This is a mobile version, full one is here.
26 December 2023
Defend Me Against ChatGPT
I do enjoy ChatGPT a lot. The blog post you’re reading now was written by me and then given to ChatGPT to fix its grammar and polish the writing style. Until recently, since 2014, when I wrote my first blog post, I used the service of a few proofreaders, who charged me $20-40 per hour to rewrite all of my 350+ texts. Now, I pay a few dollars a month to OpenAI. However, while the value of this generative AI is obvious, I also experience serious harm from ChatGPT, especially when reading papers written by my students with its help.
Should students be allowed to use ChatGPT when they write their coursework, diplomas, and research papers? Nature, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and MIT Technology Review believe that despite all the risks, we have no other choice: students will use it, no matter what teachers think about it.
Indeed, why not? What’s wrong with letting kids write those boring documents faster? Nothing, if we ignore the obvious threat: most of them will never read what the robot wrote. They simply prompt a very short description of the task and get back a full-blown piece of text with all the necessary bells and whistles. Moreover, with the next prompt, the text can be made even more academic, sophisticated, smart, and deep. The text, not the student.
But it’s not the threat I worry about. I’m much more concerned about the quality of feedback teachers will provide to students equipped with ChatGPT or a similar paper-writing robot. My relatively short experience in teaching (just three years) tells me that the biggest challenge in teaching is quickly dividing students into smart+enthusiastic (20%) and unmotivated (80%), before the latter category entirely exhausts me, and I classify all students as “pointless waste of time” and give everybody an “A” just to get rid of them.
When students write papers by themselves, without the help of generative AI, they make mistakes that are easy to spot: the grammar is wrong, the structure is messy, the logic of the discussion is weak, and so on. Lazy and/or stupid students reveal themselves in the first round of paper review. I can quickly understand who I’m dealing with and stop paying attention to them. The students who are smart and enthusiastic win, because they get my entire attention. The unmotivated ones lose, … but who cares.
However, with the help of ChatGPT, the situation changes dramatically. Now, the papers I have to review all look perfect: the grammar is spotless, the structure is solid, and the flow of thoughts is logical. In other words, the unmotivated students now look like smart and enthusiastic ones, while they are not. Now, it takes much more time for me to understand who is who. Sometimes I can’t figure it out for weeks, especially if the teaching is remote and I don’t see students but only communicate with them in chats or conference calls.
I keep wasting my time on students who don’t care. All they need from me is a passing grade, but ChatGPT makes them look like promising talents who I should invest my time in. In the end, the students who really need my time don’t get it, … thanks to ChatGPT.
Thus, I see ChatGPT as a big threat to the education process and believe that very soon, tools that validate texts for the presence of generative AI in them will become powerful enough to defend me from ChatGPT.