Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Take advantage of the ‘Year of AI’

Cassandra Ozuna

Before coming to UT, when I heard someone talk about artificial intelligence, my mind wandered to HAL from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” My understanding of the technology was lackluster at best, and, like many, I viewed it as distant and unrelated to my majors.

Fast forward to 2024, and UT declared the “Year of AI.”’ For many, this barely registered. So many of us don’t deal with AI daily, so a focus on it from administration felt irrelevant. In reality, AI is the fastest-adopted technology in history, and the implications its growth has on every profession are vast. UT students can’t afford to ignore the growth of this field, and we must take advantage of the resources we have on this campus to familiarize ourselves.

When I arrived on campus, we talked about AI in my journalism classes consistently. Instead of fearing this technology that many treat as a threat, we were learning what it did and how we could use it to make ourselves more productive. It was an example of its expansion as a tool in fields beyond those typically associated with technology.

Computer science professor Swarat Chaudhuri believes AI is largely perceived as untrustworthy because of its potential to make biased decisions. While these faults are certainly present, the technology also has great potential if understood.

“Artificial intelligence — the name just has this mystical air about it,” Chaudhuri said. “It’s really just finding patterns in data, learning those patterns and then reproducing them.”

Chaudhuri, an expert in trustworthy AI, also acknowledged the threats the software poses. The inclusion of false information in AI-generated answers, known as hallucinations, and its use in disinformation campaigns, has led many to distrust the technology. Despite its problems, Chaudhuri believes the benefits are worth exploring. From medical research to combing through data at high speeds, Chaudhuri says the future of many industries revolves around AI.

Raymond Mooney, a computer science professor who’s been studying AI at UT for nearly 37 years, said that UT is now investing in the ‘Year of AI’ to produce results with technology that rival that of schools like Princeton. In doing so, researchers can discover new information about AI and refine its uses.

“I used to be able to do decent AI research with a graduate student of mine with a relatively small amount of computational resources,” Mooney said. “Now, to be state of the art, you need humongous computational resources.”

Robert Quigley, a professor of practice in the School of Journalism and Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship for the Moody College of Communication, said this is the first time he recalls UT designating a year to a specific area of research or interest in his time as a professor. He believes it emphasizes the importance of focusing on this technology and its uses.

“When leadership sets the agenda for something, it causes things to happen,” Quigley said. “There’s a lot more interest in it, there’s a lot more people wondering, ‘How do I become a part of that?’”

As investment and attention toward AI and its development increases, some embrace the approaching new era while others resist accepting the technology. Quigley said that may be the worst thing someone can do.

“My biggest warning is being too scared of it and not learning about it,” Quigley said. “There’s a huge opportunity here for communications, for business, for engineering, … but if we don’t embrace it and try to learn, if we don’t try to find the good uses, then all we’ll get are the bad.”

AI technology is the future. It will connect in some way to every industry, and ignoring its prevalence will only make someone less prepared to utilize it as a tool in their work.

It can be daunting to approach something as vast and complex as artificial intelligence. However, most of us don’t need to be experts. We don’t have to understand everything, but we must try to understand some. As UT prioritizes the expansion of AI technologies, we must do the same in prioritizing our understanding of systems that will inevitably play an instrumental role in the way we live our lives.

Doud is a journalism and government freshman from Conroe, Texas.

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