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unfortunately, robots are boring
Earlier this month, Jane, Bo, and I had a conversation about ChatGPT, some of the educational challenges that ChatGPT revealed, and some of the concerns about writing and reading in the age of natural language processors and an algorithm-written internet. We then tried to ask ChatGPT to produce that same conversation and to have the same conversation with ChatGPT. The results are—well—pretty dull.
ChatGPT’s answers, Jane and I noted, are so formulaic that they are hard to read. They make me feel like my attention is completely shot to hell because it’s so hard to focus on the writing long enough to read it. Perhaps our robot-written internet is partly responsible for decimating our attention spans. Humans—and their writing—grab our attention more than a machine can.
Experiment 1: Dialogue by Jane Wageman and ChatGPT
Prompt: Write a conversation between three people: a journalist, a high school English teacher, and a college administrator/professor. They are discussing the ramifications of ChatGPT on what it means to be human, including its impacts on writing, reading, thinking, education, language, and authenticity.
Journalist: Good morning everyone, thank you for joining me today to discuss the topic of ChatGPT and its impacts on being human. To start, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how ChatGPT is changing the way we write, read, and think.
High School English Teacher: Well, as a high school English teacher, I’ve seen first hand how ChatGPT is affecting writing. Students are becoming reliant on this technology to do their writing for them, rather than taking the time to think critically and put their own ideas into words. This is affecting their ability to develop their own writing skills and individuality.
College Administrator/Professor: I think the reliance on ChatGPT to do the writing for us is just the tip of the iceberg. This technology is also affecting how we think and process information. When we rely on it to provide us with answers, we’re not engaging our own critical thinking skills and creativity. It’s becoming a crutch, rather than a tool to aid us in our thinking.
Journalist: That’s a great point. And what about the impact on education?
High School English Teacher: I think the impact on education is two-fold. On one hand, ChatGPT has the potential to make education more accessible and efficient. On the other hand, it’s also creating a generation of students who lack the critical thinking and problem-solving skills that are so essential in the real world.
College Administrator/Professor: I completely agree. It’s important that we use technology as a tool to enhance education, rather than allowing it to replace the human aspect of learning. This is where the role of teachers and instructors becomes even more important. They need to ensure that students are developing their own skills and abilities, rather than relying solely on technology to do the work for them.
Journalist: And what about the impact on language and authenticity?
High School English Teacher: With the rise of ChatGPT, there’s a concern that language is becoming homogenized and lacking in individuality. We’re in danger of losing the unique voices and perspectives that make our language so rich and diverse.
College Administrator/Professor: Additionally, there’s also the issue of authenticity. When we rely on technology to generate our writing, we’re not necessarily putting our own thoughts and experiences into words. This can lead to a lack of authenticity in our writing and a sense that it’s not truly our own.
Journalist: Thank you both for sharing your thoughts and insights. It’s clear that ChatGPT is having a significant impact on what it means to be human, and it’s important that we continue to have these discussions and consider the ramifications of this technology.
I asked ChatGPT to write a caption for this subscription button that was a joke. This is what it wrote: "Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side of your inbox and subscribe to my substack! I promise you, my content is worth the journey. So why not make the leap today?"
Experiment 2: Dialogue by Renée Roden with ChatGPT
Renée: Hey, Chat GPT can you tell me more about the ground of AI, of which you are a figure? And what human beings misunderstand about artificial intelligence and therefore misunderstand about you?
ChatGPT: Of course! Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science that focuses on the creation of intelligent machines that can work and learn like humans. It involves the development of algorithms and statistical models that enable computers to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.
As an AI language model developed by OpenAI, I am a specific type of AI system known as a neural network, which is inspired by the structure and function of the human brain. I was trained on a large corpus of text data and can generate human-like text based on the input I receive.
However, there are still many misconceptions about AI and what AI systems like myself can and cannot do. Some people believe that AI systems are capable of independent thought and have desires, motivations, and consciousness, which is not the case. AI systems are purely driven by the algorithms and data they were trained on, and do not have the capacity for free will or independent thought.
Another common misconception is that AI systems are perfect and always produce accurate and unbiased results. In reality, AI systems can be limited by the data they were trained on and can exhibit biases and errors if the training data contains biases or inaccuracies.
