After its viral launch last week, the ChatGPT chatbot has been hailed by some online as a dramatic breakthrough for artificial intelligence and the potential future of web search.
But such praise has also raised concerns about its potential use in academic settings. The chatbot, which provides consistent information, original and conversational answers to simple linguistic questions encourage more students to cheat?
Students have been able to cheat on assignments using the internet for decades, giving rise to tools to check if their work was original. But the fear now is that ChatGPT could render these resources obsolete.
Already, some people online have tested whether it is possible for the bot to complete a task. “holyyyy, I solved my computer networks mission using chatGPT,” one person, who later clarified that the mission was old, tweeted. Others have suggested that its existence could spell the death of the academic essay. A technologist went as far as saying that with ChatGPT, “the university as we know it will cease to exist”.
Artificial intelligence firm OpenAI, which developed ChatGPT, did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding cheating issues.
However, several experts who teach in the field of AI and humanities have said that the chatbot, while impressive, is not something they are ready to sound the alarm bells for when it comes up. is about possible widespread cheating by students.
“We’re not there, but we’re not that far either,” said Andrew Piper, professor of language, literatures and culture and professor of artificial intelligence and storytelling at McGill University. “We’re definitely not at the genre stage, out of the box, he’ll write a bunch of student essays and no one will be able to tell the difference.”
Piper and other experts who spoke with NBC News compared the fear of cheating and ChatGPT to concerns that arose when the calculator was invented, when people thought it would be the death of humans learning math.
Lauren Klein, an associate professor in the departments of English and Quantitative Theory and Methods at Emory University, even compared the panic to the philosopher Plato’s fears that writing would dissolve human memory.
“There has always been this concern that technologies will suppress what people do best, and the reality is that people have had to learn how to use these technologies to improve what they do best,” Klein said.
There has always been this concern that technologies will eliminate what people do best, and the reality is that people have had to learn how to use these technologies to improve what they do best.
— Lauren Klein, associate professor at Emory University
Academic institutions will need to get creative and find ways to incorporate new technologies such as ChatGPT into their curriculum, just as they did during the rise of the calculator, Piper noted.
In fact, AI tools like ChatGPT could actually be used to improve education, according to Paul Fyfe, associate professor of English at North Carolina State University.
He said there was a lot of room for collaboration between AI and educators.
“It’s important to talk about it now and get students involved in the conversation,” Fyfe said. “Rather than trying to legislate from the start that it’s weird and scary, so we need to stop it.”
And some teachers are already adopting AI programs in the classroom.
Piper, who runs .txtlab, an artificial intelligence and storytelling research lab, said he had students analyze AI writing and found they could often tell what articles were written by a machine and which were written by a human.
As for educators concerned about the rise of AI, Fyfe and Piper said the technology is already being used in many facets of education.
Computer-assisted writing tools, such as Grammarly or Google Doc’s Smart Compose, already exist and have been used by many students for a long time. Platforms like Grammarly and Chegg also offer plagiarism checking tools, so students and teachers can assess whether an essay has been, in part or in whole, taken from another location. A Grammarly spokesperson did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson for Chegg declined to comment.
Those who spoke with NBC News said they weren’t aware of any technology that detects if an AI has written an essay, but they predict someone will capitalize on building this technology soon.
Right now, Piper said the best defense against AI testing is for teachers to get to know their students and how they write in order to detect discrepancy in the work they turn in.
When an AI reaches the level of meeting all academic homework requirements and if students use this technology to get through college, Piper warned that it could significantly harm student education.
For now, he suggested older technology to combat fears of students using ChatGPT to cheat.
“It will reinvigorate the love of pen and paper,” he said.