Faculty Spotlight: GSU professor states proactive navigation key to safe and successful AI 

The subject of artificial intelligence (AI) has been all over the worldwide news in recent weeks, with much of it being doom and gloom concerning the potential dangers it could present in the future.   

But Grambling State University’s (GSU) Vasanth Iyer, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Digital Technologies, feels the key is about humanity learning to navigate the ever-growing AI landscape throughout the world. 

Simply put, artificial intelligence refers to the simulation of human intelligence by software-coded heuristics. In this day and age, this code is prevalent in everything from cloud-based, enterprise applications to consumer apps and even embedded firmware. 

Iyer, who teaches a computer science elective course labeled CS 236/Artificial Intelligence, believes that while concerns about AI are founded, it can become an important tool for creating a better world for all if properly used and controlled. 

“AI, like any tool, has the potential to be misused,” Iyer said. “Issues such as job displacement, privacy infringements, and the risk of opaque AI decision-making are all valid concerns that we must address. I’ve delved into these and other issues in one of my writings titled “Walking the AI Tightrope: Balancing Progress and Ethical Concerns.” 

“The concerns highlighted in the news are real and should not be taken lightly. As I’ve discussed in the piece, balancing the progress offered by AI with the ethical considerations it raises is a tightrope we’re currently walking.” 

 But Iyer also feels the exciting potential benefits that could arise out of AI precludes any notion of abandoning it in its entirety. 

“The current AI boom is truly exciting,” Iyer said. “The capacity for AI to streamline processes, enhance productivity, and even break ground in areas like personalized medicine or environmental conservation, as I’ve highlighted in my writings, is a testament to the untapped potential of this technology. 

“We’re on the cusp of what could be a new era akin to the Industrial Revolution.” 

But like most good tools, Iyer admits that AI has the potential to be used for bad intentions. 

“As we tread along this tightrope, we must confront the unsettling reality that AI has the potential to automate vast swaths of jobs, displacing millions of workers,” Iyer wrote in his article. “From truck drivers threatened by autonomous vehicles to factory workers replaced by AI-powered robots, we must consider the societal impact and prepare for potential job displacement.” 

“AI can also be manipulated for nefarious purposes. Deepfakes – realistic AI-generated videos of people saying or doing things they never did – are a terrible example. They can be used to spread disinformation, manipulate public opinion, or even blackmail individuals, posing significant challenges to our societies.” 

Iyer said the coursework in his Artificial Intelligence class at Grambling State is growing just as the admittedly complex subject continues expanding. 

“At GSU, our AI class is not only a platform for students to grasp the technical aspects such as machine learning, neural networks, and data analysis but also a space to ponder and debate the broader societal implications of AI,” Iyer said. “Before taking CS-426, students must complete the CS 201 Ethics course, which deals with Tech ethics (biases and weights).” 

“As part of the CS426 course, students are taught how to use GPUs (graphical processing units) to train a model, optimize hyperparameters, and test it on real-world data – write a report describing how they augment the data to solve the business problem. We will be including ChaptGPT and DALLE-2 in our next CS-426 offering.” 

Iyer also sees AI becoming a bigger part of GSU’s curriculum as it continues to grow. 

“The rate of AI’s growth necessitates a constant evolution of our curriculum,” Iyer said. “We’re exploring including more specialized AI courses and even interdisciplinary programs combining AI with fields like Business, Arts, and Healthcare. This aligns with the vision I outlined in ‘AI and You: Shaping the Future Together.’ 

“As we navigate the AI landscape, we should consider presenting this conversation as an educational series. Expanding on each topic could generate awareness, spark interest, and build a learning community around AI at GSU.” 

Iyer said the key to the future is learning to grow and work with AI for the good of all. 

“The goal should be a harmonious existence where AI serves as a tool that enhances human potential and creativity, not replace it,” Iyer said. “This idea is at the heart of ‘AI and You: Shaping the Future Together,’ where I advocate for a future where AI is seamlessly and ethically integrated into our everyday lives. 

“It’s about becoming proactive participants. Just as we’ve shaped past technologies, we can shape AI. It’s about fostering a community around AI. We can collaborate globally to tackle AI’s challenges and maximize its benefits in our interconnected world. We could contribute to global forums discussing AI, collaborate on international AI research projects, or even engage in cross-cultural exchanges to understand different perspectives on AI ethics.”