Elon Musk has long dismissed MBAs as irrelevant or harmful, but now the company behind the outspoken tech entrepreneur is threatening to directly undermine the value of a leading business degree: artificial intelligence chatbot ChatGPT.
Christian Terwiesch, a professor at Wharton University in Pennsylvania, one of America’s oldest and most prestigious business schools, decided to investigate the growing concern about the power of ChatGPT and to his surprise found that it could outperform some students in his operations management course, a core subject MBA.
In its white paper, “Would Chat GPT3 Get a Wharton MBA?” published this week, concluded: “Chat GPT3 would get a B to B on the exam. This has important implications for business school education,” citing the need to rethink examination policies, curriculum design and teaching.
The chatbot, which has been temporarily overwhelmed by a spike in inquiries in recent weeks, has raised concerns among many academics, including those at business schools, that students will use it to cheat on their essays and exams.
“I’m one of the whistleblowers,” said Professor Jerry Davis at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School, who convened a faculty meeting Monday to discuss its implications. “Our entire enterprise in education is facing a challenge, and it will only become an even bigger challenge. It’s time for a top-to-bottom rethink.”
Francisco Veloso, dean of Imperial College Business School, London, said: “We are having serious discussions and a working group is analyzing the implications of ChatGPT and other similar tools that we know are being used by our resourceful and inventive students, and we will be formulating policies around this soon .”
Stressing that the increasing use of AI technology is inevitable and even largely desirable, he called for clear disclosure policies in class about whether students used ChatGPT and predicted mitigation measures including “a return to handwritten work, as well as more oral and classroom — or at least synchronous — discussions.”
Microsoft, the software giant co-founded by Bill Gates, who dropped out of Harvard University without even finishing his undergraduate degree, is currently considering a $10 billion investment in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, on top of the $1 billion it invested in exit in 2019
Many predict that the technology will radically shake up a wider range of activities outside of education, including Internet browsing and the world of work.
Sam Musk, the founder of Tesla and one of the original funders of OpenAI, has argued that MBA graduates lack critical thinking skills and focus too much on boardroom meetings and financial performance at the expense of getting up close to the product and walking around the factory. .
Ironically, Terwiesch concluded that while ChatGPT proved impressively literate and analytical in compiling answers to questions he posed about operations management and process analysis, his computational skills were far more limited. He did not test it against the full MBA curriculum which includes marketing, finance, accounting and other subjects.
“I was amazed by the beauty of words — the brevity, the choice of words, the structure. It was absolutely brilliant,” he told the FT. “But the math is so terrible. Language and intuition are right, but even relatively simple high school math has become so wrong.”
But he emphasized that he can quickly improve his answers when he gets input, and more broadly, the technology offers considerable scope for the future, including creating and grading tests for free teachers to provide more valuable support to students.
He also suggested an application of ChatGPT that could threaten many former business school students who want consulting careers by churning out reports and recommendations.
Current students could hone their judgment of strong chatbot performance by “playing the role of that smart consultant (who always has an elegant answer, but is often wrong),” according to Terwiesch’s report.
Kara McWilliams, head of the ETS Product Innovation Labs, which applies AI to learning and assessment and has developed tools to recognize AI-generated responses, said: “We really need to embrace advanced technologies in education. Remember when the calculator came into play and there was a lot of fear around using it? I don’t think artificial intelligence will replace humans, but humans using artificial intelligence will replace humans.”
She argued that ChatGPT could help faculty plan lessons, create curricula, and create lecture notes. “They will be able to take a lot of the nitty-gritty tasks of higher education off their plates so they can focus on learning. There is a real opportunity for enhanced personalization.”
Andrew Karolyi, dean of the SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell University, said that while many academics were taken aback by ChatGPT and that codes of conduct and statements of academic integrity will need to be updated, “I hope professors will bring up the topic actively in their classrooms to involved students in shaping artificial intelligence as a valuable learning tool.”
“One thing we all know for sure is that ChatGPT is not going away,” he said. “If nothing else, these AI techniques will continue to get better and better. College and university administrators must invest to educate themselves.”
ChatGPT responded to the FT that it was “unlikely” to kill the MBA.
“While artificial intelligence and machine learning can automate certain tasks and make them more efficient, they do not yet have the ability to fully replicate the complex decision-making and critical thinking skills developed through MBA programs,” it said. “Additionally, MBA programs provide networking opportunities and access to industry experts that cannot be replicated through technology.”