An image saying the title of the story "Waves of innovation" and author "Fabian van den Berg". It also includes the logo of Science & Fiction and a picture of a child and mountain range.

What if the mightiest technologies of today morph into a child’s plaything and homework companion tomorrow?

Content warnings


The short story

Noah stared at the table. The sun was barely up, but his mind was a cauldron of ideas waiting to burst forth. Suddenly, he raised his hand, and with a swift motion, he conjured a fantastical landscape.

Mountains shot up towards the sky, casting surreal shadows over a couple empty coffee mugs. Rivers meandered through the cliffs, leading to deep oceans. A couple houses popped up, and with another wave of his hand the landscape was filled with lush vegetation and clouds. As Noah marvelled at his creation, a smile crept across his face as his imagination unfolded before him. He was overjoyed with this feeling that anything he could think of would simply appear in front of him.

Then suddenly he was interrupted: “Finish your breakfast buddy; it’s almost time for school!” With a final wave of his hand, Noah, just 10 years old, makes the entire landscape disappear and grabs his breakfast like his mom told him.

This magical landscape wasn’t just Noah’s imagination at play; it was his homework, an interactive lesson about the wonders of nature. His teacher, Mrs. Anderson, added this assignment to his try-at-home activities. According to his mom, she used to do these kinds of things on paper, drawing them herself, but Noah never managed to get the picture in his mind onto the paper like that. Each day, he and his classmates made their own worlds to learn about ecosystems, geography, and the delicate balance of the natural world.

Noah shares these fantastical worlds with his friends at school. He has a large classroom with a lot of other kids, but he enjoys going there a lot. Mrs. Anderson was always there to help with all sorts of stuff, while the school’s A.I. assistant talked him through his class problems. Neither of them would just give him the answer, no matter how nicely he asked, but he always figures it out eventually. Sometimes the computer is wrong or confused, just like Noah. That’s okay; Mrs. Anderson always knows how to fix it and explain things in a different way.

Noah’s world is still small; he spends most of his time at home and at school. Noah is part of the generation growing up with these tools, and the impact of these technologies goes a lot further than his classroom. Through games and creative exercises, Noah is learning how to use technology and A.I. to make his own life easier and prepare him for a new world where this has become the norm. Noah’s knack for using A.I. in games will come in handy when he grows up, allowing him to maybe even think of completely new ways to do tasks. Working with this technology will most definitely be a lot easier and more natural for him than for his parents, who struggled a bit when businesses and industries adopted A.I. into their core workflows. This was not all that different from previous generations who struggled with using computers, smartphones, or social media.

In a matter of a few years, A.I. systems were incorporated into more and more aspects of life. At first, A.I. changed mundane tasks, eliminating the need to spend hours drafting, struggling to articulate ideas, or wrestling with data. The A.I. seamlessly took over these responsibilities. This meant that a lot of jobs disappeared, changed, or were created. The early days were rough as companies were still refining and improving how A.I. systems functioned, and we needed to ensure everyone had equal access and knew the A.I.s weren’t always correct. With time and practice, using A.I. systems became as common as the computer and smartphone before them. integrating and automating our work to a point where we can’t even imagine doing it manually. This future wasn’t filled with starships yet, but there sure were a lot fewer boring, repetitive tasks in our jobs, allowing us to focus on the things we enjoy about our work.

© Fabian van den Berg

This story was originally written in English.

The paper

Dwivedi, Y. K., Kshetri, N., Hughes, L., Slade, E. L., Jeyaraj, A., Kar, A. K., … & Wright, R. (2023). “So what if ChatGPT wrote it?” Multidisciplinary perspectives on opportunities, challenges and implications of generative conversational AI for research, practice and policy. International Journal of Information Management, 71, 102642.

Connection between story and paper

This paper dives deep into the whirlwind unleashed by ChatGPT and image diffusion models, exploring their unexpected impact across diverse fields. It’s a collection of expert opinions from various domains, showcasing how A.I. is reshaping the landscape, with a slight focus on research and education. The story shows a future where the concerns in this paper have been addressed and A.I. has become a part of life, like computers and the internet.

Since the publication of this paper, some time has passed. We are used to ChatGPT, so the hype has died down a bit. However, rules and regulations are still lacking, and the concerns that many of the experts raise are still at play. Early adopters have figured out a ton of applications and learned how to get the computer to create exactly what they want to create. Big corporations are now finding their own way, buying or developing models to put into their products. Soon, an A.I. assistant will be incorporated into everyday products like Office, Google, or iPhones, becoming a part of everyone’s lives.

It is no longer a matter of ‘if’; it’s a matter of ‘when’ and ‘how’ this technology will become integrated into our world. We need to deal with the advent of A.I. and its progression. Before we get to that kitchen table scene, we need to make sure that we are ready. The potential is huge, but so are some of the risks. Proactive education on the moral and ethical use and training of A.I. models, robust regulations, adequate accessibility for all (not just wealthy individuals), and research will be incredibly important to deal with risks such as privacy concerns, bias, increasing divides, and misuse. Looking ahead, synthetic media will become more common as we work out the kinks in this initial wave of A.I. tools. I prefer to stay a bit techno-positive, but I do recognize the importance of the problems discussed in this paper. I see a future where A.I. helps make us more efficient, innovative, and improves the overall quality of life for everyone, even as we navigate all these potential challenges.

The author

Fabian is a neuroscientist turned data scientist who now works in marketing. Most of the time he works on data analyses and gives talks about topics such as marketing tools and A.I. tools and ethics.

Dr. Helena Hartmann
Dr. Helena Hartmann
Neuroscientist, psychologist and science communicator (she/her/hers)