Artificial intelligence is making great strides in 2022. A few months ago, the company OpenAI introduced DALL-E, a text-to-image generator, which they made open to the public. Some have raised concerns over the future role of artists and copyright issues considering AI art generators. Does AI pose a threat to human creators? Well, that question just got weightier and more multifaceted. OpenAI just released ChatGPT, what writer Jacob Carpenter calls, “the most advanced, user-friendly chatbot to enter the public domain.” ChatGPT can “write lines of code, pen a college-level essay, author responses in the voice of a pirate, and write a piano piece in Mozart’s style.”
Carpenter goes on to point out that some are wondering if the chatbot threatens Google. The chatbot isn’t just a typical search engine—it is designed to solve problems. However, the concerns may be premature, since ChatGBT and other things like it are not foolproof and still make mistakes, sometimes egregiously.
Still, the potential for misuse of this amazing AI advancement is manifold. Andy Crouch, an author and partner at Praxis, shared a Twitter thread about some of his doubts. Crouch is a noted technology critic and has much insight into how to live in a technological world and remain human. He wrote, “I’ve been playing with OpenAI for a couple of weeks and with ChatGPT for the past 24 hours, and I think it’s pretty clear—pending on how these technologies are commercialized—that the era of homework, up through at least the second year of college, is over.” Crouch then referenced his copy of “Pindar’s odes,” an ancient Greek text, which has Greek on the left side and the translated English on the right, and noted that ChatGPT “will be like having the right-hand page of my Loeb edition available to you all the time on any and every subject at an introductory up to early proficiency level.”
The point is, this technology will make it much easier for students to generate work through a computer. The tweet that Crouch originally shared was from David Decosimo, who wrote,
“The thought that I could be carefully grading and commenting on a paper written by a computer is almost unspeakably demoralizing. It goes beyond the idea that it’s merely utterly futile waste of time to something much deeper that I can’t yet put in words. It has to do with the way it violates and betrays the humanness and vulnerability involved in teaching and learning. The student/teacher relation, formal and informal, is a basic human relation. Learning is core to what makes us human and constitutes happiness. It makes a mockery of that.”
Is this new AI technology a pure overreach into what should be a distinctly human category? A freshman using ChatGPT to write a composition paper might turn out to be one of the tamest examples of misuse. What about musicians, novelists, and visual artists? And what about the possibility of rampant misinformation and the flaws of the technology? Crouch and Decosimo are concerned about integrity, truth, and the human relationships and vocations that might be damaged. This might turn out to be a major revolution in the tech world.
But, as the writers at Mind Matters are fond of saying, AI, even chatbots as sophisticated and impressive as ChatGPT, depend on human exceptionalism and intelligence to work. Just like the AI art tools depend on pre-existing material, the ChatGPT depends on human creativity and knowledge to produce what it does. The question is whether using it may eclipse our own capacity for creativity and reason. The more sophisticated and able the technology, the more tempting it is to depend on it and paradoxically feel like we’re in control. But perhaps it’s not always a good idea to depend wholesale on technology, lest we lose our own ability to flourish and innovate as we were created to. As Crouch writes elsewhere, “Every exercise of superpowers [i.e. modern tech] involves a trade: You have to leave part of yourself behind.”