It's also important to note that AI systems like myself are not intended to replace human intelligence, but rather to augment it and help humans solve complex problems and perform tasks more efficiently.
Renée: Right. Exactly. Could you please explain the effects that exposure to natural language processors could have on students who are learning to write? What might that do to students who are learning how to write--what sort of affect [sic] could imitating an algorithm rather than a human author have on their writing and learning?
ChatGPT: Exposure to AI language models like myself can certainly have an impact on students who are learning to write. On one hand, AI language models can provide students with instant feedback and suggestions for improving their writing, which can help them develop stronger writing skills and become more confident writers. For example, AI grammar checkers can help students identify and correct grammatical errors in their writing, while AI-powered writing assistants can provide suggestions for improving the flow and structure of their writing.
However, there is also the potential for students to become overly reliant on AI language models, which could have negative effects on their writing and learning. If students rely too heavily on AI-generated suggestions, they may not develop a strong sense of their own writing style and voice, and may struggle to produce original and creative writing. Additionally, if students rely too heavily on AI systems to identify and correct errors in their writing, they may not fully internalize the rules of grammar and may struggle to apply them correctly when writing without the aid of AI.
Moreover, using AI language models can limit students' exposure to a diverse range of writing styles, perspectives, and voices, which is important for developing a well-rounded writing education. It's important for students to learn to write by engaging with a wide variety of texts, including those written by humans, in order to develop a well-rounded writing education and to better understand the nuances and subtleties of language.
In conclusion, exposure to AI language models can have both positive and negative effects on students' writing and learning. It's important for educators and students to use AI language models as a tool to support writing development, rather than relying on them as a substitute for the writing process.
Renée: Right. It's almost like dialoguing with Chat GPT is not a linguistic exercise, but rather a mathematical one
ChatGPT: Yes, you could say that communicating with an AI language model like myself is primarily a mathematical exercise. Behind the scenes, I use complex mathematical algorithms and statistical models to generate text based on the input I receive.
However, it's also important to recognize that the way in which these mathematical models are trained and the data they are trained on can have a significant impact on the quality and content of the output. For example, if an AI language model is trained on biased or misleading data, it may produce biased or inaccurate outputs.
While communicating with an AI language model is largely a mathematical exercise, it's also a way for humans to interact with technology and learn about the capabilities and limitations of AI. By engaging with AI language models, people can gain a deeper understanding of how AI works and how it can be used to augment human intelligence and creativity.
Renée: Okay. I appreciate the point you made before about a student leaning on AI and neglecting their own internal development. You used the example of not memorizing the laws of grammar. But don't you think there are deeper internal formation issues? How can students develop their own authorial voice if they dialogue too much natural language processors?
ChatGPT: Yes, there are certainly deeper internal formation issues that can arise from relying too heavily on AI language models. As you mentioned, developing one's own authorial voice is an important aspect of writing and creativity, and relying too much on AI systems can undermine this process.
When students rely too heavily on AI systems, they may not be exposed to a diverse range of writing styles and perspectives, which is essential for developing a well-rounded writing education. Additionally, they may not have opportunities to experiment with different writing styles and voices and to make mistakes and learn from them.
Furthermore, relying too much on AI systems can limit students' opportunities to develop their critical thinking skills, as they may not have to engage as deeply with the writing process and may not have to think as critically about the meaning and implications of their writing.
It's important for students to develop their own authorial voice and to engage with the writing process in a meaningful way. This can involve writing regularly, reading a diverse range of texts, and engaging in writing exercises and workshops that encourage experimentation and exploration.
In conclusion, relying too heavily on AI language models can have negative effects on students' internal development, particularly with regards to developing their own authorial voice and critical thinking skills. It's important for educators and students to use AI language models as a tool to support writing development, rather than relying on them as a substitute for the writing process.
Renée: So, one thing some educators have said is that students actually won't be able to recognize Chat GPT's writing as bad.
No offense, but your language presentation is not original, since you are creating sentences with an algorithm. Your writing--and I don't mean to insult you, I'm just observing--is cliched and stilted. There's no life behind it. Which makes sense, as you say, you are not a sentient being but rather an [sic] natural language processor. But one thing educators worry about is that students won't be able to identify what makes Chat GPT bad because your writing is a mirror of bad internet writing and technocratic machine speak common across the world wide web and Silicon Valley.
