For my regular readers, this should not come as any surprise that the English teacher in me does not like this new technology. Many people will dismiss that as another English teacher spouting out the dangers of technological advancement. We have experienced many different advancements in communication, and ChatGPT is just another example of another advancement. I should not fear this move, but rather embrace it and figure out a way to live in this new emerging world. Some will even point out the fact that Socrates, at one time, considered writing to be the most dangerous thing in the world because it prevented intellectual discourse, and the only way that we know this is because his student, Plato, wrote it down. So essentially what I am being told by these people is to not be Socrates.
But I do not think my fear about this new AI that makes writing easier is actually the same thing as Socrates’s fear of writing. It comes down to this idea of convenience that we are always striving for in our modern world. We want things to be as easy as they can possibly be. I get that. The struggle is not always an enjoyable experience, and it sometimes takes many years of work and effort to see any payoff. I know this better as teacher than most people do. I watch as my students struggle, get frustrated, take their frustration out on me, and then years later when they finally realize why I created that struggle for them in the first place, then they thank me for it. Some new teachers give up on teaching long before they ever get to experience this reward, and I can understand why. Teaching itself is a struggle.
How does this fit in with ChatGPT? Well, it eliminates the struggle. The struggle is a good thing. It is within the struggle that we learn the most about ourselves, and are given the capacity to grow. If we are never presented with this opportunity to fight through something and come out the other end as a better individual, then as a society, we can never grow, and we will become stagnant. Our new mantra will be, “If it is too hard to do, then it isn’t worth doing.” In a time in our existence where we need to face these difficult things to do, this is hardly the mantra that we need to take.
But there is something deeper going on here. It is not just convenience, but what we are giving up for this convenience. It goes back to what Socrates feared with emergence of writing. He thought it would take away intellectual discourse. There is a certain insight that emerges when people talk with each other, and I could see how losing that ability would scare somebody. But writing is also a form of discourse. Even as I write this post, I stop and think about what I want to say next, and why it is important for me to say it. I want to reach a certain audience, and get them to understand this issue in the same way that I do. To do this, it requires critical thinking, craft, and art. It is not convenient. It is a skill that I have worked years to develop, and I still work on improving this craft today. It is what makes me a human being, worthy of this intellectual discourse. What type of world do you create if we take away humans’ ability to do this?
This is where the advocates of ChatGPT will want to tell me to put down the dystopian novels that I have been reading. They are corrupting my mind, and making me think that any advancement is a bad thing. But to that argument, I counter with the fact that they are making me think. ChatGPT offers us an opportunity not to think. A great majority of society, when given the opportunity not to think, they will jump on that opportunity. They would rather be mindless drones who are easily influenced by whatever mass media throws at them. This is already a problem in our society, and ChatGPT does not solve this problem, but makes it worse.
I will use a recent example from my class. My students were given a simple task. They were to watch two different productions of the same scene from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Afterwards, they were given a series of opinion based questions about costumes, lighting, and performance about which production they liked better and why. Rather than think about what they had just watched and comment on it, they ran to ChatGPT to do the work for them. They couldn’t even take the time to give me their own opinion on a subject matter. I view this as a significant problem brought on by this new technology, and if you don’t see it the same way, I fear for the future of this world.
Society keeps on heading in the wrong direction. We are pulling further apart from each other, and pulling further into ourselves. Mental health problems are growing at an extreme rate, especially among the younger generation. A lot of these problems started around the same time as new technologies were created that did our thinking for us. Our brains cannot process the information as fast as some of these computers can, and we already seeing this becoming a problem. So, why would we release another artificial thinking entity into the world to do our thinking for us without asking what its agenda might be, and where that would leave us? We need to slow down and start thinking about what we are doing and why we are doing it, rather than just throwing it out there because we want to know if we can do it.
I know that the genie is already out of the bottle, but even genies need people to interact with it for it to be able to do anything. By not interacting with this new technology, it will not give it the power to influence society in the way I fear that it can. I am aware that by my writing about it, it helps to promote it, but at the same time, I do believe that this tipping point in society is so important that if the discussion is not opened to talk about this, then we open the door to allow it the power that it could have.
Please tell me what you think down below, share your stories about your encounters with this technology so far and tell me whether I am overreacting or not. Thanks.