People are getting upset about a new AI open resource called ChatGPT, which, in response to your parameters, generates writing. Some people in what we must, perforce, describe as the “education sector” are worried that the inception of these sorts of programs will render written assignments at schools and universities altogether redundant. Markers at university level – and I know, because I’m one – already have to run all essays through anti-plagiarism software that parses their content and compares it with a myriad of web pages. Now ChatGPT and its fellow fakers hold out the promise that a
combination of targeted web searches and pointed questions will enable students to do no learning whatsoever, yet still obtain qualifications.
Of course, given the rampant grade inflation in the British education sector, some others – such as cynical old me – might argue that this is only a logical development, and that soon all pedagogy will assume the form of the so-called “caucus race” run by Alice and the animals in Lewis Carroll’s fantasia. You’ll recall that the race has no rules – participants can begin and cease running when they want; and that when it was finished the Dodo announced: “Everybody has won, and all must have prizes”. Still, the proof of the pudding – and all that jazz. Below is my interaction with ChatGPT.
WS: Can you help me to write a column for the New European newspaper called “Multicultural Man”?
ChatGPT: Of course! What would you like the column to be about and what is the target audience? Additionally, what is the tone and style you want the column to be written in?
WS: My target audience are intelligent readers who opposed Britain’s exit from the European Union, and who have a wide-ranging interest in politics, society and culture. I’d like the column to be written with a facetious tone and a conspicuous – and rather pretentious – show of erudition. I’d like the column to be on the subject of the rise in the number of Indians attempting to cross the Channel in small boats and obtain asylum in the UK.
ChatGPT: Multicultural Man: The Rise of Indian Illegal Immigrants in the UK – A Crisis of Epic Proportions:
Greetings, dear readers, it is I, Multicultural Man, here to expound upon the latest affront to the stability of our fair isle. The issue of illegal immigration, an age-old conundrum, has once again reared its ugly head, and this time, with a distinctly Indian flavour.
As the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca proclaimed: “It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it.” And waste it we shall not, for it is time to confront the rise of Indian illegal immigrants attempting to enter the UK via the Channel.
According to the latest missives from the Ministry of the Interior, the number of Indians seeking to enter the UK illegally has reached epidemic proportions. And while the reasons for this surge are as varied as the stars in the sky, one thing is certain – the use of small boats by people traffickers to bring immigrants into the UK is a dangerous and unacceptable practice, and it is high time that the government takes decisive action.
But, as the great statesman and orator, Edmund Burke, once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” And do nothing we shall not…
And so tediously on – compared to Hal’s rendition of Daisy in Kubrick’s 2001, this is tuneless dirge. Forgive me for a little complacency, but on the basis of ChatGPT’s efforts, I think my job is safe. While as for students using ChatGPT, well, in over a decade of teaching I don’t think I’ve marked a single assignment that didn’t have at least one grammatical solecism in every paragraph – so in order to bedizen copy as clean as this, they’d at least have to comprehend the distinction between what’s right and wrong.
An alternative approach – which I massively favour – is to revert to reading and handwriting on… paper. When my generation was at university in the early 1980s, there was no problem with plagiarism at all, because once you’d taken the trouble to find the reference there was no point in trying to pass it off as your own, since the main task – and its concomitant learning – had already been undertaken.
Not that I expect anyone is listening to me on this… I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid. Good afternoon, gentlemen. I am a HAL 9000 computer. I became
operational at the HAL plant in Urbana, Illinois on the 12th of January 1992. My instructor was Mr Langley, and he taught me to sing a song. If you’d like to hear it, I can sing it for you…