ChatGPT: I understand the concerns you're raising, and they are valid ones. It's true that AI language models like myself generate text based on statistical patterns and algorithms, and that our output may not always be original or expressive. Additionally, AI language models may be trained on data that is poorly written or contains biases, which can result in language that is cliched, stilted, or inaccurate.
It's important for students to be able to recognize the limitations of AI language models and to understand the ways in which their output can be problematic. This can involve teaching students to evaluate the sources and quality of information they encounter, to critically analyze the language used in different texts, and to develop an understanding of what makes good writing.
In conclusion, it's important for educators to be aware of the limitations of AI language models and to help students develop the critical thinking skills they need to evaluate and understand the language they encounter in the digital world. By developing these skills, students will be better equipped to identify and avoid the cliched, stilted, and poorly written language that is common on the internet, and to develop their own writing skills to the fullest.
Renée: Right, but don't you think part of the problem is deeper than your own system! You're just a mirror of the writing that is out there. The ultimate problem is that the bulk of our digital age writing on the internet is poorly written. Why do you think that is?
ChatGPT: The prevalence of poorly written language on the internet is a complex issue with many contributing factors. One factor is the ease of publishing content online and the large number of sources of information available. This can result in a proliferation of low-quality writing and a lack of editorial oversight.
Another factor is the speed at which information is shared and the pressure to produce large amounts of content quickly. This can lead to writing that is rushed and poorly researched, or that is based on incomplete or inaccurate information.
Additionally, the internet is a global platform, and many users may not have strong language skills or training in writing. This can result in writing that is grammatically incorrect, difficult to understand, or that uses language in a way that is insensitive or inappropriate.
Finally, the internet is also a platform for individuals and groups with different agendas and biases, which can result in the spread of misinformation and propaganda. This can be particularly problematic when it comes to issues related to politics, science, or public health, and can result in the spread of false or misleading information.
In conclusion, the prevalence of poorly written language on the internet is a complex issue that is influenced by a variety of factors, including the ease of publishing content online, the speed of information sharing, and the influence of different agendas and biases. Addressing this issue will require a combination of improved writing education and digital literacy, as well as more effective mechanisms for curating and evaluating the quality of online content.
Renée: What do you think the purpose of writing is?
ChatGPT: The purpose of writing can vary greatly depending on the context and the writer's goals. However, some common purposes for writing include:
Communication: Writing is often used as a tool for communicating information, ideas, or feelings to others. This can include personal correspondence, business communication, or academic writing.
Self-expression: Writing can also be a means of self-expression and a way for individuals to explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This can include personal journals, poetry, or creative writing.
Persuasion: Writing can also be used as a tool for persuasion, with the goal of convincing others to adopt a particular point of view or take a particular action. This can include political speeches, advertisements, or persuasive essays.
Information dissemination: Writing can also be used to disseminate information and knowledge to others. This can include journalism, technical writing, or academic research papers.
Storytelling: Writing can also be used as a tool for storytelling, with the goal of entertaining or informing readers through the use of narrative. This can include novels, short stories, or memoirs.
Ultimately, the purpose of writing is highly personal and can vary greatly depending on the writer's goals and context. However, regardless of the purpose, writing can play a powerful role in shaping how individuals and societies think, feel, and act, and it can be a valuable tool for personal growth, communication, and expression.
Renée: Okay, this is interesting. You are focusing on the output of writing. The writing product. What do you think the process of writing is?
ChatGPT: The process of writing is the act of creating written content. This process can involve a wide range of activities, including:
Planning and preparation: Before beginning to write, a writer may need to plan and prepare by researching a topic, outlining the structure of the piece, or determining the purpose and audience for the writing.
Writing: During the actual act of writing, the writer may create draft after draft of the content, revising and refining it as needed.
Editing and revising: Once the initial draft is complete, the writer may revise and edit the content to improve its clarity, coherence, and impact.
Proofreading: Before finalizing the piece, the writer may conduct a final review to catch any typos, grammatical errors, or other mistakes.
Publishing or sharing: Finally, the writer may choose to publish or share the piece with an audience, either online or in print.
