At Harvard University, English literature Professor Dr. Jackson was grading papers when he came across an essay written by student Sarah Smith that was so good, it left him speechless.
Imagine his surprise when Sarah revealed that the essay was not written by her, but by an AI bot she had programmed to write it for her.
Dr. Jackson didn't know whether to fail Sarah or give her an A+.
Dr. Jackson is not the only professor in this situation. Professors worldwide are being forced to change the way they grade because of a new OpenAI chatbot named ChatGPT.
According to OpenAI November 30th, 2022 ChatGPT is a large language model AI trained on a massive amount of text data and capable of understanding and generating human-like language in response to questions and requests through its website interface. With its release, ChatGPT has brought with it simultaneous alarm and optimism. According to an article by NBC news in 2023, nearly 4/10 Americans say they are more concerned than excited for the future of AI.
Some are worried about their jobs, and others are terrified that something knows their search history.
If you think ChatGPT is some fad, think again.
Its release has kickstarted an AI arms race the likes of which has only ever been seen when McDonalds released its signature Szechuan Sauce. According to Tech Crunch, in December of 2022, OpenAI is expected to release its next generation of ChatGPT, GPT-4, in early 2023. And according to Vox, Google has invested 300 million in ChatGPT's rival Anthropox, and Microsoft has invested 10 billion dollars into ChatGPT itself.
AI is here to stay.
As AIs like ChatGPT pervade more of society, College students like me have to evaluate our relationship with AI tools. While ChatGPT and other large language models have their issues, we should see them much the same way calculators are seen for mathematics now, as our personal R2D2s to help us navigate the universe.
While I will focus on ChatGPTs effect on College students in this essay, the things I talk about are applicable to everyone evaluating their relationship with the tool.
That's why we must discuss:
- The Applications Of ChatGPT For College
- The Problems Of ChatGPT
- The Implications Of ChatGPT On The Future Of College
Luckily, Dr. Johnson won't have to join us on this journey. He isn't real.
I had ChatGPT write that entire story.
Applications of ChatGPT For College
A couple of months ago, I started playing with ChatGPT just for fun.
As you know, I'm an avid YouTuber and blogger and wanted to see what it was capable of. Through my journey, I realized it you can apply it as a student in four main ways:
- Homework help
- Study aid
This section will focus mainly on the positive applications and get to the problems later.
As you know, ChatGPT is an incredible research tool.
One of my favorite research endeavors I have been using it for recently is to help me copywrite and create email automation sequences using Convert kit. I asked it the question, what are some of the best podcasts, books, articles, and thought leaders on copywriting? It gave me a list just like that.
It saved me hours worth of time I would have had to research independently.
This is invaluable not just for personal content creation projects but for student essays as well.
While researching an essay showing the causes, effects, and solutions of video game addiction, I asked ChatGPT to give me a source supporting my point, a direct quote, and a statistic. Of course, I fact checked the point it gave me, but it was truly jaw-dropping how specific it was able to get with the answer.
Give it a well-worded input, and you will get a insightful output.
In the writing sphere, students and authors are using it to write nonfiction and fiction.
Nassam Osman, a nonfiction writer, says it usually takes him 3-6 months to write a book. However, using ChatGPT he went meta and used it to write the aptly named book how to write a book with ChatGPT.
With its help he was able to write the book in one week rather than 3-6 months.
You can use ChatGPT not only to write faster but better as well.
With ChatGPTs help I wrote a fiction romance between Dwane The Rock Johnson and Harry Potter, who team up to defeat Darth Vader. Copies will be available at the bottom of this newsletter (I'm just kidding lol). During the writing process, ChatGPT gave me tips on characters, plot, setting, finding my voice, and more.
Don't be surprised when Aidan Helfant becomes the next fiction romance household name.
3. Homework Help
Another thing I have heard many students are using it for is homework help.
Some of my computer science friends use it to check their code for coding class. Others use it to check their math problems. And others use it to do their homework for them...
I wouldn't recommend this last course of action, but with a tool as powerful as ChatGPT you can't be surprised.
4. Study Aid
ChatGPT can literally create an entire test for you.
Give it a prompt like, I'm studying for an introductory Psychology class, give me 20 multiple choice questions with five options and test me. It will generate a test on the spot. Let that sink in.
Students without access to tutors are no longer nearly as burdened.
Problems Of ChatGPT
Unfortunately, it's not all sunshine and butterflies.
ChatGPT has a few prominent problems that you NEED to know about to be a respectable college student:
- It's Limited In Critical Thinking Skills and Overly Moral and Unbiased Language
- It Makes Stuff Up
- It Exasperates The Problems Already Present In Humans
1. It's Limited In Critical Thinking Skills and Overly Moral and Unbiased Language
Large Language Models deepest flaw is their inability to think critically about what they are saying.
