B’AI-UTokyo NY Office Event “The Future of Higher Education in the AI Age”Held

In a groundbreaking two-day symposium held on December 14 and 15, 2023, the University of Tokyo B’AI Global Forum delved into the profound implications of AI technology in higher education. Hosted at the UTokyo New York Office with support from the Institute for AI and Beyond and the UTokyo New York Office, the event was live-streamed via webinar. The video recordings will soon be accessible on the B’AI Global Forum website.


On Tuesday, December 14, Professor Yuko Itatsu, from the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies (GSII) at the University of Tokyo, set the stage. She provided insights into the B’AI Global Forum and introduced the distinguished speakers. In her opening remarks, Professor Itatsu emphasized the critical examination required to understand how AI shapes university curriculum design, influences educators, and necessiates ethical, inclusive usage.


Following this, Associate Professor Ai Hisano, from the GSII, presented a detailed overview of the newly published book, AI kara yomitoku shakai: Kenryoku-ka suru saishin gijutsu [Understanding AI in society: How technology exerts power] (University of Tokyo Press, 2023). Co-edited by B’AI Global Forum, Yuko Itatsu, and Ai Hisano, the book explores cross-disciplinary topics related to AI, emphasizing its societal impact. The discussion laid the groundwork for the symposium’s subsequent conversations.


The event featured presentations from Professor Lauren Goodlad at Rutgers University and Associate Professor Julia Stoyanovich at New York University. Unfortunately, Senior Lecturer Alexander Gil from Yale University, originally slated to speak, could not attend due to health concerns.


Professor Goodlad, who specializes in English literature and servs as the editor-in-chief of the academic journal Critical AI, the first volume of which was published this October, shared insights on “Critical AI Literacies, Critical AI Studies, and Design Justice Labs.” She underscored the limitations of AI, emphasizing the importance of teaching students to critically evaluate sources and analyze information from diverse perspectives. She also highlighted the integration of AI systems into global capitalism by citing instances such as potential errors and reinforcement of stereotypes in image labeling with AI and the creation of harmful labels, including violent representations, by workers in the Global South, contributing to the expansion of so-called digital sweatshops.


The next speaker, Associate Professor Stoyanovich specializes in Computer Science and is the director of the Center for Responsible AI at New York University. In her talk, “Responsible AI (in teaching & learning),” she discussed the benefits of AI while highlighting the significance of understanding that machines make mistakes. She emphasized the potential harm AI mistakes can cause, using examples such as self-driving cars, and the cumulative impact of biases and hate speech. It is hence crucial, stressed Professor Stoyanovich, that we humans retain full agency and keep control over AI.


A panel discussion, moderated by Professor Itatsu, followed the presentations. The panel included the aforementioned speakers and Professor Yujin Yaguchi, Vice President of the University of Tokyo. They tackled diverse issues, ranging from the rising interest in AI-based English education to potential marginalization of women and minorities by AI. The discussion emphasized the need for cross-disciplinary dialogue on sustainable use of AI and the challenges of meaningful interdisciplinary communication.


Professor Kaori Hayashi, Executive Vice President of the University of Tokyo, delivered closing remarks on the first day. She urged a critical examination of AI norms and structures, advocating for a reevaluation of AI use on micro, meso, and macro levels.


On Friday, December 15, educational consultant Anna Esaki-Smith moderated a conversation between Professor Teruo Fujii, President of the University of Tokyo, and Professor Joseph E. Aoun, President of Northeastern University. The discussion ranged from general higher education topics to preparintg for AI technology, including how students should be mentored, what kind of guidance they should receive, and the impact of AI on their choice of major and research topics. Both speakers stressed the importance of being vigilant about AI-generated misinformation, biases, and the role of learning beyond the classroom. Moreover, they underscored the pivotal role that business could play due to the substantial need for data and financial resources in the utilization of AI. Emphasizing that business invovelment could generate both tensions and new possibilities, they delved into the dynamic landscape of AI implementation.


During the Q&A session, the audience sought insights on using AI for education to reduce the teaching load for university faculty and ensuring inclusivity in AI use. The discussion emphasized the need for universities to cater not only to current students but also to those engaged in lifelong learning. The importance of embracing a diverse student body and meeting individual needs was also highlighted.


Professor Hayashi concluded the symposium with closing remarks, underscoring the significance of issues covered in the conversations. The dialogue between the presidents highlighted the necessity for higher education to integrate diverse disciplines into the curriculum and enforce AI governance. The symposium emerged as a pivotal platform for scholars from diverse backgrounds to explore the possibilities and tensions in higher education amidst the AI age.