By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College
From colleges to the comic strip Doonesbury to just about any area focusing on composition, the subject of artificial intelligence and enhanced writing tools possibly replacing human input is causing nervousness. Could you tell which part of this column were written by me, and which parts are computer-generated? The answer is at the end of this essay.
The concerns in academic are very obvious. A.I. could help students cheat on papers by providing them with pre-written or pre-generated content for their assignments. This content can be generated through natural language processing techniques, such as text summarization or text generation, which can create essays, research papers, or other written work that is similar in style and content to the student’s own writing.
But others see the potential for artificial intelligence to be helpful when it comes to student assignments. AI can assist students in writing by providing feedback on grammar, sentence structure, and vocabulary. It can also assist in organizing and outlining a piece of writing, as well as providing suggestions for improving the overall quality of the writing.
Just as the technology might be used by students, it could also be adopted by professors as well. A.I. could be used to detect plagiarism by comparing a student’s work to existing content on the internet. However, it is important to note that cheating is unethical and can have serious consequences for students.
The concerns about the new directions of artificial intelligence go beyond colleges and universities. AI has the potential to automate certain writing tasks, such as generating news articles or creating social media posts. However, it is unlikely to fully replace human writers as it lacks the creativity and emotional intelligence that humans possess. Additionally, AI-generated content may not have the same level of nuance and personal perspective that a human writer can provide. It is more likely that AI will augment the work of human writers, helping them to be more efficient and productive, rather than replacing them entirely.
What could be done about AI? Should it be banned? Would that even be legal? This is not so different from our history, where new technologies challenged the current role that humans played in the economy. After all, the steamboat replaced the men who worked the keel-boats, paddling their way across the river. But goods and passengers could be transported faster across longer distances. The humans had to adapt to changes, as they always have had to do.
As for academics who are fearful that students may use a computer to write their essays, this is not a new problem. In the past, a friend or parent could write the paper for the student, who would turn it in with their own name on it. In recent years, the student could go on the Internet and purchase a paper written by a site that generates such papers for a price. Constant vigilance is needed by teachers, whether AI tools exist or not.
The solution should be to craft assignments and tasks in a way that would identify and even highlight or somehow value that individual contribution by humans, so that AI is more of a complement than a replacement of human-based writing, and even thoughts.
In case you are curious about which parts of this were AI-generated, they came from paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5, after the first sentence prompt.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at email@example.com. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.