Cambodian Academics Debate Chatbot Pros and Cons

A new Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot has got the world gripped. A Cambodian student and researcher weigh in on the benefits and challenges of OpenAI’s ChatGPT
Photo: Jonathan Kemper
Photo: Jonathan Kemper

The world received a surprise gift ahead of Christmas in November in the form of a new Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot that businesses claim will increase efficiency and productivity. In Cambodia, students and academic researchers weigh in on the benefits and consequences of AI for students in their academic work.

Data science and AI student at Cambodia University of Technology and Science (CamTech), Rith Sovandalin, told Kiripost,

“Students can ask ChatGPT to write an essay for them. For computer science students, they can ask ChatGPT to write the whole code and script.”

Rith Sovandalin, a data science and AI student. Photo: supplied
Rith Sovandalin, a data science and AI student. Photo: supplied

When asked about how lecturers and students can benefit from ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI startup, she said, “If you are a student using it in a bad way, for example, copying code and sometimes doing assignments, it requires us to use critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.”

She added, ”ChatGPT plays a very important role in terms of acting as our supervisors, also professors. When we do not know something we can ask.”

Even though this OpenAI ChatGPT is not yet available to users in the Kingdom, some early technology adopters have figured out ways to get their hands on it to test its capabilities. Since its release of free research preview, the Microsoft-backed ChatGPT has garnered 10 million users in just two months.

Heng Soklay is a Natural Language Processing (NLP) researcher. His Master’s degree from the Institute of Digital sciences, Management and Cognition (IDMC) in France focused on NLP, which is an interdisciplinary subfield of linguistics, computer science, and AI, concerned with the interactions between computers and human language.

Heng Soklay, a Natural Language Processing (NLP) researcher. Photo: supplied
Heng Soklay, a Natural Language Processing (NLP) researcher. Photo: supplied

The researcher at Cambodia Academy of Digital Technology (CADT) told Kiripost, “ChatGPT will greatly benefit students and academic researchers in several ways.”

After spending his spare time testing the new AI chatbot, he said, “The text generated by ChatGPT may not always be entirely accurate and may not sound natural, since it is generated by a machine and not written by a human.”

The NLP researcher warns that overreliance on ChatGPT can negatively impact students' academic performance and skill development, and notes the importance of verifying the accuracy of information obtained from the AI-powered chatbot.

He noted,

“If students heavily use ChatGPT as a way to complete their assignments without doing their own work or generating their own ideas, it can be considered cheating in the academic system.”

Yet, Soklay doesn’t entirely rule out that ChatGPT can provide helpful information and assist with research. He noted, “It's still important to verify the accuracy of the information obtained, as the information is not always up-to-date or totally correct.”

The researcher also mentions the potential of ChatGPT to assist researchers with data analysis and make the research process more efficient.

On Thursday, Soklay will give a talk about ‘AI-powered ChatGPT’ at the Institute of Digital Research & Innovation of CADT.

Sovandalin, who is also the founder of Coding for Girls, said AI will additionally change the workflow of software and application developers.

What Sovandalin expects to come next is a Cambodian version of the AI-powered chatbot. “It is possible to use ChatGPT in Khmer if the demand is high in Cambodia,” she said.