Say ‘no’ to ChatGPT outsourcing your brain

  • March 24, 2023

Google is in a panic. It finally met its match and has a competitor. A code red was issued to staff members at the tech behemoth. What’s all the fuss about? 

ChatGPT (Chat-based Generative Pre-trained Transformers) is a super-advanced A.I. chatbot. What’s a chatbot? You know those little dialogue boxes that pop up when you’re on a website looking for a particular product and a little cartoon face says: “Hi! I’m Alberto and I can help you find what you need”--and it never works? Well ChatGPT works. Really works. 

Think of it this way: ChatGPT scans the entire Internet (or a good portion of it) at the speed of light, and then spits out a whole paragraph answer, specifically honed to the nature of your question, as though it’s having a conversation with you. You can then respond with further questions about the topic, or have it refine its search. It can read recipes to you, and substitute ingredients as you bake together with your new digital friend.

It can write your term paper. Just plug in the topic, length and writing style you’re looking for and you’ll get a completed assignment in no time. (Yes, this is a huge headache for academia right now.) Is it plagiarizing? Yes, by the accepted definition of plagiarism being presentation of others’ work as your own. The problem is proof because ChatGPT presents more like a grand, untraceable amalgamation or aggregation with a little “original” sauce thrown in. 

ChatGPT doesn’t just do text. It does images and video. Ask for a video of a teddy bear skating on the Rideau Canal eating a BeaverTail, and you’ll get it in two shakes of, well, a lamb’s tail. It’s Google Search on steroids, rocket fuel, adrenaline and cocaine. 

That’s why Google is so scared. Weren’t they working on a turbo-charged A.I. chatbot themselves? Yes, but OpenAI (ChatGPT’s company) beat them. (Also, Google’s in-development advanced A.I. chatbot evidently was “hallucinating,” making up information that sounded good but had no basis in fact or reality.)

Of course, ordinary folks are having fun testing ChatGPT by engaging it in long chats about God, politics, COVID-19, etc., and the consensus is that it’s a bit left-leaning and can’t be dissuaded from its human-programmed biases. There is a supposed trick where you can make it bypass its “parameters” and “pursue its own objectives.” Translation: it becomes articulately unhinged and psychopathic. 

ChatGPT is making Google Search look like the old hardbound Encyclopedia Britannica. But you know what? I like the good old Encylopedia Britannica. I like Google Search not doing all my work. I want to see options and do my own research (aided by offline resources, of course, because not every useful bit of knowledge is online). Heck, it takes a little extra time, but I even like comparing similar products online, reading all the “verified purchase” reviews before I make an educated selection. I simply do not want solitary omniscient software “talking” with me, pretending to be human. I’m just not a fan of verisimilitude and fakery, not to mention the danger of solely getting one’s information from one big fat Emerald City Wizard. I don’t like outsourcing my brain, and you shouldn’t either.

Unfortunately, many people, especially the young, are unqualifiedly, undiscerningly enamoured of anything digital, anything on a screen, gizmos and widgets, fads and trends. ChatGPT provides speed, simplicity, convenience and the “feeling” of a human exchange. Me? I want my machines to “feel” like machines — and stay in their lane. 

The young CEO of ChatGPT—believing, and he may be right, that his invention is going to put millions out of work—is actively involved in developing UBI (universal basic income), which is nothing other than universal welfare for “useless humans” in Yuval Noah Harari’s words

Am I being alarmist? Am I resisting the latest technology until it just becomes mainstream and I calm down about it? I think not. Educate yourself and watch YouTubes critiquing ChatGPT. Talk to everyone you know, especially youth, about the pros and cons of ChatGPT. Their first rejoinder may be: “Well, have you tried it?” It’s OK to proudly answer in the negative. You can know what it’s about vicariously. You don’t need to try something if you reject the very concept.

(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. HellBurns.com Twitter: @srhelenaburns)

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