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Front Page Talking Points

FOR THE WEEK OF JAN. 09, 2023

Artificial intelligence tool writes as well as we do – raising questions along with excitement

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1.gifFind A.I. as a news or opinion topic and share a quote or fact.

2.gifNow summarize or comment on another technology article.

3.gifWhat school subjects are a foundation for computer science careers?

"We have reached a turning point with artificial intelligence," a New York Times consumer technology columnist wrote recently, referring to ChatGPT. That free tool released last month by Open AI, a nonprofit research lab in San Francisco, is trained on vast troves of online text, a continuing process. It responds in seconds to questions or topic prompts by delivering responses that seem to be written by a human with grammar skills and basic information about any subject. It can write stories about our pets, compose business proposals, create simple software programs and even craft poetry. Responses can be refined by giving the chatbot added details or revision guidance.

"A.I. feels fun and exciting," adds Times columnist Brian X. Chen. "Yet, as is always the case with new technology, there will be drawbacks, painful lessons and unintended consequences." Teachers worry that corner-cutting students may let ChatGPT do book reports, research assignments, opinion essays or other classwork. Online posts brag about using the tool to solve coding contests. On the positive side, it could help with writing the way calculators help with math, such as by reviewing student-drafted work for grammar slips or factual errors.

However, the emerging technology relies on the huge database of online information and can't yet distinguish between confirmed facts and speculation or myths that are widely repeated. "ChatGPT is shockingly good at sounding convincing on any conceivable topic," tweets Princeton University computer scientist Arvind Narayanan, but its seemingly "authoritative text is mixed with garbage."

The more the new tool is used, the better it will get, says Mira Muratio, chief technology officer at OpenAI, It "can tell you if it doesn't understand a question and needs to follow up," she says, "or it can admit when it's making a mistake, or it can challenge your premises if it finds it's incorrect." Rohit Krishnan, a tech investor in London, is among impressed users. "It feels very much like magic,” he tells The Washington Post. "It's like holding an iPhone in your hand for the first time."

Professor says: "I expect I'm going to institute a policy stating that if I believe material submitted by a student was produced by A.I., I will throw it out and give the student an impromptu oral exam on the same material. Until my school develops some standard for dealing with this sort of thing, it's the only path I can think of." – Darren Hick, philosophy professor at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

Chatbot reply says: "As an AI language model, I am not being used to cheat or engage in any unethical or dishonest activities. I am simply a tool that can be used to provide information and resources that I provide in a responsible and ethical manner." – ChatGPT response to journalist's question

Tech writer says: "People experimenting with ChatGPT were quick to realize that they could use the tool to win coding contests." -- Brian X. Chen of The New York Times

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2023

Front Page Talking Points Archive

Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.