And again tools are becoming available that will destroy our youth. They’ve already become aggressive from their video games, perverted by online porn, depressed by social media, and now ChatGPT is going to kill their last bit of writing skills.
I think it won’t be as fast as usual. For example, anyone who thinks that students can easily let ChatGPT write their thesis is clearly not aware of the current level. Even before the model’s introduction, it was easy to pick out copied sentences. You really didn’t need that plagiarism check for that. A flowing sentence with appropriate language and correct spelling is immediately noticeable in the vast majority of theses.
No, the kids keep writing and writing and writing. Production of papers, projects, theses, chunks of text. Last week I found one of the papers from my primary school days. It was an enumeration of the various categories of musical instruments, supplemented by the obligatory details of the bow of the violin and the plectrum of the guitar, with carefully cut and pasted printed images, neatly placed in a perforated folder. occupational therapy. Of course, we had looked up all that information in clipboards and library books. We learned how to access information in a way that was of no use to us later. It was very dry filler exercises.
It is a godsend that all this can be done a little faster. And I am curious how this model will accelerate the world. In any case, it seems to save a lot of people a lot of time: in the field of education, it is mainly the teacher who benefits. ChatGPT can create exams and check all those rags of typed text. Long-winded books or essays are summarized to the core in an instant. I hope that thanks to ChatGPT I will never again have to fill out a form or resubmit an already entered and rejected grant application in a new format. And the model can tell you in no time why a piece of source code doesn’t work or how you can improve it. This model will make an entire generation of programmers obsolete. All those smart people who spend their days writing and debugging code can now do something useful with their lives. There are plenty of sectors that crave new people.
However, this time gain is also far from certain. The promise was always made about robots and AI, but was never fulfilled. It never settled down, we just started working harder. People always find something new to keep each other busy. Something with security, privacy, a data controller, an inspection or an audit, or we add an extra layer of management, it’s always possible. Maybe we can come up with some extra forms that others can fill out and email around to each other.
And yet I am hopeful. It is precisely these kinds of inventions, incremental improvements to previous models, that shake the world and really change it. Same technique, but on a larger scale, or easier or cheaper. A technology that can finally be used safely, such as nuclear energy. Or it becomes available to the public like the computer. There was already a way to read, change, cut and insert the genome, but CRISPR-Cas made all that much, much easier. And the DNA reader (sequencer) is no longer a device that costs millions, but the size of a mars bar that you connect to your laptop with a cable. There was already a computer, an impressive thing, but it was only when it became available to the general public, with an interface that any layman could use, a keyboard and a mouse and fit on a desk, that computers changed the world.
We already had a search engine and a model with all the knowledge in the world. But now everyone around the world can talk to it. The information and power of the algorithm is now being introduced into everyone’s living room. Perhaps now is when it will really start to move the world.
Rosanne Hertzberger is a microbiologist.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper on 21 January 2023