This is Your Brain on ChatGPT: How AI might be affecting your … – The Quill

By: Ayva Strauss 
What if I told you ChatGPT wrote that very funny headline? It did not, but the more important point is that it could have, and you would not know the difference. All I would have had to do is type a prompt, and within seconds, the artificial intelligence (AI) model would have generated an entirely original, highly relevant, response. And it can do a lot more than produce punchy article titles. Ask it to write you a charming romance story, and, in seconds, it will spin one that is good enough to submit to your short story class; type in the criteria for your latest computer science project and it will shoot back lines of code that you can paste directly and confidently into the compiler.  
Herein lies an interesting question: if ChatGPT and other AI models can create entirely original works, what motivates me to write my own love story or lines of code (or this article)? What about when that question is applied beyond the classroom—why would an employer hire me when, soon, it could easily delegate  tasks to an AI model and get sufficient results almost instantly and for exactly $0? What are we losing if we allow this to happen? Centrally, The Quill wanted to understand how the rise of ChatGPT would affect student creativity, on Kurtz Lane and in the world Susquehanna students will graduate into. I gathered insights from four professors here on campus to get a better sense of these issues.  
I have personally been using ChatGPT to write cover letters since last spring, and yet, I could not define exactly what the machine is or how it generates those long, perfect paragraphs so quickly. Luckily, I sat down with Dr. Nabeel Siddiqui, of the communications department, who led a faculty workshop on ChatGPT before the start of this semester. He explained that, essentially, ChatGPT and other artificial intelligences are just highly skilled predictors. “They are statistical models that allow you to detect what the next most probable word is in a given sequence of words,” Siddiqui says. He elaborated by comparing AI models to a more sophisticated version of the word suggestions that appear on your iPhone when you’re texting. ChatGPT is doing the same thing, but using what is called the “attention mechanism.” The attention mechanism is fed all of the language on the internet, which makes the machine better at predicting the next word and enables it to write coherent paragraphs by itself, instead of just guessing the next word you might type.  
Dr. Siddiqui said  the most common misconception about this technology is that using it on an assignment is equivalent to traditional plagiarism because it qualifies as “copying from the internet.” In fact, this technology does not copy from the internet, but instead uses the attention mechanism to create original content. This means that the current university policies against plagiarism do not give clear guidance on whether or not students may use AI in their submitted work. According to Dr. Siddiqui, the faculty determined that it was better, for the current moment at least, to leave it up to each  professor to decide how to best integrate or outlaw this technology in their courses.  
To that end, Professor Monica Prince, a member of the English and creative writing department, told me that she sees real disadvantages in incorporating AI into the creative process. The way  she sees it, if we allow ChatGPT to write our novels, scripts, or complete our assignments, we risk “losing the ability to craft semi-original thoughts.” She also notes that having this tool available might have an impact on the way we engage with not only the creative process, but one another. “I do worry it will limit our ability to interact with other people because we are so ingrained in receiving answers that we didn’t really have to work that hard for,” she said. Additionally, she noted that this process had already started over the course of the pandemic, where technology was rapidly integrated into our lives, first out of necessity, and now, convenience.  
Dr. Karla Kelsey, co-department head of English and creative writing, feels that something deeply important is being lost if we become dependent on ChatGPT to produce creative works. “We lose physicality, memory, and creative practice—all of which are potentially spiritual and communal (at least for the creator),” she wrote. She continued, “A question is whether or not anything would be gained” by allowing ChatGPT to replace human minds in writing scripts or novels or anything else. The way  this technology might disrupt the job market is also a concern for Dr. Kelsey. “If jobs are lost,” she wrote, “the question that concerns me are the kinds of jobs that might be created with AI, as part of its process, and whether or not humans would find this kind of work generative, fulfilling, or worthwhile in comparison to the jobs that are lost.”  
Dr. Laurence Roth, co-department head of English and creative writing alongside Kelsey, similarly stresses that while on one hand, the technology is exciting, on another, “it can threaten people’s livelihoods.”  
However, the professors also recognize some advantages the technology might lend to students. Dr. Roth recalls asking his students how they engage with ChatGPT, and finding  “they use ChatGPT when they have writer’s block, and that it actually was really useful in helping them to work past that.” I, myself, have used AI in this way; sometimes, I just need a place to start, and while ChatGPT’s ideas about a topic are not  always useful, it never gets writer’s block, so it can at least save me from staring at a blank page.  
Professor Prince explained another way in which introducing AI into the creative process, specifically writing, can be valuable: with ChatGPT in your back pocket, “you don’t have to be good at every part of the writing process.” Specifically, she is thinking within the context of form within longer pieces; she said that, in projects like these, sometimes the writer wants to be able to just create, without worrying about pesky tasks like the organization of  information or outlining. With ChatGPT, the artist can delegate those steps, leaving them more time and brain power to focus on the parts of the work they care about and want to do. Here, she makes another point, which is that we have actually been using AI like Grammarly, or even Word’s Editor  feature to do the parts of writing we do not particularly enjoy, like finding minor errors in spelling or punctuation. Dr. Kelsey chimes in on this point, reminding us that “all creative practice involves engaging sources outside the self, and this is another option that will be more or less useful—depending on the artist or writer.” 
With all of these considerations hanging over their heads, I asked the professors what the next step might be to manage this tool, in the classroom and beyond. One optimistic answer is that Susquehanna, and higher education in general, must simply evolve to accommodate this technology’s arrival within the classroom. When it becomes easy to cheat on your assignments, Professor Prince sees it as a chance for educators to re-evaluate the assignments themselves. “When it comes to AI, it’s important that we understand that our comprehension is the highest priority, rather than the demonstration of that comprehension,” she said. Dr. Siddiqui shares similar thoughts to Prince on this matter, saying the actual materials a student turns in are just a way to benchmark their conceptual understanding. In other words, the professors share the idea that assignments are meant to be an assessment of learning—not the learning itself.  
Thus, even if ChatGPT can write your short story or your Python program, that does not mean learning to write beautiful prose or elegant code have become obsolete. Instead, it  means that how we assess those understandings have to be updated. Professor Roth agrees that this innovation will mean that higher education will have to adapt, in a broader sense: “We’re going to have to figure out what we mean by ‘creativity’ as it encounters new situations, new technologies, new ideologies.”