Thursday, July 06, 2017


Wolfram, the software company that makes the powerful equation solver, Mathematica, has a potential PR crisis on its hands.  The company has an AI-enabled web site called Alpha.  The site solves mathematical problems step by step.  Students have been using the site to do their homework.  Because they are copying symbol for symbol onto their sheets, there is no way for teachers to know whether they solved problems for themselves or through Alpha.  Academics are crying foul.  Wolfram is responding that it is a scholarly tool to show students exactly how problems are solved.  There is a stand-off between the two sides.  Wolfram is looking to the future when computers all will be smart enough to solve equations.  Academics are looking at the present and wondering if they are turning out smart students or cheaters.  There is no good answer to the locked heads.  They are both right.  Eventually one view will predominate and the two sides will adjust.  Meanwhile, it is a case in which two goods are in conflict.


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