ChatGPT: Is it that big of a deal?
As an educator, historian, and teacher of writing, ChatGPT has been on my radar for a while now. I have a colleague who writes Sci-Fi, and he has been on top of Open AI’s work through all of its developmental phases (his article is listed below). Consequently, I was not as surprised as other people when it unleashed itself on the world this past December. In fact, the issue of AI and its writing ability is even embedded, albeit in a minor way, in my upcoming Silicon Valley thriller.
But immediately upon our return to school, we gathered to talk about its implications. Will students take the easy way out and have bots write their essays? Is it the end of take-home writing? But then, is using AI to help write an essay really much different from hiring a tutor or getting help from a parent or from plain old plagiarism, which we’ve been fighting for decades?
My Facebook college counselor group was a buzz as well. Does this mean end of the college essay? Maybe, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. I’ve been saying for years that wealthy students or students with highly educated parents are at an advantage on all kinds of take-home writing, including the college essay. If we want to level the playing field, there’s nothing like an old-fashioned pen and paper in-class writing assignment. There’s a reason AP courses are still done this way.
AI-detector programs seem to be poised to save the day, at least for the moment, and Open AI itself claims they are all for this. But what does it mean for writers? Will we be able to tell if a novel is written by a person or an AI bot? Will people care? Will we start to crave scrappy, hand-written manuscripts with all of their imperfections, the way that scratchy vinyl records have made a comeback? Will it take over everyone’s jobs, or will it become the written equivalent of the front-line automated voice responses we have to click through to talk to a human being on a help line—a good start but not a substitute for the real deal?
It all remains to be seen!