Hearing one’s voice in the face of ChatGPT content is difficult

Heba Yosry
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The irony isn’t lost on me. As I write these words, there is a distinct possibility to absorb them within an AI system that can regurgitate them and present them once again, devoid of any trace that can point them back to me. And don’t get me wrong, my fear isn’t about how particular my words are or even the integrity of my point of view. My fear is one of loss. Primarily, I’m afraid of losing myself, and you should fear that too.

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Around the world, on different university campuses and within various intellectual realms, AI-generated essays have morphed from being a distant possibility of plagiarism to a lived reality. Professors are fighting an uphill battle to validate whether their students write their papers or delegate them to a proficient AI. I’ve heard one professor articulate the change in the academic milieu by saying: “our roles have changed from being teachers to being detectives.” Various academic and non-academic intellectuals have toyed with the new free AI system ChatGPT to find out what the fuss is all about. Some were highly impressed with the results, while others were dismayed.

ChatGPT is a prototype offered by OpenAI that generates detailed text based on prompts provided by its user. The quality of the text depends on the level of sophistication of the prompt. Nevertheless, if the query contains too many nuances, ChatGPT disappoints because it still needs to exhibit the level of complexity of an intellectual. But it can mimic the status of a senior undergraduate student, bringing a dangerous precedent.

We could plausibly discuss how ChatGPT, and other similar language-learning platforms hammer the last nail in the coffin of our intellectual and cultural decay. We could go over the eradication of human imagination and the atrophy of the human mind. We could even delve deeper and say that ChatGPT privileges the collective over the individual resulting in a society of replicas. We should discuss all those consequences later. For now, let’s focus on the direct impact of ChatGPT and other similar AI on the future of human learning.

As a teacher, I work on two levels with my students. The first level is to reach deep inside them and try to reignite the childhood curiosity that is most of the time extinguished. I instil the idea that learning, especially disciplines such as psychology and philosophy, accords with their innate desire to explore the world around them and within themselves. Aristotle once said philosophy starts with wonder. I seek to rekindle the sparkle in their eyes. To be in awe of everydayness and reflect upon the mundane with a fresh outlook. The second tier is to introduce new material where they can apply this new perspective and garner new insights. I integrate the dormant children with the adults they are about to become.

Naturally, ChatGPT has complicated things. I rely heavily on writing as the primary assessment method to gauge my ways’ efficacy. Whenever I receive a student essay, I wonder whether it was created using AI or a student’s original work. The only judge, in this case, would be my prior knowledge of a student’s academic standing and simply blind faith. Is my method guaranteed to catch those who opted for using AI to do their work instead of doing it themselves? Of course not. I do not doubt that when humans face hard work or an easy way out, some will inevitably choose the easy way. I also am very conscious that not everyone has the gift of writing. I also wholly know that AI will alter education and, sometimes, impart irreparable damage to young minds.

So, what should we do? I honestly don’t have a clear answer to the dilemma posed by ChatGPT. It is addictive and alluring. If you don’t believe me, peer into Twitter and witness philosophers and writers experimenting with it incessantly, even when they are adamant about its damage. So, what do we expect from young minds who are accustomed to technology, are overwhelmed with their workload and constantly feel inferior to the projected image of perfection that hovers above their heads?

The answer resides in reacquainting students with the joy of learning and allowing them to see that they are good enough and that they shouldn’t outsource their mental work to a faceless machine. When they do that, they lose their voice and themselves, perhaps my words will be absorbed by an AI, but even from within the cacophony of the collective, I must insist that you are unique, and your voice must be heard.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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