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How to Navigate the New World of Artificial Intelligence
NOTE: No artificial intelligence was used in creating this piece.
Last month, I shared The Story of Soteria. Then, not five seconds after I hit “publish,” I found a typo in the second sentence. The second sentence! (I’ve since fixed the online version of the article, but the emails that went out retain the original error.)
I loathe errors like this in my writing. And yet, whenever I see a typo in someone else’s writing, I prefer to give grace and focus on the content over the form. But I’m usually much harder on myself.
But now I am rethinking the occasional typo as a type of gift.
That may sound strange, especially for those of us who grew up with the grammar police for a teacher. These days, however, a typo means a human wrote it, not a machine. And that is a beautiful thing because the day is coming, and in fact is already here, when machines will likely be creating content for everyday consumption.
Right now, actors and writers in Hollywood are on strike and the Big Tech players are meeting with lawmakers in Washington over concerns relating to artificial intelligence. From coast to coast, America’s most powerful influencers and leaders are convening with the hopes of regulating how artificial intelligence (A.I.) will and will not be used. Because the stakes are enormously high.
In my normally quiet corner of the world — where writers and teachers of writing quietly go about working with words and publishing text — the new program ChatGPT has stirred much alarm as well. This software can produce full essays that are surprisingly better than one might imagine. Naturally, content creators and teachers of language and composition are expressing concern.
Will artificial intelligence replace certain jobs?
Will programs like ChatGPT eliminate the need for human writers?
Will students prefer to cheat by using this software to create essays?
Will it even be considered cheating after a time?
Will students and educators eventually skip learning the art of writing altogether?
These questions and many more are swirling amidst hushed conversations while many folks are wringing their hands in angst.
Even news and media outlets, like The New York Times and The Atlantic, are installing cyber privacy software to block the bots of artificial intelligence from using their online articles to train the A.I. programs.
As an English teacher and a writer, some have asked me what I think about this new technology.
I can tell you honestly that I am not fretting over anything. While the concerns about A.I. are real, technology has been heading in this direction for some time, so it’s not a surprise that programs like ChatGPT are now here. The writing was on the wall, so to speak.
The real question we need to ask ourselves is: How will I choose to navigate a world with artificial intelligence?
In this new technological world, A.I. will create news reports, write screenplays, produce books, and even prepare sermons. So, we must ask ourselves:
Will I willingly read news reports that were crafted by a machine?
Will I choose to watch shows that were scripted by a machine?
Will I spend hours reading a book produced by a machine?
Will I listen to a sermon that was created by a machine?
It is wise to begin asking ourselves now where we will draw the line. Because sooner than we think, these realities will be among us, if they’re not already.
Christian writers and thinkers are discussing these matters with frank openness, and they have some excellent thoughts to share. I appreciated what Jen Pollock Michel recently had to say about this, and Seth Haines also had some wise words on this topic. Going forward, they both mentioned the new bylines that readers will begin to see. Something along the lines of: No artificial intelligence was used in creating this piece.
Such bylines will likely become industry standard, so I will go on record now to say: Every word I have ever written and published has been my own. I have never used any kind of artificial intelligence. Nor will I ever. I can also say that I have never in any way used the words of a ghostwriter. Nor will I ever.
My words are my own. Always have been. Always will be. That I can promise.
I have enjoyed working with some wonderful editors, but editors help writers shape and clarify the writers’ words. Good editors never impose their own voice onto another writer.
I have also had a few first readers offer feedback on early drafts I’ve written. It is good and wise to hear how our words are impacting others before we go to print. But at no point have I ever used someone else’s words, whether from another human or a machine, as my own. Not ever.
So, as we move into this new era with machine-produced text possibly everywhere, what can we do?
We can read the work of real writers.
That’s what I plan to do. And it’s what I invite you to do as well. Let’s plan ahead of time exactly where we will draw the line for the content we consume. May the words we read be human made, even if that means a typo or two.
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