Will AI Replace Tutoring & Coaching?

Image of AI robot teaching students

From T-2000 to Today

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been something that has captivated our imagination for the longest time. Years back where we’d get spooked watching the Terminator (think liquid mercury puddles) and global Skynet fears with the dominance of machines, we wondered if such a scenario could ever dawn upon mankind. Dialing it back a little from the total dystopian doomsday scenario back into the realm of reality, when we think about it… quite some things which seemed to be in the genre of ‘fiction’ years ago has suddenly become a lot closer to ‘reality tv’.

I’d readily admit that I was taken by surprise when ChatGPT was ‘unleased’ upon the world on the 20th of Nov 2022. You almost can’t believe that it’s only been just about a year (at the point of me writing this). To say that AI has changed the world would not be an understatement. Technology has moved so rapidly, and the power of AI has truly captured the imagination of the world. Over the years when we spoke of AI it used to be in terms of ‘evolution’ but as of today… we’d say it’s nothing short of a ‘revolution’.

When the then-world chess champion Gary Kasparov beat IBM’s Deep Blue 4-2, we breathed a sigh of relief that humankind had triumphed .. only for Deep Blue to win 3½–2½ in the rematch. That was ’97. Fast forward 25 years to today and you wonder if any would still dare take on a machine in a televised chess tournament especially with AI and the advanced computing power they’d be up against.

AI has ventured way beyond the chess board … and reached the shores of everyday practical reality. Almost every industry and sector has been impacted, including that which we are concerned with here… education. In this age, you won’t be able to go about a day without being somewhat affected by touched by AI.

Could AI Replace Me?

With the rise of AI-powered tools and platforms, something that we’ve all asked is… “Could AI replace me?” or “take over my job?”. Not just tutors, coaches, teachers, trainers … but consultants, lawyers, scientists ask the same question. Even I, as a programmer and the very people developing the AI technology would have asked themselves that very question.

As this is an opinion piece, do allow me to opine. My answer is a simple “No”. Not any time soon at least for those of us who are in the business of coaching and tutoring.

The Personal Touch

When we speak of any form of technology, we need to assess its strengths & weaknesses… its capabilities & inabilities (limitations). Technology powered by AI certainly has the power to perform intensive tasks, data analysis, handle tons of data… and all that at scale and at ridiculous speeds. It also has the power to adapt, learn as it goes along and even create. Yup… create. It’s amazing stuff, like sci-fi becoming reality.

And we could go on all day about its strengths, but there is something that I believe AI will not be able to truly achieve (at least not any time soon). When it comes to the realm of personal tutoring and coaching … I don’t believe it will be able to replace the genuine human touch.

Authenticity & Artificiality

What we as humans crave for is ‘authenticity’. We recoil or feel somewhat cheated if someone is trying to pass something of as human when in reality it is not. When it comes to tutoring or coaching, consider the impact of a real coach saying, “I think you did a great job!” or “I understand your frustrations” or “Keep it up!” VS a program mechanically churning it out on cue. The human touch makes a big difference and personal connections still have an impact to the whole learning process. A coach naturally processes the body language, visual cues, inflections in the voice, words, images and connect with the heart and mind of the coachee.

Human intelligence is far more complex to mimic than the current machine learning and generative AI tools are currently capable of achieving. It’s still a long way off. Emotional intelligence involving reasoning, feelings, empathy, care, understanding … love. These are human qualities which differentiate us from the ‘artificial’.

There’s still a long way to go for AI despite its incredible advancement. For example, it was reported that the best of AI systems still couldn’t “solve simple visual logic puzzles“. In a recent posting on nature.com it said that “In a test consisting of a series of brightly coloured blocks arranged on a screen, most people can spot the connecting patterns. But GPT-4, the most advanced version of the AI system behind the chatbot ChatGPT and the search engine Bing, gets barely one-third of the puzzles right in one category of patterns and as little as 3% correct in another...” (check out https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-023-02361-7)

Embracing the AI Revolution

Just like my film-based SLR cameras sitting as relics in a box somewhere in the closet, we learn to move with the times and roll with it. Technological advancement is evidence of mankind’s resourcefulness and inventive spirit. The myriad of powerful AI tools flooding the market will be used by everyone in due time and others will be using it to their competitive advantage. We don’t want to be left behind.

But I’d note that there should be the element of morality (and integrity) when it comes to the usage of AI. If its ethically wrong to utilize AI in your individual context which amounts to cheating or illegal activity, then its usage needs to be held back (we can’t expand on that here). Nevertheless, in the context of work and boosting productivity, we should look to leverage AI as a tool … while staying true to who we are and not compromising standards. Just remember, we generally don’t even think twice about using Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checker when editing our content … it’s just a matter of where we personally draw the line when it comes to using these new AI based tools.

But that era has dawned upon us.

So to sum up my thoughts. I see a world where ‘genuine’ and ‘artificial’ intelligence can co-exist if its done in a responsible way. This convergence should give rise to a new generation of empowered tutors & coaches who know how to combine, harness and direct it in such a way as to impact and enrich lives positively. And the human spirit lives on

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