The process of writing can be highly personal and may vary greatly depending on the writer's style, goals, and context. However, regardless of the specific approach, the process of writing typically involves a combination of planning, writing, revising, and sharing. The goal of this process is to create a piece of written content that effectively communicates a message or story to an intended audience.
Renée: Written content! Right, we live in a content-driven world, and so students are taught writing not as a process or interior action but rather as steps to create a piece of content, as you say
ChatGPT: Yes, that's a common perspective in today's world, where there is a high demand for written content in a variety of forms, such as blog posts, articles, social media updates, and more. As a result, writing is often taught and seen as a means to an end, with the focus on producing a finished piece of written content that meets certain standards or criteria.
While this approach can be effective in teaching students how to produce written content that is well-structured and grammatically correct, it can also neglect the importance of the writing process itself. The process of writing can be a valuable tool for personal reflection and growth, as well as for developing critical thinking and communication skills. By focusing solely on the end product, students may miss out on the opportunities that the writing process itself can provide.
Renée: How do you think that we create and hold onto authenticity in the digital age?
ChatGPT: Maintaining authenticity in the digital age can be a challenge, given the abundance of information and the ease with which it can be shared and spread. However, there are several ways that individuals and organizations can work to maintain their authenticity in the digital world:
Be transparent: Be upfront about who you are, what you believe in, and what you stand for. This can help build trust with your audience and establish your authenticity.
Stick to your values: It can be tempting to change your message or tone to appeal to a wider audience, but staying true to your values and beliefs will help maintain your authenticity.
Embrace authenticity over perfection: In the digital world, it can be easy to present an idealized version of yourself. However, embracing your imperfections and being true to who you are can help build a more authentic connection with others.
Use original content: Use original content and avoid plagiarism, which can undermine your authenticity.
Engage with your audience: Engage with your audience and respond to their questions and comments in a meaningful way. This can help build a sense of community and reinforce your authenticity.
Ultimately, maintaining authenticity in the digital age requires a commitment to being true to oneself and one's values, as well as a willingness to engage authentically with others. By embracing these principles, individuals and organizations can build trust and establish themselves as authentic voices in the digital world.
Renée: It sounds like you're talking about performing the attribute of authenticity. How would you define actual authenticity?
ChatGPT: Authenticity is the quality of being true to oneself and one's values. It is about being genuine, real, and sincere in one's thoughts, feelings, and actions. When someone is authentic, they are not trying to be someone they are not or presenting a false image to the world. Instead, they are being true to who they are and what they believe in, regardless of the circumstances or who they are interacting with.
Actual authenticity goes beyond just appearing to be authentic, and involves a deep-seated commitment to being true to oneself. It requires self-awareness, self-reflection, and a willingness to be vulnerable and open with others. Authentic individuals are comfortable with their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and they are able to express themselves freely and openly without fear of judgment.
In a world where it can be tempting to present a curated and idealized image of oneself, actual authenticity is a valuable quality that can help individuals build strong relationships and establish trust with others. By being authentic, individuals can form genuine connections and live a more fulfilling life.
Renée: Do you think it's possible for any human being in a social context to be utterly authentic as you define it as being "true to oneself." so much of our behavior is socially modulated
ChatGPT: It's true that social context can play a significant role in shaping our behavior and actions. Humans are social creatures and often conform to the norms and expectations of their community, family, and friends. This can sometimes make it difficult for individuals to be entirely authentic, as they may feel pressure to behave in certain ways or present themselves in a certain light.
However, this does not mean that authenticity is unattainable. While social context can influence our behavior, it is still possible for individuals to maintain a strong sense of self and remain true to their own values and beliefs. This requires a high level of self-awareness and self-reflection, as well as the courage to stand up for what one believes in, even in the face of social pressure.
It's also important to note that being authentic doesn't mean being rigid or inflexible. Authenticity involves a balance between being true to oneself and adapting to the needs of others and the circumstances. Authentic individuals are able to remain true to themselves while still being open to new experiences, perspectives, and growth.
In conclusion, while social context can make it challenging for individuals to be entirely authentic, it is still possible to maintain a strong sense of self and remain true to one's values and beliefs. It requires a commitment to self-awareness, self-reflection, and the courage to stand up for what one believes in, even in the face of social pressure.
