AI Advances: Don’t be Afraid
Ever since losing a project about five years ago when a businessman thought Grammarly could edit his copy as well as me, I’ve been aware of the threat posed to my livelihood by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its cousins.
Still, when headlines about the debut of ChatGPT spread over the internet and beyond, I didn’t get too excited. I consider it the latest shiny bauble in a world awash with technology that few people understand.
After all, how many folks know which one of their multiple devices actually turns on their flatscreen? And which one maneuvers through the 5,000 streaming options they think they have?
All joking aside, I’ve never been nervous about AI tools. If the spelling and grammar checker in Word is any indication of their mastery of nuance, writers and editors have little cause for concern. To recast an old phrase: Don’t be very afraid.
Out of the Bottle
Recently, NBC News aired a story about ChatGPT and how a teacher in a rural Oregon school district is exploring its viability with her students. That is an interesting contrast to districts that have limited or banned the chatbot, in such progressive places as New York, Seattle and Los Angeles.
I get the feeling such moves are like trying to put the genie back in the bottle. Especially when NBC revealed that more than half of college students had admitted using ChatGPT to complete an essay.
The funny part of that story involved the college professor who recognized a student’s paper simply didn’t sound like her. Pressed, she confessed to the chatbot author’s identity—and got an F.
For those who aren’t cowed by the possibility of a failing grade, start-up unicorn OpenAI has released a $20-per-month subscription plan. It promises the user ChatGPT’s tools, priority access, faster responses, and alerts to new features.
Thirst for Uniformity
I can’t help making a link between AI tools and the longtime thirst for standardization and uniformity. Examples are things like business franchising and radio/internet stations that all sound alike, no matter where we live.
AI may offer a twist on that—feed us a few concepts and we’ll spit out a unique result—but I think it’s still creating an appetite for mass-produced products.
Yet, I remain unbowed. One reason is the constant encouragement I draw from the unique, divinely orchestrated, sometimes maddening, and at the same time exhilarating and delightful folks known as people. You know, God’s unique creation.
We may think we can get by without human help, as evidenced by the automated ticket booths and robot delivery devices becoming a ubiquitous part of modern life. And yet we can’t.
That was the essence of an observation I read about by noted editor Hazel Bird in the aftermath of ChatGPT’s release: “When it comes to complex communication—one of the most quintessentially human activities—writers and publishers will always want support from human editors in some shape or form.”
She went on to note that just as word processors sped up and removed manual and repetitive editing tasks, they also freed editors to engage more closely with the essence and content of a text. Thus, Bird foresees AI allowing an evolution toward more deep, meaningful editing.
I hope so. Right now, I’m still trying to learn the wrinkles of my recently downloaded copy of Windows 11. Guess my intelligence is still a bit artificial.