ChatGPT Chatbot Can Write Anything from Student Essays to Legal Briefs, but Author and Reader Beware

ChatGPT is a new AI-powered chatbot that answers complex questions conversationally.  This remarkable tool that can assist with a wide range of tasks, from generating humanlike text to providing helpful answers to questions.  This raises huge implications for research, education, business, and much more. “So the best way to think about this is you are chatting with a omniscient eager-to-please intern who sometimes lies to you,” describes Ethan Mollick, Professor of Management at the University of Pennsylvania.  If you’re not yet familiar with ChatGPT, it’s well worth the 6-minute listen to Molick’s NPR interview, Has AI reached the point where a software program can do better work than you?

Here are some highlights from the interview:

MOLLICK: I would challenge you to find a single school where there are not a large number of people using this in their classes, whether the teachers know it or not.

SCHMITZ: And how do they typically use it?

MOLLICK: I mean, there’s a few things, right? So the most obvious thing and the thing people come away with if they play with ChatGPT for just a few minutes is, wow, I can cheat on essays with this thing. And then if they spend a couple more minutes, they say, well, I can cheat on creating software code or translating language. But the uses actually go way beyond that, and I’ve been amazed by what some of my students have been reporting about how they’re using the capabilities.

SCHMITZ: Well, explain that a little. What other noncheating uses can it offer us?

MOLLICK: Well, I mean, so many. But just on the education side, you can actually use it to – you can paste in an essay and ask it to correct it. You can paste in entire academic papers and ask it to summarize it. You can ask it to find an error in your code and correct it and tell you why you got it wrong. It really is this general companion for all kinds of purposes.

Mollick later explains how he used ChatGPT to create a syllabus for an MBA class, generate a final assignment with a grading rubric for that class, and even wrote the beginning for the second lecture he’d have to give in that class.  “It’s this multiplier of ability that I think we are not quite getting our heads around that is absolutely stunning,” notes Mollick.  Stunning indeed!  I tested out ChatGPT myself and was absolutely blown away.

Here’s a sampling of what people are using ChatGPT to do, with varying degrees of success:

As amazing as this technology is, it also raises numerous red flags. Unsurprisingly, many teachers and professors are concerned about student cheating. Fortunately, tools like GPT-2 Output Detector Demo can help detect text that was formulated by AI. [Update: But see this video on how easy it is to fool the AI detector.]

But putting academic dishonesty aside, ChatGPT raises other concerns.  As with any technology, it’s important to understand how the tool works.  ChatGPT uses what it has learned from vast amounts of data scraped off the web to draft text.  However, it can’t check if what it’s saying is true.  “They can fool us into thinking that they understand more than they do, and that can cause problems,” said Melanie Mitchell, an A.I. researcher at the Santa Fe Institute in the New York Times.  They can also perpetuate bias.  “Because these new chat bots learn their skills by analyzing huge amounts of data posted to the internet, they have a way of blending fiction with fact. They deliver information that can be biased against women and people of color. They can generate toxic language, including hate speech” notes another NYT article.

According to CNBC, LexisNexis has been experimenting with ChatGPT.  Although it sometimes generates “sensible answers” that are “very impressive,” it does have its flaws.  “I am afraid it’s not reliable enough as a decision-making tool for serious legal research,” said vice president, Min Chen. “In some cases, ChatGPT will give a very verbose answer that seems to make sense, but the answer is not getting the facts right.”

Want to learn more about ChatGPT?  Check out these posts:


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