Per Urlaub


From Socrates to ChatGPT: Reactions to New Technologies in Academia


In our presentation we will offer a nuanced reflection on how the academic establishment reacts to new technologies. Based on this analysis, we will then offer strategies for the implementation of ChatGPT into our learning environments.

We argue that some of the anxieties articulated last winter around ChatGPT fit into a pattern of responses to new technology that began in Greek antiquity with Socrates’ skepticism towards literacy. Socrates believed that writing and reading is undermining the educational project. It would weaken the students' minds and promote unruly behavior.

We will then show that technological innovations in recent decades facilitation the writing process (word processor, spelling checkers), communication across languages (user-generated online dictionaries, machine translation apps), research tasks (crowd-sourced online knowledge repositories such as Wikipedia) have initially been met with great skepticism before they become less uncontroversial educational technologies.

Perhaps the most insightful case study of the integration of a new technology into the educational

discourse in the context of mathematics education. It took close to 20 years for the pocket calculator to transform from a disruptive technology to an uncontroversial element in the classroom – but this process coincided with a rethinking of education objectives among mathematics instructors and their professional organization.

Based on our analysis of the integration of new technologies we will suggest concrete strategies that intend to guide the systematic integration of the ChatGPT and other generative AI technologies in language and humanities classrooms.



I am Director of Global Languages at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I also hold a faculty appointment in the Literature program. Before joining MIT in 2022, I served as a faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin and at Middlebury College, where I also was Associate Dean of the Language Schools for five years. I am teaching in the areas of German studies, European studies, and translation studies. My research interests are located at the intersection of second language studies, language and literacy education, intercultural communication, international education, and instructional technology.

Past Events

From Socrates to ChatGPT: Reactions to New Technology in Academia
Panel 1: AI-Powered Tools: Students’ & Instructors’ Perceptions
Sat, Oct 7, 2023, 9:00 am
Opening Remarks
Fri, Oct 6, 2023, 3:00 pm