03 January 2023

Chat GPT

I had heard of some AI chatbot on the radio, but I had not paid an awful lot of attention to it. But then I went to see Roelof. And he mentioned it by its name: chat GTP. And he actually gave me a demonstration! And my mind was blown.

We just asked all sorts of things. Could it write a text from the perspective of a sea otter? Could it write a script that calculates prime numbers? Could it wide a poem about me and my neighbour with her collapsed wall? Could it write Cynghanedd, a notoriously difficult form of Welsh poetry, about whales? It could do all that. Some things better than others. I am easily impressed by coding. If it works it's good! I was less impressed by the poetry, but it clearly could write in all sort of languages.

Example of something I asked it do

The thing that shook me, and convinced me that this was going to play a big role in my life, was that I asked it to write a text about microplastics, with citations. It duly did that, but all the citations in the text were to websites. That is not the level we expect from our students! But you can give it feedback, so we asked it to make sure the references were to peer-reviewed literature. And it did that.

As I was with friends I did not take the time to check out the citations used. But one of the first citations used was to a paper by Andrady et al. And Andrady is one of the names you can't avoid when you are writing about microplastic in the ocean; he wrote seminal review papers. So I was convinced the programme had actually found useful literature. 

If I can ask this chatbox to write an essay about any topic, then my students can too. And it is not plagiarism, as the chatbox writes original text. But it is not the student's work either. So what are we going to do about this? I had just taken on the job as plagiarism officer, and now this. This is a total game changer. And this is not something I can deal with on my own. This needs to be at least university-wide. I suppose even worldwide, but we need to start somewhere. One of the first things I need to do when the University opens again in the New Year is find out who else is dealing with this sort of thing. We will have to stick our heads together!

The makers of the chat bot have realised this too. I already heard they are designing a digital fingerprint! I'm sure our similarity checking software will be able to pick up on that. But we will still have to think about how to deal with all of this. I'm sure we will be able to, but at the moment I must say I am a bit taken aback by the huge leap the world took when I wasn't paying attention. Time to get my arse in gear and make my middle-aged brain catch up with modern times!

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