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Friday, May 10, 2013

Artificial Intelligence

Can essay-grading software replace human evaluators and, at the same time, maintain writer's voice?

You be the judge as you read an example of how computer software might edit Lincoln's Gettysburg address:
Four score and seven [EIGHTY-SEVEN] years ago our fathers [ANCESTORS is preferable] brought forth on [ONE PART OF] this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty [NO NEED TO CAPITALIZE], and dedicated [WHAT’S YOUR SOURCE FOR THIS?] to the proposition that all men [PEOPLE] are created equal.

Now [CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC ABOUT THIS TIME REFERENCE? WHEN EXACTLY IS NOW?] we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met [ASSEMBLED] on a great battle-field [NO HYPHEN IN WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD FOURTH EDITION] of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, [EXTRANEOUS COMMA] as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that [IN ORDER] that [SUCH A] nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger [ANOTHER] sense, we can not dedicate* — we can not consecrate* — we can not hallow* — this ground.[*REPETITIVE LANGUAGE] The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have [ALREADY] consecrated it, far above our poor [MORE LIMITED] power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember [THIS IS CONJECTURE] what we say here, but it can [MAY] never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which [THAT] they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is[,] rather[,] for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — [A COLON IS PREFERABLE TO A DASH] that from these honored dead [AND WOUNDED] we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth [CONTINUATION] of freedom — and that government of the people*, by the people*, for the people* [*REPETITIVE LANGUAGE], shall not perish from the earth.

Grade: C-.

General comment: Too short.

26 comments:

  1. The UP-TO-DATE VERSION
    of GUESS WHAT?

    Our parent who lives happily
    Your name should be respected.
    May your home be our home,
    May your leadership prevail
    Where we are and where you are.
    Let us have enough to eat,
    And let us make our mistakes
    The same way we let others make theirs.
    Don't let us be distracted.
    Protect us from our worst instincts.
    Because you have authority,
    And all the credit always belongs to you.

    So be it!

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  2. WHy not just pray...

    Dear G_d... whatever?

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  3. Just wait until it does the bible. That should be rich.

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  4. We'll all be mindless robots by the end of this...

    This is a bad idea. A VERY bad idea. For one, it forces people into one tiny box. The address CLEARLY shows that. While I can't fault it to much on the punctuation (reading vs. speaking will change it), but the IDEA editing was creepy. Can't have dead, or poor, or under God. Nonono, these are the wrong answers. Excuse me, but since when did any teacher grade away stuff like that? Opinions are not something you grade.

    Maybe that is in public schools, but all it teaches is conformity and idiotisy. We need people to THINK. For heaven's sake, hasn't every dystopian novel proven that emphatically? If the goal is to have mindless, in line students, fine, the tech sounds great. If we want thinking students, then no. This will not work. A machine cannot understand or appreciate ideas, so how is it suppose to properly read an essay? Essay writing is MUCH more than just grammar. Content matters. Where I learn, we get two grades for every paper: mechanics (or grammar/punctuation) and content. Both matter. A computer cannot do content.

    And honestly, this sort of thing gives me a very bad feeling. We already have students brain-washed by schools, this system would FORCE them to agree with the set doctrine, or fail. And trust me, if you repeat a lie to yourself often enough, you think of it as truth.

    -Wildstar

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  5. Human beings are analogue creatures. Such digital tools are useful, but they do not thrum with the heart and sould of a people.

    Churchill was a master of the English language. Go read his speeched and analyze his word usage. English is rich with synonyms, but he did not choose his words haphazardly. He chose them to resonate with the beleaguered British people at that time. A computer cannot do that.

    Reverend King did the same thing. His speeches and writings are rich with Biblical imagery and literary references that spoke to the sould of a nation. No computer could match his brilliance.

    Read Don Quijote in the original Spanish, and you marvel at Cervantes' employment of his language at that time, while adopting stylish flourishes from the earlier age of chivalry. Cervantes is the Shakespeare of Castilian, although Spanish is not so full of his sayings and neologisms as English is of The Bard's.

    And Shakespeare. Any computer program would take his work and render it sterile. Had a computer rendered his body of work, our English language, and indeed our culture, would be much the poorer.

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  6. I fail to understand how artificial intelligence can, objectively, evaluate the content of a written (objective) response to a examination which requires a correct conclusion, based upon the examinee's presentation of facts leading to such. The article indicates that the application of this method of evaluation would free-up professors to do other things-what things? I guess, color me archaic!

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  7. If this is what the future holds for our children, they are doomed to mediocracy at best.

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  8. It is difficult to discern human advancements when we transition from Lincoln’s beautiful prose, and that of Churchill (as already mentioned) to such tripe as WE PRT W/PEEPS LOL BZW L8R.

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  9. Put it to work on the 2nd Inaugural.

