ChatGPT, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of Writing

theme / Pixabay

theme / Pixabay

The potential of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to transform writing education is enormous. AI can use natural language processing (NLP) to help students analyze their writing in ways that teachers have never been able to before. AI systems can assess the structure, grammar, tone and semantic meaning of content to provide personalized feedback to readers. In addition, AI systems can quickly scan content for plagiarism and other errors, enabling students to correct themselves in real time.

AI can also be used as an effective tool to make writing more engaging and engaging for readers. AI-powered systems can tailor writing assignments to the needs and interests of each student. For example, AI-enabled essay writing platforms can generate real-time feedback and guide students through the writing process. AI can even help generate writing assignments that are tailored to a person’s ability level and interests. For example, AI can generate writing topics based on the student’s past writing samples or past topics the student has enjoyed writing about.

AI can also help with proofreading and editing, shifting the focus from correcting mistakes to developing better writing skills. Using AI technologies such as machine learning, AI-powered writing assessment tools can automatically evaluate and grade essays more accurately and efficiently than manual grading. AI systems can also provide students with detailed feedback on their writing, which can help them improve their writing skills.

Overall, the potential for AI to transform writing education is huge.

Guess what? I didn’t write anywhere of the above! That was fully automated by a robot with a newly developed artificial intelligence software, ChatGPT. Using this software, I requested a 200-word essay on how AI technology will affect writing education in the future.

The robot wrote that clip in 20 seconds.

While the answer is well-written and well-placed—and while this new technology is truly amazing for what it does, and for educators around the world, I see some appalling problems with this software.

Interestingly, when I asked the same software to write a 200-word essay about how AI relates to plagiarism, the result it gave me was complete garbage—robot-typed ads, basically. I tried this three different times and the same result happened each time. I’m not sure if this fact is somehow intentional or not. But it is certainly remarkable. It seems to me that the developers of this software designed the software not to talk about that issue. This means, as a teacher who teaches students to write a lot, I see this issue as very problematic.

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How ChatGPT Works in General

It seems that chatGPT appeared in the world out of nowhere. So many people reading this probably don’t know what this software does. Basically, by using extraordinary power to quickly search for content on the Internet, combined with amazingly good grammar and writing skills, this software can write original content for anything. In any style.

You could ask him to write a 500-word essay, for example, on the neurobiology of human emotions. Or the main themes of the works of Charles Dickens. Or the history of evolutionary learning. Or…well…almost anything.

In addition, you can request any writing format. Haikus, limericks, 500-page manuscripts, 8,000-word essays, etc. In addition, you can ask it to generate content in multiple styles.

My fiancee, Shannon, who works in content management, showed me a variety of shocking examples. He asked her to write a 500 word essay on cars. And he did this many times. At one point, he asked her to write this in the style of Snoop Dogg. And wow, it was great. Then he switched to Mark Twain’s style. And it felt like it his to write. Then he switched to the style of me—asking for a 500-word essay about cars in the style of Glenn Geher. It used words that I often use in my writing (eg. sincerely again easily). It used the punctuation that I often use, such as em dashes and semicolons. I must say, even I could be fooled into thinking I wrote it. This software is that good.

Potential Problems with AI-Assisted Writing Software

While ChatGPT doesn’t seem too keen on discussing potential issues with this software, I, on the other hand, am more than happy to do so. In fact, as you’ll see, while I rarely consider myself an intimidator, I’m reasonably certain that people’s ability to communicate—especially in written form—will be adversely affected. Forever.

From a teacher’s perspective, here are three potential problems associated with AI-assisted writing software:

  1. Stopping Plagiarism Will Probably Be Impossible In The Future. No matter how much people try to develop counter-software to determine if something is written by a robot, it seems to me that this will have to be a losing battle. ChatGPT does not copy by myself. Produces novel writing samples each time given the same instructions. And, in the words of my niece, who attends a state college in the Midwest, “… it’s amazing.” He followed this point by saying “… this should be banned.” The temptation to use this software among students who often despise writing will be too great.
  2. The Total Amount of Writing to be Done by Educated People in the Future Will Plummet. As someone who has worked extensively on the topic of writing with students for years, I must say that this new technology is just a problem. A simple rule about writing is that the more you do it, the better you get at it. There is almost no doubt that this new software will reduce the total amount of actual writing that occurs in all fields. I can imagine a college student ten years from now writing about 1 percent of the amount that students write today. Think about that. There is just no way to write skills not it will come down next time.
  3. Writing Is A Key Element Of Communication And Thinking In Common. I will never forget a statement made by one of my school counselors, Jack Mayer (who coined the term. emotional intelligence). When I talked to him about writing earlier in my graduate student days, Jack explained to me that he worked hard to improve his graduate students’ writing because human writing and thinking skills are, at the end of the day, largely one-and-the-same. This concept gave me pause and is something I have considered a lot in my work as a teacher. After teaching college students for over a quarter of a century, I strongly agree with Jack’s stance on this matter. The better a student can write, the better they can both process relevant content and communicate it to others. This is true from art to biochemistry, and every field in between.
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My Anti-AI policy

As an active teacher, I actually worked to include anti-AI statements in my syllabus for two classes I’m teaching this winter (less than a week after I found out about ChatGPT). I am fully aware that any policy made by scholars on this subject—especially at this stage, when all these things are brand new—is tantamount to putting your finger in the hole of a dam that is about to burst. But, as always, I try my best to deal with problems as they arise.

Essential Education Courses

My approach to this issue, for now, relies on two important principles. First, I stress to students how important it is to develop writing skills in college. Second, I rely on their honesty, asking them to demonstrate, in writing, that their samples of written material are original.

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If it’s helpful to anyone reading this, my specific policies on this matter are referenced below.

Note that I am not the only one who creates policies related to this issue. In the latest highly publicized development, the New York Public School District has announced that it is banning and disallowing the use of ChatGPT in its schools.

Finger in the Dam

As I mentioned above, I realize that policies like the ones described above are, at best, like putting your finger in a dam that is about to burst. The temptation to use software that can quickly write great papers on almost any topic—of any length and in any style—is overwhelming. And, unlike my usual rose-colored-glass, I’m not (yet) very optimistic about the future of writing education and writing in general.

The Bottom Line

A new world. The robots are there. As predicted by all sorts of scholars of the past (such as Kurt Vonnegut in his classic Player Piano), they don’t go away and drastically change the human experience. In many of my previous writings, I have explored how many aspects of the modern world are unlike the ancestral conditions our ancestors evolved to have (see my book and Nicole Wedberg’s, Positive Evolutionary Psychology: Darwin’s Guide to Living a Rich Life). If robots writing term papers and theses aren’t compatible with our ancestors’ way of life, I don’t know what is.

In general, I’m not one to point out problems without pointing out suggested solutions at the same time. In that spirit, I suggest that teachers, students, government officials, and leaders in all industries ponder this issue, including the possible effects on people’s ability to write and think. I’m not sure if there is a solution out there. But I hope that by working together on this issue, the world community, with many shared interests in the future, will find it.

Note: Thanks to Shannon Guyton for first pointing this software out to me and helping me identify many of the problems associated with this software. Thanks also to Marshall Siegel who had various helpful suggestions regarding this piece.


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