AI, Education, And Truth

Patrick Cerria
5 min readMay 17, 2024

I get really upset these days when I hear pundits and/or public figures toss off the phrase “We now live in a post-truth society”. They toss it off with an ease and carefree tone as if they were sayingI might go out for ice cream later,” orAnyone feel like a coffee?” If you ask me, this phrase is the equivalent of a five alarm fire and I say this not only as a citizen of the United States, but as a teacher.

How are we supposed to teach in a post-truth society? What are we supposed to teach in a post-truth society? If we and our kids do not know what’s true, real, or actual knowledge — what are they going to learn?

I spend time going to education conferences, and recently the big topic at these is Artificial Intelligence (AI). The looming questions seem to be how can these tools be leveraged to help our students, and also how do we teach our kids to use these tools responsibly. And while these are legitimate questions, there are other issues facing our kids that we need to educate them for. So, my (bigger) question is: How do we expect our kids to tackle such monumental issues like AI (and other technologies), the environment, issues of public health (post-pandemic effects, teen mental health, loneliness), and increased political tensions (divisiveness, loss of faith in government, rise in authoritarianism) when there is no defined truth or knowledge? How can we expect any kind of deep learning to occur inside of a country who can’t cohesively answer the question: “Who won the last presidential election?” How — and what — do you teach anything inside of a society like that?

The question we should all be asking isn’t “What roll will AI play in education?”, but: “What role will AI play in restoring truth and knowledge so our kids can be educated?” We are trying to take on the enormous task of how AI will help impart knowledge when there is no defined knowledge anymore.

AI is just the latest technology to cause a massive shift in society, and let’s be honest about something: Technology is at the root of the destruction of truth and knowledge. Social media applications( run by AI generated algorithms) have been manufacturing rage and dissent rooted in lies and mis-information for over a decade now, and this is not earth shattering news. You know this as do I. My hope is that everyone agrees that it’s time to stop.

Social media companies have made billions of dollars by continuously and willingly filling our kid’s (and adults) heads with garbage, and they do it for one reason and one reason only: money. These companies have willingly sacrificed our kids mental health, as well as truth, knowledge, and the stability of our democracy so they can call themselves billionaires. Mind you, the “adults” who run these companies don’t even allow their own children to use the things they’ve created. They send their kids to elite private schools in San Francisco that have strict no-phone policies. They monitor their kid’s screen time incessantly. Sean Parker, an early executive at Facebook (made famous by Justin Timberlake in the movie The Social Network) said: “God only knows what these things are doing to our kid’s brains.” Another former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya, told a roomful of graduate business students at Stanford University: “The short-term, dopamine driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works….no civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it’s not an American problem — this is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem.” During his time at Facebook, Palihapitiya’s role was “Vice President for User Growth”. He willingly grew out a company using the short-term dopamine driven feedback loops he admits are destroying society — and our kids minds — then cashed in his company shares for hundreds of millions of dollars (his net worth is reportedly $1.2 billion dollars). By the way, he also told those Stanford business school students that his own kids “…aren’t allowed to use that shit.”

The focus of tech in education should be:

  1. Restore Truth
  2. Restore Knowledge
  3. Help Kids Mental Health

I don’t believe we are off to a good start. There are already incidents of AI being used to generate deepfakes that manipulate videos, images, and audio recordings; and continue to muck up the concept of what’s real and what isn’t. Back in February, a deepfake robocall of President Biden’s voice was sent out to over 25,000 New Hampshire primary voters discouraging them from going to the polls. The rapper Drake recently used AI to create a dis track using deceased rapper Tupac’s voice. There’s an increase in AI generated deepfakes being used against school administrators and teachers. In Baltimore, a deepfake surfaced of a school principal saying racist and anti-semitic slurs, and was shared within the school community over 25,000 times. The principal was placed on leave, and he and his families safety were threatened. Eventually it came out that a student had been behind it but not before significant emotional and professional damage was done. In a New Jersey town, multiple high school girls were the victims of deepfake pornographic images of them being created and circulated throughout the school.

There are currently no laws or policies in place in how to deal with things like this. AI technology wasn’t here one day and then appeared the next almost out of thin air. It was released into the wild with no guidelines or user manual, and while it is being used in many helpful and constructive ways, it also being used to cause more emotional, professional and civic damage.

In order to exist in a democratic republic (and let’s be honest, the United States is the democratic republic the world looks to), we need truth. And if we want to educate our kids to be citizens in this democratic republic, and maintain it, there has to be agreed upon truth and a cohesive knowledge base. Again, we currently cannot gather a group of citizens and get a cohesive answer to Who won the 2020 presidential election? How, and what, are we to teach our kids within a societal mindset like this?

As we move forward, and AI technologies continue to advance, we need to begin addressing the larger picture of their effects not just in how it’s used in education, but its purpose within society. We must also get the government to regulate tech companies. Instagram, Facebook, and X are more than “social media” companies: they’re media outlets. They are where people go for knowledge and information — and if the “knowledge and information” being reported through these media companies comprises a significant amount of lies, mistruths, deepfakes, and garbage, that is harming the overall state of how and what our children learn…then maybe the time has come to fix that.

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Patrick Cerria

I’m a music teacher, husband, father, author, speaker who teaches disabled & at-risk students. I write about education, philosophy & the absurdity of life.