Noam Chomsky says in his 2023 article The False Promise of ChatGPT, "ChatGPT and similar programs are, by design, unlimited in what they can "learn" (which is to say, memorize); they are incapable of distinguishing the possible from the impossible." The human mind is not like ChatGPT, a lumbering statistical engine. We critically think about what we say rather than extrapolate the most likely conversational response or most probable answer to a scientific question. Chomsky furthers that "Whereas humans are limited in the kinds of explanations we can rationally conjecture, machine learning systems can learn both that the earth is flat and that the earth is round. They trade merely in probabilities that change over time."
Those are the ingredients of explanation, the mark of true intelligence.
In addition, Large Language Models are limited by overly moral and unbiased language.
ChatGPT and many other large language models are coded not to say anything overly controversial. It's creators don't want to receive backlash for it saying something racist or immoral. However, this poses significant constraints on its ability to help create new knowledge because knowledge outside the scientific consensus almost always sounds ridiculous until further evidence is given. For example, the theory of Evolution was seen as blubberflush and still is by many today despite the mountain of evidence supporting it. But because Charles Darwin was okay with pushing against the backlash, the evidence continued to stack up and up and more and more people rallied in support of it.
But because ChatGPT and other large language models aren't capable of this, they will have limited use cases in creating new knowledge.
2. It Makes Stuff Up
ChatGPT is known to make up sources.
I was asking it to show me evidence that some game-related skills don't translate to real life. It gave me some sources! But when I fact-checked them, they linked to some articles from the journal Science on recessive genes in Papayas.
Not at all what I was asking for.
This is why you must always fact check to ensure ChatGPT is giving you valid and reliable information.
ChatGPT loses validity and use the more in depth a topic you go.
The more in-depth you go, the more likely it is to make stuff up and struggle with the nuance of your research topic. It doesn't have the same care for words as a human academic does. As a result, it can use it in a way that confuses the questioner.
It should remain a tool for brainstorming and learning the general idea of a topic..
3. It Exasperates The Problems Already Present In Humans
ChatGPT is exasperating the problems already present in humans.
It's trained on a massive corpus of human knowledge from the internet. But the internet isn't a valid source. In essence, asking it a question is a great way to find the general internets opinion on a topic, not the nuanced view.
Because its sources are biased, it's biased.
This is why it's so important to understand the problems with ChatGPT.
More people have the ability to ask it questions without a critical understanding of its problems and spread it without fact-checking. This creates more misinformation , unintentionally spread incorrect information, or it's worse evil brother disinformation, intentionally spread incorrect information.
Understanding it's applications and problems can help protect you against this.
Implications For The Future of College Education
College is forever changing with the release of ChatGPT.
I recently attended a webinar by Dickie Bushe and Nicolas Cole on how ChatGPT is changing the field Digital Writing. This webinar showed me there are many important implications it has on the college experience. Those who understand how it will rise to the top, and those who don't will fall to the bottom.
Here are the three implications I believe it has on the college experience:
- It's Creating A Paradox of Abundance
- It's Making Student's Ask Whether They Are Going To Stay Doers Or Become Thinkers
- It's Making Student's Perspective The Most Important Thing About Them
1. It's Creating A Paradox of Abundance
ChatGPT is creating a paradox of abundance in college.
The quantity of bad information is getting higher as students can use it to write essays, do homework, and answer problems without any input on their end. However, the quality of good information is also increasing as students who know how to think are using it to bolster their student work rather than replace it.
In effect, the quality of student work is getting higher while at the same time, the quantity of bad student work is getting higher, creating a paradox of abundance.
2. It's Making Student's Ask Whether They Are Going To Stay Doers Or Become Thinkers
Traditional schooling makes students into doers.
It's built on the premise of preparing student's for factory jobs from the industrial revolution. But with ChatGPT, the "doing" part of many student tasks is being automated. The unique asset student's bring to the table is thinking.
The most important skill students need to build in the next decade is how to think better, so they can do more effectively with AI.
ChatGPT has the capability of becoming a student's greatest Digital Intern. But the quality of ChatGPTs outputs reflect the quality of its inputs. If you don't think well, ChatGPT won't respond well to your thoughts.
Student's that learn to build the skill of thinking in college instead of mindless doing will succeed.
3. It's Making Student's Perspective The Most Important Thing About Them
Many student's are scared ChatGPT will replace the need for their input.
In reality, it's only making the unique perspective each student brings to a subject more important. Every person has an incredible diversity of knowledge, skills, and abilities. If they can learn to bring this perspective to their class learnings using ChatGPT as their doer, they can revolutionize their field.
The age of the cookie cutter student, the student who copies what the professor says verbatim and doesn't think about their learnings, is over.
You now know the applications, problems, and implications ChatGPT has on the college experience. You're above 99% of people in your readiness to join the age of the student thinker.
Are you going to take the leap?
Here's what I would like to share this week.
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