Is learning to write obsolete? How impactful will all the bias be? How can we trust who wrote what, including the issue of cheating? These are the three key topics I am itching to discuss with our kids when they get home from college later this week and that I write about here today.
And talk about this we must. ChatGPT is here, and this is huge. Really huge!
What is ChatGPT? Per the program itself, “ChatGPT is a large language model trained by OpenAI. It is designed to generate human-like responses to text input.”
AI used to be all about categorizing things. For example, AI learns from a person’s activity on TikTok that they like watching gymnastics, so it feeds them more content with their gymnastics bucket of videos.
Now ChatGPT is AI at an entirely new level. This is why Microsoft has invested a BILLION dollars in it, and many others have invested too.
It feels like a strange coincidence to me that last week I was on a plane working and peeking at the movies that people were watching around me and one of the main one’s I kept gazing at was the film “Her” — the film where a man falls in love with an online AI generated person.
When my husband and I talk with our kids about this, we will have ChatGPT open so we can type in things and see responses while discussing topics. I encourage you to do the same. It is free, and here is the link.
1. What will be the point of learning to write?
There was a time that doing math in ones head was key but now, a calculator is always in hand. It used to be that working on one’s spelling was a must, but now there are automatic spell checkers.
Before I give an example, I have to say something. Over Thanksgiving, our son, who only has one quarter left of college, asked the table, “If you could think of one college class you would think a person like me should take, what would it be?”
I was the first to answer, “Creative writing for sure.” I added that it would be a great opportunity to get practice in crafting his thoughts and stories via written words. A week later, he called to say that, indeed, he had chosen that as one of his four final college classes. A Cheshire cat grin erupted on my face. I share this little anecdote so that you, my community, know my bias in all this.
Now let’s get back to ChatGPT. With it, a person types any thought, and the program then provides an expanded written response. Here is an example I did:
I put in: The Roman Empire had many interesting stoic writers.
The Roman Empire was home to many influential philosophers, including a number of notable Stoic writers. Some of the most famous Stoic philosophers from the Roman Empire include Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. These writers and others helped to develop and spread the ideas of Stoicism, which emphasized the importance of accepting the things we cannot change and living a virtuous life. Stoicism was a popular philosophy among many Roman leaders and played a significant role in shaping the Roman Empire.
Wow, that sounds pretty darn good.
Will the temptation to default to this assist be too seductive for us mortals? I often think about how we used to roll down car windows, and then someone said, “Hmmm, that is an effort, why not just push a button?” And voila. Frankly, rolling down windows never bugged me, but as a species, we pursue easier.
2. How impactful will all the bias be?
I put in: Video games are increasingly being used to manipulate kids to spend real money to buy virtual products in games.
It’s true that some video games, particularly those that are free to play, use in-game purchases as a way to generate revenue. These purchases can include virtual items, such as new weapons or outfits for a player’s character, or additional in-game currency that can be used to unlock certain features or advance more quickly in the game. While this practice can be controversial, it is ultimately up to the parents to monitor their child’s use of these games and ensure that they are not spending more money than they can afford on in-game purchases.
No matter how I altered my question, ChatGPT maintained this position.
So then I went the other route and put in: Video games are the best thing ever, and playing all the time is a wonderful thing.
While some people may think that video games are the best thing ever, it’s important to remember that they are just one form of entertainment among many. Some people may prefer playing sports, reading books, or watching movies. There is no “best” form of entertainment, as it ultimately depends on an individual’s personal preferences. What’s most important is that people find activities that they enjoy and that bring them happiness.
The point is, which response I choose would influence my message, and my own thoughts, and the thoughts of whoever I passed on the words to.
3. How can we trust who wrote what?
One of my husband’s experiments was with his sister’s upcoming birthday. He said, “I need to write her a card. I know, I will ask ChatGPT to do it.”
My husband put in this sentence: On the occasion of her birthday, how can I express to my sister Carla the sentiment that she is an amazing sister who has accomplished so much in realms as diverse as being the mother of 3 great kids to being the CEO of a successful start-up.
One way to express this sentiment to your sister Carla on her birthday is to write her a heartfelt birthday message. In the message, you could tell her how proud you are of all that she has accomplished, … and it went on in this fashion.
My husband: Can you expand on this message to my sister Carla on her birthday, in which I would write her a heartfelt birthday message?
Here is a possible expansion of the birthday message to your sister Carla:
On your birthday, I want to take a moment to tell you how amazing you are. As a sister, you have always been there for me, supporting me and cheering me on. And as a mother and a CEO, you have truly accomplished so much.
I am so proud of you for raising three wonderful children and for building a successful start-up from the ground up. Your strength and determination are truly admirable, and I am constantly in awe of how you juggle so many different roles and responsibilities with grace and skill.
And it went on for five more paragraphs in this same way.
Then he made an ecard and copied and pasted the text to his sister. WAY CREEPY. I said to him, “You better darn tell her that AI wrote that and not you.” He said he would. How many things will start coming to us that we thought so and so created when actually it was ChatGPT?
Cheating, the elephant in the room
There is, of course, the whole issue of academics and cheating at various levels. We know that people can already take text from other sources, make tweaks, and submit it as their own work. Teachers and professors often use computer programs to detect plagiarism.
Now, will students find clever ways to use ChatGPT to write much of their papers? And what to call that form of cheating? Is it plagiarizing if the source is AI?
Students who choose to do this will, of course, be depriving themselves of the opportunity to improve their writing. Will it just be too tempting not to? Will teachers be able to catch it?
Here are some questions to get the conversation started:
- Is learning to write obsolete?
- How impactful will all the bias be?
- How can we trust who wrote what, and will cheating become more common?