We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests. ChatGPT is a sibling model to InstructGPT, which is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response.
As students across the country settle into a new semester, their professors are trying to figure out what to do about ChatGPT — the free artificial intelligence writing tool capable of producing surprisingly realistic prose in response to just about any prompt you can come up with. Already, the tool has been used to compose publishable stories for tech websites, ad copy for wireless commercials, and even a pretty good Jerry Seinfeld-style joke about airplanes.
My colleagues in academia are worried about something else: Can it write college essays?
If computers can write papers that are essentially indistinguishable from ones produced by students, how should we respond? Should we create new assignments? Develop new strategies to discourage cheating or have students handwrite their essays in class? Or do we abandon such assignments altogether?
I’ve taught writing at the university level for nearly two decades now, and I have a simple answer: We should do nothing at all. Or at least nothing we haven’t been doing already...
ChatGPT doesn’t present professors with a problem we haven’t seen before. Don McCabe, a Rutgers University professor sometimes referred to as the founding father of academic integrity research, conducted a 13-year survey from 2002 through 2015 which found that 62% of undergraduates admitted to having cheated on a written assignment at least once. The reality is that plagiarism has long been a fact of life at American universities. ChatGPT just gives students a new tool to accomplish this very old task.
Writing helps me think better. I often don’t know how I feel about a particular topic until I write it down, until I force myself to compose my thoughts and commit them to the page (or the screen). I tell them [his students] that writing is a way to make sense of our lives and experiences, to give order to the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. And I tell them that good writing can be a joyful experience.