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  10. AOW (off-topic),

    I love the picture that you use in today's post. Do you know the title and name of the artist?

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  11. Dear Lord in heaven - are professors actually contemplating using such a device?

    @Mustang - exactly!

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  12. Adrienne,
    There is indeed a movement afoot for professors to use the software so as "free them up" for other tasks. I'm not sure that "other tasks" might entail, however.

    I also note that there are objections to using the software, which the designers admit needs a lot of work.

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  13. Mustang,
    It is quite clear that, thanks to today's version of higher education and certain aspects of social media, our society is devolving.

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  14. Please notice the following from the first link in the blog post (emphases mine):

    EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such a system and will make its automated software available free on the Web to any institution that wants to use it. The software uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers, freeing professors for other tasks

    [...]

    EdX expects its software to be adopted widely by schools and universities....

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  15. Perhaps the rationale is that since artificial intelligence wrote the essay, artificial intelligence can grade it.

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  16. I wouldn't use it. There are some things that just need to be tweaked a bit more.

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  17. The BIBLE has already been "done" several times. Not by ARTIFICIAL intelligence, but by INFERIOR intelligence with no sense of poesy, drama, the sweep and scope of history or epic grandeur.

    What the modern revisionists did to The Book of Common Prayer (Episcopal) shouldn't have happened to a rabid dog.

    Did you know that "The King James Version" most of us are familiar with is, itself, a revision of the earliest "King James Version?" That's a fact -- go look it up, if you don't believe me. ;-)

    I'm sure everyone has heard the term "Bowdlerized," right? Well Bowdler was a real person -- an asinine prude -- who took it upon himself to "sanitize" Shakespeare and many other historic literary masterpieces.

    The latest assault on English by INFERIOR minds has been The INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE movement, whose agenda-driven, power-mad alterations to good English usage are a stylistic, syntactical abomination.

    And then there was ESPERANTO. Ever heard of that? It was a MAN MADE "language" with no irregular verbs, no spellings not strictly phonetical with a pared down, simplified vocabulary.

    The conceited asses who developed it actually thought it might take over and eventually make all "traditional" languages OBSOLETE.

    The arrogance! The stupidity! The VAPIDITY!

    Intellectual morons with high IQ's, no common sense, and a fervent desire to makes themselves feel "important" have been toying around with these crackpot concepts for a very long time.

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  18. FT,
    Did the 1611 KJV and the 1769 KJV have differences other than spelling? The 1611 KJV used language much like that of Beowulf if I recall correctly.

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  19. Wow, that is frightening.

    As a teacher this must drive you crazy.

    Debbie
    Right Truth
    http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

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  20. Do you think it would be possible to replace Congress with the super computer? No matter how much those computers cost, it would be a savings to the tax payers, yes? And if the computer is broken, we can just toss it out.

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  21. Beamish,
    Do you know more about that video?

    A few years ago, I had a piano student who said, very calmly and with a tone of inevitability, much the same thing to his parents and me about a few of his teachers, one of the teachers being his English teacher; this English teacher (and some of his later English teachers as well) assigned very little writing, and the boy knew that he was falling behind with the skills he needed to hone. His parents hired him an outside tutor, one who worked with the boy periodically all the way until he graduated from high school; this tutor didn't follow the classroom assignments but rather brought in other assignments. A few years later, he got a full-ride scholarship to college; the admissions director said that the essay written was the deciding factor.

    I must make this general in defense of teachers: many teachers enter the profession and have a passion for their work. Numerous factors erode that passion.

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  22. I get what the kid is saying in the video I linked, because I had a similar experience in public school (except I was the one standing up, ranting, and walking out).

    Public education was pretty dismal in the 1980s when I was in school. Looking at it 25 - 30 years later, I believe it's much worse.

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  23. Ohhhh, that video. That has become a viral video on YT. From what I know of it, the kids was asked to leave the classroom for asking the teacher too many questions- thus his rant on how the teacher won't teach. The school is all black (besides him), and from what we can tell in a (Southern by accent) ghetto area.

    THIS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAsTXtowZVQ is another video a different student took, in it we can actually see the teacher and classroom.

    -Wildstar

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  24. Wildstar,

    I went to school in Birmingham, Alabama with teachers who WERE OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE BEEN THERE who tried to tell us kids that Bull Connor (of taking firehoses to civil rights marchers infamy) was a Republican. And would not take correction, even as Bull Connor (then, early 1980s) was very much still involved in the Democratic Party he always was.

    I took offense because my grandfather, as a Republican Party organizer registering black to vote in 1950s and 1960s Alabama, had his house peppered with gunfire and shotgun blasts and a business burned down for doing so.

    Back in my time, public school teachers were pushing falsehood and nonsense. Now it seems they're not even trying to teach anything at all.

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