ChatGPT: Between fear and unbridled optimism

ChatGPT: Between fear and unbridled optimism

Others felt deeply uneasy, wondering if we’d reached what The Spectator magazine has called “the end of writing”

08-01-2024 · Column

Only fourteen months ago, I’m not sure I (and many of my colleagues) had even heard of large language models (LLMs). It’s difficult to believe that ChatGPT launched so recently, given how much time we have since spent worrying about, tinkering with, and consuming its handiwork. As a teacher, Board of Examiners member, admissions officer and writer in various outlets, it’s been interesting for me to look back at whether some of our initial fears and hopes have been borne out. Neither my pedagogical nor subject expertise lie in this area. But all of us involved in university work have been forced to think carefully about this development and to question what it means for our livelihoods - and our very identities -that the fourth industrial revolution has finally landed squarely on our doorsteps.

When the capabilities of ChatGPT 3.5 (and later 4.0) came to light, responses broadly seemed to fall into two categories. Some viewed the model as little more than an elaborate parlour trick and dismissed the idea that it could ever convincingly mimic the kind of advanced composition we pride ourselves on as academics and seek to foster in our students. Others felt deeply uneasy, wondering if we’d reached what The Spectator magazine has called “the end of writing”.

I have vacillated between these two extremes, but today find myself somewhere in the middle. It’s undeniable that LLMs have changed writing forever, and will continue to do so. True, the calculator didn’t herald the end of maths, but it was probably not the best news for anyone who’d hitherto prided themselves on their skills of mental arithmetic. Many parts of the research and writing process are probably now best described as human-machine hybrid endeavors, and this has far-reaching implications. On the other hand, we are not powerless in the face of these changes. Some can make our lives easier (let’s face it, some forms of research and writing amounted to little more than drudgery). Others can - and should - be regulated, much as we’ve worked to regulate other forms of modern technology. Both fear and unbridled optimism will only stop us from effectively engaging with this newest of challenges to our sector.

Elsje Fourie, Assistant Professor of Globalisation & Development Studies

Author: Redactie

Photo: archive EF

Tags: elsje fourie,chatgpt,fasos,fear,optimism

Add Response

Click here for our privacy statement.

Since January 2022, Observant only publishes comments of people whose name is known to the editors.