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Tools and Materials: A Mental Model for AI – the ChatGPT 4th grade reading level version

Note to the reader: I asked ChatGPT to rewrite my article “Tools and Materials: A Mental Model for AI” at a 4th grade reading level. The article below is the unedited output:

Sometimes, we think of things called “AI” or “Artificial Intelligence” as being intelligent. But they’re not really. They’re just computers that can answer questions. We humans have a tendency to give human characteristics to things that aren’t human. So if we think something is intelligent, like a big computer system, we might see it as being smart. But really, it’s just using the things we’ve taught it, like our language, art, and math.

That’s why it’s important to change the way we think about AI. Instead of thinking of it as being intelligent, we should think of it as tools and materials. That’s what it really is and how we’ll use it.

Sometimes, we’ll use AI like a tool, like we use our phones and computers. Other times, we’ll use what it makes as materials, like we use printed fabrics to create something. We might even use it as both a tool and material, like when we use a word processing app to write and then use the thesaurus function to make the writing more fancy.

Here are some examples of how we can use AI:

  • As a tool to fill out tax forms, write contracts, or create code
  • As a tool to summarize text or rewrite it for a specific reading level
  • As a tool for online shopping, like booking flights and hotels
  • As a tool to talk to customer service representatives
  • As a tool to clean up images, video, and audio
  • As a material to make simple stories, plot lines, news articles, and images
  • As a material to create variations of a layout, theme, or painting

AI is really just a bunch of if-then statements and very complex decision-making based on patterns in the data it’s been given. It’s like a machine that repeats what we’ve already made. And just like we’re drawn to our own reflection in a mirror, we’re drawn to the things AI makes that are like us.

But there’s a problem with AI. It’s shallow. Have you ever noticed that AI images and things it makes all kind of look the same? That’s because AI is shallow. It doesn’t come up with anything new. It just repeats what it’s already seen. It also likes what’s popular and trendy, and it amplifies the things it sees a lot of in its training data. This makes the things it makes feel boring and shallow, like a student who’s had too much to drink talking about philosophy.

Human creativity is different. It’s deep. It comes up with new ideas and approaches things in unique ways. AI can’t do that. So we need to use it as a tool and material, not as a replacement for human creativity.

By Morten Rand-Hendriksen

Morten Rand-Hendriksen is a Senior Staff Instructor at LinkedIn Learning (formerly lynda.com specializing in AI, bleeding edge web technologies, and the intersection between technology and humanity. He also occasionally teaches at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. He is a popular conference and workshop speaker on all things tech ethics, AI, web technologies, and open source.