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This article was published on March 3, 2022

This AI college president is another reason to drop out

Graduation can't come soon enough


This AI college president is another reason to drop out
Thomas Macaulay
Story by

Thomas Macaulay

Writer at Neural by TNW Writer at Neural by TNW

It’s tough being a college student in the US these days. The stresses of studying, pandemic rules, exorbitant fees, and douchebags with guitars can make for trying times. But don’t worry, fellow kidz: AI has arrived to alleviate your worries.

Meet the new digital university president:

Digital President Whitfield
Image: UNLV

The system is a digital twin of Keith Whitfield, the human president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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“I had this kind of grandiose desire to talk to every single student, and I think I said that and the whole room just got quiet and said, ‘he’s lost his mind’,” Whitfield told 13 Action News.

The president presumably brushed aside their concerns — and sought an AI doppelganger.

Learning on the job

After recruiting the services of the AI Media Lab for a bargain $125,000, Whitfield headed to the studio.

He spent around eight hours reading information about UNLV, reciting questions for students, and talking about himself.

AI Media Lab used the recordings and 3D images of Whitfield to create his avatar. The virtual mentor was then unleashed on the lucky UNLV students.

To seek his guidance, all they need to do is turn on their microphone and agree to two privacy policies, along with just one terms of service.

I couldn’t foresee any risks, so I immediately loaded him up.

Seconds later, the digital prez appeared on my laptop screen.

“My goal is to help you through your experience at UNLV by answering questions, directing you to resources, and helping you with whatever you might be going through,” he explained.

Programming education

Virtual Whitfield tried to accommodate my every need. He revealed his favorite spot on campus, gave me tips on studying dystopian tech, and was amiable to requests for drugs.

I was, however, unnerved by his advice on finding love.

“I am not currently married,” he said.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too critical. The UX is pretty smooth and the AI did recommend resources for mental health, financial aid, and career advice — although a simple search function could have provided that more swiftly.

I suppose it’s more personable than a chatbot, but if I wanted the advice of a digital twin, I wouldn’t pick my college president. I’d much rather bare my soul to a hot AI therapist.

If those weren’t options, that $125,000 may have been better spent on real support services — rather than an avatar that merely talks about them.

HT: Chris Gilliard

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