Earlier this month I attended my second University of Rochester Commencement. I was surprised by how much difference a year makes. Even as a relative stranger to the University, I was moved by last year’s ceremony. This year, however, felt like I was celebrating a part of my family. It was another great experience, and one that never fails to inspire me and fill me with hope for the future. In fact, I’m hoping that some of our recent graduates will be putting their knowledge and skills to work in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI), one of the major topics covered at this month’s meeting of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

One of the main things I took from the ARL meeting is that we’re all trying to figure out where libraries fit into the AI movement.

Most of us were made acutely aware of AI and its capabilities by the rise of ChatGPT and other AI-based platforms over the past few months. I have spent some time experimenting with ChatGPT, asking it to perform various writing tasks that might be required of someone in my position. The results have left me simultaneously impressed, skeptical, and worried.

ChatGPT’s answers to my prompts were interesting, but a bit messy. However, in some cases, it was hard to tell that AI had generated an answer. This leads me to my core concern, which is that ChatGPT (and other AI platforms) use a corpus of underlying data to answer questions. So, the data (and algorithms) are hidden. This in and of itself raises concerns about bias, the methodology of the algorithm, and anything missing that could be useful in providing better, more accurate, and more inclusive responses.

We are only now starting to understand the potential and challenges of the technology. Despite my concerns, I’m excited about the possibilities and our ability to help lead developments. I believe this is an area in which libraries will serve as an essential collaborator for the Rochester students and faculty exploring AI.

Kevin Garewal
Vice Provost and Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean
University of Rochester Libraries