I am a writer. This is a bold and dangerous thing to say in the era we are living in, where ChatGPT has taken over classrooms, threatened the careers of journalists globally and even rocked writer’s rooms in the glamorous city of Hollywood.
As a writer, I often get a variation of the same question, always included with a typo or some egregious grammatical error: “Why should I learn to write well when there’s ChatGPT?”
It’s something that’s plagued me for the last year, with the emergence of artificial intelligence engines like ChatGPT, Bard and Clod. For centuries, the human mind has reigned superior over the rest of the animal kingdom.
Compared to our primate ancestors, we feel deeply, think critically and create passionately. Most philosophers, creatives and visionaries would agree that these things are our central purpose for living. The fields of art, writing and music — they are called the humanities for a reason.
But the rise of artificial intelligence looms menacingly. It is a truth we cannot escape, something straight out of an episode of Black Mirror. Science fiction is starting to look like science reality. In the world of academia, educators and companies like CollegeBoard and Common Application have begun to brace for impact. Solutions to the takeover of AI range anywhere from accepting it to banning it completely.
In one statement from the Fullerton School District, the school board bans the use of A.I.
“to create essays, answers to questions, artwork, or anything that the student attempts to pass off as their own work.” CollegeBoard takes a more lenient approach,
allowing use of “generative AI tools as optional aids for exploration,” while Common App considers any
“substantive content or output of an artificial intelligence platform” as plagiarism.
But with the culture of anti-intellectualism beginning to sink its claws into Generation Z, a generation that has been raised by technology, it’s a dangerous rhetoric that AI in any form should be relied upon and used to enable plagiarism. In the age of deep fakes, fake news and artificial intelligence platforms that will only get smarter and more capable, it’s important to train our brains to analyze and disseminate information — we must learn to differentiate between fact and propaganda. The brain is as much a muscle as any other part of our bodies, and exercising it means avoiding becoming dependent on AI.
That is not to say that we should as a collective ignore the inevitable future and retreat to our primitive, pre-industrialization states. With any new piece of technology — from books to radios to television —fear is a natural instinct. Criticism will always be garnered, and there will be skeptics. Humans will always desire more and technology will always get better, even if it comes at a cost. Hubris is hubris.
What I am saying, however, is that AI above all else should be used to assist, not to replace. We cannot fight what’s coming, we can only learn how to prepare ourselves.
But Blakey’s existential crisis didn’t last for long. After looking into the capabilities of AI, she quickly found a few traits humans have over AI. Intuition, context, word choice and empathy are all things AI can’t imitate
AI also does not know anything about facts or truth, lacking a sense of history. When provided with the same prompt, it’ll only parrot the data it has been fed and will reproduce different answers every single time. AI can even replicate our own biases present in existing data sets, holding a mirror to the worst parts of humanity. Everything AI spits out needs to be verified; it is about as reliable as playground gossip.
AI is above all a processor. It is what is known as an LLM, a large language model. For engines like ChatGPT, they are layered with neural networks that can only imitate the human brain, not produce its own trains of thought.
Which is why Blakey, when tasked to write an article for the “Los Angeles Times” on AI,
took to ChatGPT to brainstorm an outline for her article. AI is great at doing tasks like brainstorming and outlining, note taking and summarizing.
One teacher from the English department at Beverly Hills High School, Katie Kessel, shared the same sentiment.
Kessel suggests that “we need to embrace AI and teach this generation how to use this tool.”
According to Blakey, classes that teach prompt engineering to make full and appropriate use of AI’s properties have already begun to pop up, bringing Kessel’s wishes to fruition.
Blakey addressed another emotion that coincides with fear with the release of new technology: happiness. Proponents of AI will argue that artificial intelligence is bound to set humanity on a journey towards a brighter future. “The greater good of humanity,” is a string of words that’s thrown around, a blanket statement that conveniently dispels any arguments against such.
What one has to remember is that companies like Microsoft and OpenAI are not in the business of “the greater good of humanity.” Like any company playing the game, the motives of these developers are always traced back to profit. Profits go up, critical thinking skills go down. While humanity gets dumber, dumb enough to the point where we need AI like we need oxygen, AI gets smarter. Billionaires like Bill Gates only get richer. Greed is greed.
At the end of the day, we need to have confidence in ourselves as a species. As humans, the greatest tool we have against the raging realities we face is our own mind. It’s the only thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom—the only thing that stops us from sniffing each other’s butts and throwing a caveman-like tantrum. But when the day comes to the point where AI is capable of replacement, we’ll be prepared. I implore you to tread a careful line. Remember that assistance is not reliance. After all, imitation is the highest form of flattery. AI won’t be able to replace us, but it can surely try.
For now, I am still a writer.