn’t always be one available. Now we’re never more than inches away from such a tool. Modern schools don’t even have a policy in place for AI. While Scarlett may fear using AI is cheating to get answers, I promise teachers are using it to create the actual test questions. Several districts in Utah have outright blocked ChatGPT and Gemini from use. It always works well to block teens from access. Take note, book banners.

Jordan School District is facing the new world straight on by working to integrate AI into education, realizing that a simple prompt can be a veritable homework cow, churning out essays, math solutions, even an email to a teacher. In fairness to Weber School District, AI is hot tech basically overnight, catching administrators flat on their feet. They haven’t had enough time to understand the dangers, let alone proper policy. It’s certainly not an issue that we can wait to address. According to Stanford University, AI has reached more than 100 million users, many college students. All levels of education have shifted and this movement isn’t done.

Discussions over AI are taking place in all aspects of the world, from the boardroom to the classroom. This year, Utah junior high and high schools are tackling the topic in their Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competitions with a question over AI ethics and customer service. It’s more than likely the customer service rep you’re talking to is actually AI. Students were asked how companies can incorporate AI ethically into customer service. Scarlett recently took first place in Weber District; now she heads to state. This is part of her presentation: “This topic doesn’t have to be a controversial one. We don’t have to ban it because we don’t understand it. Implementing a code of ethics to keep businesses transparent and letting the general public understand how technology works, will keep us plowing ahead into the future.”

Technology that mirrors human-like behavior is intimidating. Don’t let that stop you. Instead, pull out your phone, find ChatGPT and start interacting with the future. Last will and testaments, an obituary, your life story or that letter to the editor you want in the Standard-Examiner can all be done in mere seconds when you decide to embrace AI. Some of those letters, even this column, exhibit fictitious intelligence. Just be warned: ChatGPT doesn’t snark, so maybe I won’t be out of a job anytime soon.

Meg Sanders worked in broadcast journalism for over a decade but has since turned her life around to stay closer to home in Ogden. Her three children keep her indentured as a taxi driver, stylist and sanitation worker. In her free time, she likes to read, write, lift weights and go to concerts with her husband of 18 years.


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