Fact-Based AI as a Tool for Education

Avi Loeb
4 min readApr 28, 2024


(Image credit: Chitkara University)

My biggest concern about Gen Z is that it tends to learn history from social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Tik Tok, rather than from books or in the classroom.

Universities had been established for the purpose of educating the inexperienced members of society about the subtle details of reality and the nuanced appreciation of conflicting opinions. Studying human history, in particular, helps to avoid mistakes of the past. As George Santayana said: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

But when short texts or superficial videos define what Gen Z knows, they present distorted views of reality that often lead to hate and violence rather than to constructive cooperation. Processed misinformation is just as bad to our mental health as junk food is to our body. Actions based on a simplified view of reality frustrate those who actually live through the complexities of this reality and wish to make it better.

Chanting slogans of terrorist organizations like the Hamas will not bring a peaceful coexistence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but rather fuel more hatred on both sides. The alternative of a political reconciliation through new leaderships on both sides is the only constructive path forward. This solution was suggested in the visionary dialogue between the Palestinian Aziz Abu Sarah and the Israeli Maoz Inon at the TED conference that I attended in Vancouver last week.

However, in the current academic climate, many professors feel that they cannot speak their mind because attempting to educate students could get them cancelled on social media. In other words, the act of correcting courses through education is perceived by some Gen Z members as an act of oppression. The value of learning history is questioned because of new societal norms.

Without a feedback loop that corrects imagined realities by comparing their narratives to data, society is doomed to violent conflicts between Gen Z tribes that subscribe to opposing virtual realities. Our future leaders will be drawn from Gen Z. Given current trends, the political future will be full of misunderstandings if it will lack the unifying theme of fact checking. There will be no room for a dialogue, nor a legitimate strategy for correcting misinformation.

What is the most important lesson to be learned from our past? It is that science and technology advanced societal prosperity because of their attention to evidence and data as an arbitrator of the truth. For example, people naturally tend to believe in virtual realities that flatter their ego, like the notions that the Earth is at the center of the Universe or that humans are the smartest species that ever existed since the Big Bang. A couple of months ago, I gave a keynote lecture at the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus in which I argued that the next Copernican revolution would involve the recognition that we have intelligent cosmic neighbors. Gaining this perspective could result from the discovery of technological space trash near Earth. In that case, interstellar trash would be our treasure. But in order to find it, we need to search. The key for progress is simple: separate clearly between reasons to collect evidence and what the evidence shows.

Unfortunately, extending this lesson from science to politics is not trivial, especially given the noise associated with superficial misinformation on social media.

What is the way out of these frustrating circumstances? The solution might be in plain sight: artificial intelligence (AI). As we lose our traction with opinionated students who are educated by social media, we could still train AI systems on reliable empirical data that describes reality. These well-informed AI systems would be weaned from the psychological need to maximize the number of “likes” they get on social media based on intellectual “junk food”.

The well-informed AI systems which are trained on primary sources of reliable quantitative data could serve as the foundation for our education system of uninformed students. Similarly to science education, our students will be rewarded by high grades when they rely on nuanced information from fact-based AI sources.

The education revolution brought about by informed AI systems could also provide a substitute for superficial clickbait journalism. Any new technology can be used for constructive and destructive purposes. Nuclear energy can solve our energy needs but it can also lead to a global nuclear war. AI could be used to correct misinformation or to amplify the harms inflicted on our youth by social media.

AI is not a new digital species but rather a tool that can be used by humans to communicate better with other humans. By using it, our inexperienced youth could avoid mistakes of the past. Here’s hoping that AI will be trained to promote cooperation rather than hate. After all, science is better than politics.


(Image credit: Chris Michel; October 2023)

Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s — Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University (2011–2020). He is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and a former chair of the Board on Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies. He is the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth” and a co-author of the textbook “Life in the Cosmos”, both published in 2021. His new book, titled “Interstellar”, was published in August 2023.



Avi Loeb

Avi Loeb is the Baird Professor of Science and Institute director at Harvard University and the bestselling author of “Extraterrestrial” and "Interstellar".