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The Knight Online

The Knight Online

The Knight Online

Hey Siri, Write My Essay for Me!

Do burgeoning advancements in technology not only threaten academic integrity but the developing minds of students as well?

Think. Ponder. Conceptualize. An online thesaurus allows easy access to highbrow language for one to sound intelligent and academic or awkward and unseemly based on the usage of a word. However, what if one did not have to worry about a single word choice at all? What if one had access to a tool capable of writing entire pages of words on virtually any topic? 

ChatGPT is a language-generating AI capable of delivering coherent responses to a variety of prompts ranging from simple short answers to complex essays. 

The academic community has expressed valid concerns regarding the use of AI for written work among high school and college students especially since when tested, ChatGPT has proven its ability to provide clear, articulated essays with evidence of research and even mentioning references. 

The Good AI provides examples of essays on various topics written by artificial intelligence. This excerpt from the website is from an essay discussing the development of AI, and ironically, the paragraph concludes by defining AI, itself. 

“The study of AI has developed drastically in recent years with the introduction of deep learning and neural networks. Deep learning refers to the implementation of multiple layers within a network which provide additional features for prediction (Hertzmann & Schuster, 2013). Neural networks are also called abstract models because they do not have an actual form; instead they represent information (Krizhevsky et al., 2011). These two techniques allow computers to learn tasks such as recognizing speech or finding objects in images (Frost & Bengio, 2017). Therefore, AI can be defined as machines performing tasks that require cognitive abilities similar to humans.” (The Good AI)

ChatGPT has provided an opportunity for teachers to consider necessary shifts that need to take place in education to circumvent the obstacles to learning that it has created. It also raises the question of the value of academic papers, especially with regard to its true importance to one’s future. 

In 2020, the parent firm of ChatGPT, Open AI, created GPT-3. ChatGPT has since then developed from the previous large language model into the essay writing machine it is now. GPT-3 was originally built to sift through billions of words and study how they were connected and related. The evolution of that mechanism led to ChatGPT which is now able to “chat” with its users, making it less like a robot and more human essentially. 

However, the difference between machines and humans is that robots, as of right now, are not capable of having true intelligence. AI is trained to recognize patterns and generate answers based on the data that it collects. While humans are capable of the same process, we possess a much more complex and valuable ability — the ability to reason and think critically. Having a conscience leads to empathy which allows us to form connections with others. Technology lacks a conscience and thus does not have the ability to empathize. If the goal of this AI is to mimic human composition, then it is inherently flawed.

The lack of emotion from AI-written essays is a substantial limitation, especially when considering the personal statement required for college admissions. Ms. Fajardo, a college counselor at Notre Dame, says, “I’ve read through some of the college essays that ChatGPT has created and to be honest, if I were to give them a grade, I would give them a B- or a C+ at most. The thing about the essays that ChatGPT produces is that they don’t sound personal. Even when you go back and try to edit certain things, what it doesn’t capture is passion for the school [or] passion for the things you care about.” 

It appears that ChatGPT does not capture uniqueness or individuality – both of which are crucial to making one stand out to colleges and universities. AI’s generic “perfection” is not worth the risk over a personality that shines through writing. 

Furthermore, the ability to think critically and reason is what students are tested on at all levels of education and encouraged to develop as they move higher. Ms. Turner, the head of the English department, said, “Nothing should ever be a substitute for your own critical thinking. Critical thinking will never go out of style, and that’s what writing fosters. While teachers can’t always catch every act of cheating, I hope students realize that critical thinking is a vital tool to foster in one’s self.” 

Ms. Brown, who teaches English 2 Honors, shares the sentiment. However, she believes this new technology has also provided an opportunity for improvement in teaching methods. “One of the positives of [ChatGPT] is that it makes us think about what prompts we are giving. I think it’s good in the sense that it asks teachers to think about the validity and the necessity of what they are asking kids to write,” Brown said. 

Ms. Brown also proposes a solution to students’ aversion to writing and prevents them from resorting to AI.  

“We might need to focus more on the process of writing and take the pressure of  it down because I feel like kids [outsource] more out of laziness than it is out of ‘I need [an A] grade.’ Requiring more work along the way like drafts and brainstorming things that kids could still use might scaffold the writing process so that they don’t feel the need to use [ChatGPT] because they feel more prepared and less overwhelmed,” Brown said.

Fear of failure stunts students’ ability to improve. The easier way is not always the best way. To the luck of students, it is in the nature of teaching that educators are there to guide them. “ChatGPT doesn’t scare me, but the resistance to trying to grow as a human scares me the most, and I think that’s the larger conversation educators and students need to continue to have. My hope, as English teachers, is that we can continue to help students feel unafraid to make mistakes. Sometimes the risk of failing instead of going after the shortcut is where the true learning begins. I hope students take the harder route, and if they need help, we’ll be there to provide some flashlights to lead the way,” Turner said. 

The age of modern technology has brought countless medical innovations, worldwide connectivity, and increased knowledge and understanding to society. However, with great power comes great responsibility, especially when oceans of knowledge are right at one’s fingertips. There is no need to fear technology. However, we must be mindful of the choices we make using it. 

College counselor, Ms. Fajardo said, “I don’t think it’s evil. I do believe that with new technological advancement, our immediate reaction is ‘Oh no! This will change everything’ or ‘Education is dead!’ etc., but I’m sure people felt the same way about a calculator or a computer. I think that it is now a new tool that is up to us to use ethically. With every advancement, there are going to be new challenges and new possibilities.”

Machines are more effective than us and our growing reliance on them proves that we must prioritize human needs as we progress. We don’t need to exchange our intelligence for the advancement of AI. We can only move forward, but over-dependence will only hinder us. We must question the creation and purpose of certain technology and ensure that it is only built to help us and our world. 

It is not to say that AI or technology is our enemy, but rather that we must protect and cultivate our ability to think for ourselves. More technology will not create an “idiocracy” of our current world. 

What is truly at risk is our individuality. To rely solely on technology to do our own thinking will only produce stale, incompetent minds unable to keep up with the ever-evolving world. Leave the mass-production, assembly-line ideas to machinery and do not relinquish individual, original thought.

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