By Hailey Dickson, Product Marketing Manager at Khan Academy

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a rapidly developing technology that offers numerous benefits in diverse areas of human life. From chatbots and virtual assistants to more complex systems that simulate human interaction, AI technologies can open up a new world of possibilities for communication and interaction. However, there are also many limitations and ethical implications to consider. In this blog, we will explore different types of AI and their applications to conversations, examining their potential benefits and limitations in analyzing literature, history, and famous personalities. We will also analyze the complexity of understanding personality in AI.

Using AI for Conversations

AI technologies that simulate human conversation are collectively known as conversational agents, chatbots, or virtual assistants. They use various techniques and algorithms to understand human language, generate responses, and learn from interactions with users. 

Conversational agents can be designed for various purposes, including customer service, educational initiatives, therapy, and entertainment. AI conversation agents have become increasingly popular with the rise of chatbots and virtual assistants, such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant—and AI tutors, like Khanmigo from Khan Academy.

How Conversational AI Relies on Multiple AI Inputs

To truly grasp the concept of conversational AI, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of AI technology itself. In essence, artificial intelligence (AI) is a broad field of study in computer science that aims to create systems capable of performing tasks that would usually require human intelligence. This includes tasks such as voice recognition, decision making, and language translation. Conversational AI, a subset of this technology, focuses on simulating human-like conversations. By understanding AI’s basic workings, you can better comprehend how AI powers conversations, how AI responds to human inputs (like voice or text), how AI generates appropriate responses, and learns from each interaction to improve future responses.

There are different types of AI that can facilitate conversations:

Conversational AI heavily relies on Natural Language Processing (NLP) to comprehend and manipulate human language. With advancements in deep learning models like recurrent neural networks (RNNs) and transformers, NLP has made significant progress. It enables conversational AI systems to perform tasks such as language translation, sentiment analysis, and chatbot interactions.To learn more about NLP, you can refer to the following resources:

Conversational AI relies on Machine Learning (ML) by utilizing algorithms that enable the program to understand and respond to human language. ML allows conversational AI systems to learn from interactions with users, improving their ability to understand and generate human-like responses over time. By analyzing vast amounts of data, ML algorithms can identify patterns and make predictions, enabling conversational AI to provide more accurate and relevant responses. To delve deeper into ML, you can explore the following resources:

Conversational AI relies on Expert Systems by incorporating human expertise or knowledge into the system’s programming. This allows the system to make intelligent decisions and provide accurate responses based on the rules and knowledge it has been trained on. Expert Systems play a crucial role in conversational AI by enabling the system to understand user queries, interpret context, and deliver relevant and meaningful interactions.To delve deeper into Expert Systems, you can explore the following resources:

It’s important to note that Khanmigo, the AI tutor we developed, is an Expert System. We have hundreds of educators, education experts, and education developers who are incorporating our corpus and education philosophy into Khanmigo.


Potential Benefits and Insights from Talking to Historical Figures via AI 

One of the most interesting applications of AI is the possibility of using it to talk to historical figures. By using deep learning algorithms, AI chatbots can simulate the persona of a historical figure and answer questions as if they were chatting with the user in person. 

By leveraging AI technology, we can unlock a wealth of knowledge and engage in meaningful dialogues with historical figures, enriching our understanding of the past. We’ve been able to observe  first-hand some of the benefits students can attain from these interactions while using Khanmigo:

  1. Access to first-hand accounts: Engaging in Khanmigo-powered conversations with historical figures allowed students to directly access the historical figures’ inferred thoughts, experiences, and perspectives. This first-hand interaction provided a unique opportunity for students to gain a deeper understanding of historical motivations and the contextual nuances in which these figures lived, enhancing the students’ learning experience.
  1. Personalized learning experiences: Through interactive AI conversations, students immersed themselves in personalized learning experiences with historical figures. By asking questions, seeking advice, and gaining insights beyond traditional textbooks or documentaries, students tailored their learning journey to their specific interests and needs, fostering a more engaging and impactful learning process.

Exploring How Khanmigo Can Be Used to Talk to Historical Figures

As previously mentioned, Khanmigo operates as an Expert System backed by a dedicated team of educators, education experts, and developers. This team collaborates to provide feedback and enhance Khanmigo by incorporating Khan Academy’s extensive knowledge base and educational philosophy.

To give you a sense of how this interaction works, we think Sal put it best in his TEDTalk in May 2023:

Examples of Prompts You Can Use to Get More Insight from Historical Figures

While there are a myriad ways students can interact with Khanmigo to simulate discussions with historical figures, there are a number of successful prompt types:

Motivation and achievements:

  • “What were your motivations behind your most significant achievements?”
  • “Can you share any lessons you learned from overcoming challenges?”

Influence and upbringing:

  • “How did your upbringing influence your approach to success?”

Advice and aspiration:

  • “What advice would you give to aspiring individuals in your field?”

Impact and legacy:

  • “What do you think is the key to making a lasting impact in history?”
  • “What legacy do you hope to leave behind?”
  • “What role do you believe your work plays in shaping future generations?”

Misconceptions and reflection:

  • “What are some misconceptions or misunderstandings about you that you would like to address?”
  • “How do you think your actions and decisions have shaped the world today?”

Defining moments:

  • “What were some of the defining moments in your life that shaped who you became?”

AI offers numerous possibilities for conversations, enabling us to interact with historical figures, celebrities, and even ourselves in new and exciting ways. However, it is necessary to understand that this technology is still evolving, with many limitations and ethical considerations to address. As we continue to explore the potential benefits and limitations of AI for conversations, we must approach this technology with caution and a critical eye, ensuring that we use it responsibly and ethically.

Hailey Dickson

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