Educators are increasingly alarmed about a new threat to academic integrity and skills development: artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT that can generate essays, articles, and other assignments for students at the click of a button. Major news outlets have reported extensively on schools struggling with an explosion in AI-aided cheating. The implications loom large for the future of writing-centric jobs as this technology grows more advanced.
According to a New York Times investigation, the website Chegg saw a spike in questions referencing ChatGPT after the AI launched in November 2022. Many users openly attempted to cheat by requesting solutions for take-home exams and other academic work. Per the Times, one user bluntly asked ChatGPT to generate essay responses for a Harvard online course. The Atlantic reported AI now produces “undetectably perfect homework” for students, with linguists unable to distinguish some ChatGPT essays from human-written ones based solely on writing quality and style.
VentureBeat outlined how ChatGPT quickly produces multi-paragraph responses to complex questions and open-ended prompts on virtually any subject, constituting “a potential gold mine for students looking for an easier way to breeze through classes.” Boosting these concerns, some AI companies have intentionally trained ChatGPT to refuse obviously unethical requests. Yet educators still view its language proficiencies as harmful because there is a definite competitive edge it affords students utilizing it for assignments.
The implications of powerful language AIs enabling students to circumvent learning writing skills traditionally considered foundational within humanities curriculums raises profound concerns among academic institutions. Administrators have scrambled to update plagiarism policies addressing AI-generated submissions. But many teachers feel overwhelmed keeping pace with AI advancements drastically reducing barriers to cheating. Others have proposed integrating ChatGPT into lessons or focusing grading purely on demonstrable skills vs. created content.
Most profoundly, widespread adoption of language AIs to substitute for students doing their own writing threatens the very logic behind assigning compositions at younger grade levels in the first place: strengthening creativity through practice crafting original expressions based on knowledge while building associated career skills. This ethos views writing as a honed tool for persuasion, discovery and analysis rather than simply transcribing existing ideas.
Mastering writing fundamentals historically enabled entry into various prestigious white-collar vocations where information evaluation, positioned arguments and effective correspondence drive performance – think law, literature, journalism, history and more. But relying on AIs risks stunting development of skills inherent to such careers. Why rigorously sharpen one’s capacity to write legal briefs if software can match lawyer’s capabilities before licensure exams? Why spends years methodically refining investigative techniques if ChatGPT can automatically synthesize analysis and talking points on complex events?
Structurally, whole industries and associated academic disciplines catering to written assessments face potential disruption in an AI-permeated future. Standardized testing organizations are already adjusting protocols assuming students will illicitly tap language models, impacting high-stakes decisions tied to those results. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers even plans handicapping scores from 2024 exams to offset projected AI usage advantages.
Bar associations, news publications, historians and even businesses may eventually need to reassess traditional vetting and training approaches as automated writing generation reaches new sophistication levels. But before re-considering foundations of writing-centric careers, elementary educators still wrestling with AI-enabled cheating hope technologists, policymakers and the public recognize the risks of ceding life-long skills development to algorithms. The ability to effectively organize thoughts into writing has long been tied to educational achievement and career trajectories. Only concerted efforts preserving student opportunities to hone their own skills devoid of synthetic shortcuts can prevent this new AI-powered path of least resistance from severely eroding human knowledge work as traditionally conceived.