Thursday , May 23 2024
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Teaching and Writing in the World of AI – To Be, Or Not to Be?

Teachers and writers in the world of AI – a world where the people are seemingly becoming bit players – are asking themselves this question: to be, or not to be? I know that I am not happy with the way things are or the way they are going. Students think that they have an edge now, and we teachers of writing who also happen to be writers have to be concerned about what is coming our way.

AI and Academic Writing

I have been doing a good deal of research about artificial intelligence for education and, from what I have learned, some educators are either timidly raising a white flag or staunchly defending the use of AI to enhance their lesson plans. There seems to be a collective surrender to the inevitability of AI in the classroom. I, for one, am not so sure about this embrace of artificial intelligence as a teacher or as a writer.

At the commuter college where I teach writing classes, some of my colleagues and I have discussed the use of AI by our students. We have a program that can detect AI and other types of plagiarism when our students submit their work online. Some colleagues have reported getting papers that are 100% AI-generated. This semester, I have seen only a handful of my students doing this in my English classes, and none of them for more than 50% of a paper. My general rule is to give students a warning and require a new submission that is AI-free; however, some professors are stricter and give a failing grade.

The problem is that this is not going to end anytime soon because – like anything else – students are very savvy and will find ways around filters and blockers. It has been happening since our grandparents were writing crib notes on their arms or the palms of their hands for that day’s difficult test. There is no end to their ingenuity, and this brings up the previously mentioned white flag. When will we reach the point where we all just give up?

AI and Writers

I wondered about using AI to write this article. Using Microsoft Edge’s Copilot, I had a full article in about 10 seconds. While I did not toy with the idea of using it for publication, because I abhor the notion of doing so, I can see how tempting it is for students burdened with multiple assignments to use this quick fix to write a paper. I read over the AI-generated article, which begins with this caveat: “AI has become an integral part of modern society, revolutionizing the way we live, work, and interact with the world around us.” How is that for singing one’s own praises? AI obviously thinks very highly of itself – and it is not alone.

There are resources online encouraging people to use AI to write entire books with it. At Publishing.com, we are told that this is not “scary” and that we should consider AI as “a co-author” and that “you don’t have to be a writer to be successful.” It took me about a year to write my last novel, so this feels like a slap in the face to me – and all writers – who toil and sweat and bleed out pages because we love to write and realize that it is hard work.

AI and Education

The Department of Education has a guidebook to using AI called Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Teaching and Learning. You can download the whole massive thing, but I have a spoiler alert – even the government is giving in and raising that white flag. It seems that the use of AI in the classroom and by writers – or those who have no talent but want to get published – is dauntingly inevitable.

If you think it is a done deal and let us just acquiesce and go about our day, there are opposing views and that includes some educators. Forbes has an interesting article that actually and refreshingly features teachers’ opinions, and would you be surprised to learn that a whopping 65% of teachers surveyed believed that AI would be used to cheat on essays? 62% of those teachers worried about AI limiting human interaction in the learning process. A surprisingly small 30% were concerned with a loss of employment because of AI.

Anything Positive About AI?

With all this information spinning around in my head as I prepared to write this article, I sat back and sighed and remembered why I wanted to teach – it was because I wanted to convey my love of literature and writing to others. I started thinking, “Could AI possibly help me to do that?” I am not sure because most of what I have read seems to lead me in the other direction, but I will say that I am open to AI if it can help students learn without doing everything for them.

If we reach that point, then there will be no learning and accomplishment – grades, degrees, and honors will be things of the past. How does AI go up and collect a diploma after doing someone else’s work for four years of college? If anyone has an answer to that one, I would like to know.

AI and My Next Book

As a writer, I have been struggling to start my next book. Writing this article has shown me the reason why – the story has to do with AI. The book has several chapters so far – a young man falls in love with a female robot who is almost an exact duplicate of his old human girlfriend. I was not sure why I could not understand which direction to go with the story, and now I think it is because I realized what this all means. If we have reached a point where a human could love someone – or thing in this case – that is not human, are we losing something which we can never get back?

Can you tell if this person is real or not?

I could ask AI to help me finish this novel, but it would not be my own work. Would Shakespeare have let AI finish Hamlet? Would Hemingway have allowed AI to write The Sun Also Rises? I doubt that Shakespeare ever walked the ramparts of a Danish castle, but he knew the complex human conflict that rose in his character and made Hamlet say, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Could AI write about the running of the bulls in Pamplona? Perhaps a factual account, but it would never capture the blood, sweat, and tears that Hemingway knew as he bled words onto the page. AI does not sweat, has no blood, and cannot cry. I don’t feel sorry for it at all.

To Be, Or Not to Be?

So, as of now, the question remains for teachers and writers and other creators: How threatened are we by AI? What about workers in almost any field – who will be replaced one day? Will first responders like police officers and firefighters be replaced? Soldiers on the battlefield? In fact, in a nightmare scenario like a Terminator movie, perhaps the whole human race will one day be annihilated by the very beings we created to assist us because, as Alexa and Siri have proven, we already can be taken wherever they want us to go to do whatever they want us to do without much thought process.

To be, or not to be? The long-term response may be forthcoming sooner rather than later. I am just afraid we are not going to like the answer.  

About Victor Lana

Victor Lana's stories, articles, and poems have been published in literary magazines and online. His new novel, 'Unicorn: A Love Story,' is available as an e-book and in print.

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