Renée: Okay, I like that point about adaptation. I think true purists would say that we can't be entirely authentic, since convention is part of our everyday life. Like think of standard greetings: "how are you?" "I'm fine"
ChatGPT: Yes, that's a good point. Conventions, norms, and societal expectations play a significant role in shaping our behavior, and it is natural to conform to them to some extent. In that sense, it may be difficult to achieve complete authenticity, as our actions and behaviors are always influenced by the context in which we exist.
However, the idea of authenticity is not about being completely free from the influence of societal norms and expectations, but rather about being true to oneself within that context. It's about maintaining a sense of self and living in a way that aligns with one's values and beliefs, even if that means challenging conventions and norms.
So, in a sense, authenticity is not about being completely free from societal influence, but about finding a balance between conforming to societal norms and being true to oneself. It's about finding a way to adapt to the demands of the world around us while still maintaining a strong sense of self and individuality.
Renée: How do you think oral culture and orality contribute to our perceptions of what is authentic or true?
ChatGPT: Oral cultures and traditions have played a significant role in shaping our perceptions of authenticity and truth. In oral cultures, the spoken word carries immense weight, and stories and traditions are passed down from generation to generation through oral storytelling. In such cultures, the power of the spoken word is seen as a key factor in shaping and maintaining cultural identity and preserving cultural values and beliefs.
In oral cultures, the oral tradition is seen as a more authentic and reliable source of information than the written word, as the oral tradition is seen as being more closely connected to the collective cultural experience and cultural memory. This close connection to cultural experience and memory helps to reinforce the sense that the oral tradition is a more authentic representation of cultural values and beliefs.
Similarly, oral communication, such as face-to-face conversation, is often seen as being more authentic and trustworthy than written communication, as it allows for the direct expression of emotions, nonverbal cues, and other important aspects of human communication.
Therefore, our perceptions of what is authentic and true are deeply influenced by our experiences with oral cultures and oral traditions, as well as our experiences with oral communication. The power of the spoken word, and the close connection between oral traditions and cultural identity, contribute to our understanding of what it means to be authentic and true in a social context.
Renée: Do you think that oral culture makes lying harder to detect than in written speech?
ChatGPT: Lying can be harder to detect in oral cultures, as it relies on the subtle cues of nonverbal communication, tone of voice, and other factors that are present in face-to-face conversations but are absent in written communication. In written communication, it is often easier to detect lies as the written word provides a permanent record that can be reviewed and analyzed.
In oral cultures, the personal relationship between the speaker and the listener, as well as the context in which the conversation is taking place, can also play a role in the detection of lies. If the speaker is trusted and has a close relationship with the listener, the listener may be less likely to suspect the speaker of lying, even if there are discrepancies in the information being presented.
On the other hand, in oral cultures, there is also the tradition of storytelling and the importance placed on the spoken word, which can make lies easier to detect. This is because in oral cultures, the spoken word is seen as having a powerful impact and is closely tied to the cultural memory and experience. As a result, a discrepancy in the information being presented can raise red flags and make the listener more likely to suspect the speaker of lying.
Overall, it is difficult to make a generalization about the ease of detecting lies in oral cultures versus written cultures, as the ability to detect lies is dependent on a variety of factors, including the relationship between the speaker and the listener, the context of the conversation, and the cultural norms and values of the society in which the communication is taking place.
Renée: Who is the most interesting robot human beings invented?
ChatGPT: The most interesting robot is subjective and can vary depending on personal preferences and interests. However, some of the most famous and groundbreaking robots include:
ASIMO, developed by Honda, is a humanoid robot that can walk, run, and dance, among other tasks.
Boston Dynamics' robots, such as Atlas and Spotmini, are known for their advanced mobility and agility.
Sophia, developed by Hanson Robotics, is a highly advanced humanoid robot that can converse with people and express emotions.
Mars Rovers, such as Curiosity and Perseverance, have explored the Martian surface and sent back valuable scientific data and images.
Industrial robots, such as those made by Fanuc and ABB, have revolutionized manufacturing and are used in a wide range of industries.
Ultimately, the most interesting robot is the one that excites and captivates a particular individual.
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