Yes, I'm Afraid

Ryan Heshmati

April 21, 2023 (Last Modified May 13, 2023)

Chatbot ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence technological innovation, has already changed American society. The English class schoolteacher faces a threat far more stealthy than plagiarism: AI-generated text. ChatGPT, created by OpenAI, which is now a capped-for-profit rather than a non-profit as it started out to as, is capable of writing practically whatever the user desires. Offer it a prompt, and it will offer an essay. Ergo, a severe problem arises for the schoolteacher; however, the threats that come with this technology extend far beyond a student receiving an undeserved grade and may act to reshape our society. 

Make no mistake, the threat posed by ChatGPT to classrooms is real. If some students use the AI chatbot to get out of completing their assignments, grading becomes unfair to those who actually did the work themselves. Grades, the educational system’s standardized method for evaluating students’ work, lose value if the work behind them cannot be confirmed as truly the submitting students’ assignments. In order to combat this, teachers are pushed to make difficult choices regarding whether to scrap major written projects for solely in-class ones. Such a shift, however, destroys a crucial part of writing: the process. With the challenges of preventing cheating and continuing to aid students in learning, ChatGPT has complicated educational institutions.

Beyond the classroom, though, the consequences behind ChatGPT’s use are incredibly concerning, too. With such a simple application offering a “lazy way out” of writing, ChatGPT’s use robs individuals of the mastery of language. English author Angela Carter argues, “language is power, life and the instrument of culture, the instrument of domination and liberation.” Allowing software to gain control of one’s language is to allow it control of one’s culture. Language has built democracies and taken down dictatorships; there is a reason its free expression is protected in the First Amendment. 

The founding fathers understood that hold of such a vital instrument as language could not be voluntarily handed off and had to be protected. The reason language is so important is its place as a mode for expression. The ability to evoke an emotional response through a careful selection of words, like Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death!” was not lost upon the founding fathers and should not be on the generations of today, either.

Ultimately, ChatGPT, like anything else, is a tool. Its impact on society lies in how it is used; however, if recent applications of its technology are any indication, it has the potential to reshape our society. It is impossible to know how much of an impact ChatGPT will have on the world, but the potential consequences of its widespread use are severe. From the classroom to every aspect of life, if individuals yield their power over language to a computer application in order to get out of working through the writing process, they yield one of the most powerful tools in human history to a piece of software without consideration of the great harm ChatGPT’s use can do to society.