ChatGPT and the Future of the Written Language


What could the influence of A.I. mean for the future of writing? (Photo credit via Riley Sardinha)

Riley Sardinha


The evolution of artificial intelligence has been talked about for decades, mostly as an object of fear in peoples’ minds. Countless dystopian stories have been written about A.I. technology gaining sentience and taking over humanity, but proof of genuine self-awareness from these programs have yet to reveal themselves.

Now, the average person uses A.I. for purposes beyond just random number generations for research purposes. There are programs that can generate abstract artwork in “Dalle” and even some that make rather nonsensical fantasy stories with “A.I. Dungeon” or “Novel A.I.”. While these are more for entertainment, the newest A.I. platform “ChatGPT” has some wondering if we’re going too far in technology’s influence on society.

ChatGPT has been in development for a few years now, allowing users to type whatever comes to mind to receive some scarily convincing answers on the other end. The more people use the platform, the more ChatGPT learns how to talk like a person. In text alone, an outsider wouldn’t even question one of ChatGPT’s works as being artificially generated.

This is a huge warning sign for professional writers, but teachers are the ones who are really starting to crack down on this technology. Not only does this contribute to the plagiarism problem with students’ assignments, but it hinders development of critical-thinking and problem-solving skills as well. Some districts have already banned the program from being used for homework purposes.

Others are using specially made applications that are supposed to detect papers written by A.I. and flag them. Some are even considering returning to entirely handwritten formats for assignments.

Naturally, being someone who hopes to find a career in professional writing, I can see how this could be a personal threat. More than this however, I was disgusted by it.

I believe writing to be an art. It could be seen as the most versatile form of art there is. The fact that artificial intelligence has developed enough to shallowly replicate it as such is almost insulting. When learning about this, I was reminded of a quote from legendary Japanese film director, Hayao Miyazaki, on the idea of A.I. used to potentially replace animators: “I strongly feel that this is an insult to life itself… We humans are losing faith in ourselves.”

At the same time, I understood that every technological breakthrough is bound to induce some anxiety in the general public. I live in a time period of rapid and profound changes in all parts of society, and that finding the silver linings in them is all part of the communicative experience.

So, I downloaded the app to check it out. Unsurprisingly, it requires an email and phone number login. The front page gives examples on what to type in for first-time users:

(Photo credit via Riley Sardinha)

It seems as though it can be used as a search engine, giving straightforward answers to questions in a way that’s understandable to the user. Thankfully, it has a pretty rigid filter for people who attempt to feed it hateful content, preventing ChatGPT from developing a bigoted personality.

It also discloses the fact that information can sometimes be inaccurate, as the data it draws from is self-contained within the application. It’s unable to access the internet or other external sources for information, which means everything ChatGPT knows is from the general public’s contributions.

ChatGPT is good at explaining objective information on the sciences, math, history, and other fields people might have a lot of questions for. The program does have its own writing style, and really can trick outsiders who aren’t careful with their sources.

When distinguishing ChatGPT from a real writer, there are a few signs to look out for: absences of personal experiences and too many filler words or an overuse of repetition. I tested this by giving it a prompt for a fiction story.

While it came out well-written with no grammatical errors or inconsistencies, the story was very basic and details on settings and the characters’ personalities were nonexistent. One of the joys of reading is seeing how the author’s interests, experiences, and senses of humor come out in their work; and ChatGPT likely has a long way to go until that point.

Researchers have done their own tests on ChatGPT’s academic performance. Organized by the Wall Street Journal, one example essay was generated to be a high schooler’s film analysis on “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and while it had some factual errors that conflicted with the film, the control teacher said he would’ve given it a B- or a C+ grade.

This goes to show that, while technically impressive, it’s not the ultimate crutch people make it out to be. Teachers can get creative and use ChatGPT to generate daily lesson plans, summarize lots of information at once in a Cliffnotes-esque format, and can assist students with learning disabilities.

It’s just one resource out of many at our disposal for expanding on our learning capabilities. While the general idea of ChatGPT is rightfully concerning, its current state also allows professionals to use it alongside current communication, not replace it.

Now that the article is wrapped up in my own words, I thought it would be fair to now let ChatGPT speak on its own behalf:

(Photo credit via Riley Sardinha)

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