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Artificial intelligence and chatbots; their effects on school

Art by Ket Gill

AI -- or artificial intelligence -- is a new technology that seems to have recently been taking over the internet. Examples of this can be seen in art and text generators such as ChatGPT and DALL-E. These free-to-access websites can produce artwork and text by connecting patterns in other online sources such as articles and artwork. But what implications can this have on school? If a text generator writes a five-paragraph essay, how can a teacher know what is a student’s and what isn’t? For the following two paragraphs, one will be written by a text generator, while the other will not. Looking at the two pieces, are you able to tell which is made by whom?

Animal testing has become a lightning rod for controversy. Many feel that this in vitro experimentation on animals is morally reprehensible. Others feel that animal testing is necessary to advance science and technology. The debate over animal testing centers on how to understand and apply human knowledge, most of which is derived through animal trials. Some believe that if we can avoid using animals in experiments, we can discover a lot more than we currently do.

Using animals in research and to test the safety of products has been a topic of heated debate for decades. According to data collected by F. Barbara Orlans for her book, In the Name of Science: Issues in Responsible Animal Experimentation, sixty percent of all animals used in testing are used in biomedical research and product-safety testing (62). People have different feelings for animals; many look upon animals as companions while others view animals as a means for advancing medical techniques or furthering experimental research.

The previous two blurbs were written by a text bot and a real human. If you couldn’t tell, the first text was written by a robot, while the other was a chunk of text from Lone Star College. While both were decent paragraphs, the latter piece of text credited sources that would be used later, and used more understandable words, rather than random synonyms the text bot used to add variation to the article. Overall, the robot-generated text was pretty solid, and I likely wouldn't have recognized it as something made by a robot if I wasn't specifically aware of the comparison being made. While I probably wouldn't have given the first text an amazing grade, it probably would have passed for a decent essay in High School, especially with some modification, which is rather concerning.

According to Nancy Gleason in The Times Higher Education, “Detecting work generated by the AI is nearly impossible, and even if you, the marker or instructor, suspected something, there is no way to prove it.” With easy access to AI text generators, many students will take advantage of the ability to easily and quickly write an essay; and being essentially undetectable, teachers would be incredibly susceptible to these new methods of cheating. Additionally, from Rob Reach in The Guardian: “In the past six months, easy-to-use commercial versions of these powerful AI tools have proliferated, many of them without the barest of limits or restrictions.” Even if the government and the companies that created the new technology manage to create enough legal restrictions for their software, countless other websites have been published, each one just as capable of creating artificially generated work with the click of a button.

Overall, these new and easy-to-access resources will likely have a large and lasting effect on school in the near future. Until new restrictions are put into place, and teachers can tell the difference between the work of a student and the work of a robot, free online text bots will be a fast, easy, and practically undetectable method of cheating in school.

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