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Where to Draw the Line:  How to Start a Family Discussion on Homework, Plagiarism, & The Use of Artificial Intelligence—AI.

Awareness
9 min read
AI

Out of nowhere, a great bogeyman has pounced on our students, schools, teachers, and parents simultaneously creating chaos, confusion, and wonder.   What is this strange beast that has created such a conundrum of fear, curiosity, and euphoria?  Artificial Intelligence or AI, as we all know it.  Why out of nowhere?  Because on November 30, 2022, ChatGPT was released.  In the span of several months, it acquired over 100 million users.  

The operative word in ChatGPT is “chat.”  You can now “talk” with the internet, and it will reply as if you were talking to a real human being.  You can ask it anything and it will serve up an internet answer as if it were your own personal information butler.  No more pokey searches on Google or wading through pages of search engine weeds and sponsored ads.  Now you ask and you will receive—and immediately.  Almost as good as an Amazon Prime order.  

AI

For our Pavlovian reward/response system, you couldn’t ask for anything better for immediate pleasure.  Endless amounts of knowledge at our fingertips, delivered with virtually no effort.  What’s even better is AI can assimilate that knowledge into a cohesive and cogent written response that allows us to avoid the next worst thing to working out—writing a paper.

What has become an educator’s nightmare is now a student’s dreamworld.  With a few written prompts, one can sit back, play vids, and crank out a fully formed, A+ paper that will jettison you to the front of the honour role.   Of course, that would be plagiarism, but what is AI but not the greatest plagiarist in the history of the world. 

Where do you think it gets all that knowledge and creativity from?  It scours the entire internet, taking all the human-created knowledge and artistry—without permission, mind you—and allowing you to re-use for whatever purpose you desire.   And the only finger you have to lift is that on your keyboard.  

So where do we go as parents and educators in the brave new world of AI?  Do we ban it from the classroom entirely?  Or from our kids using it on their computers?  Or do we face it head on, understanding the far-reaching implications of its use—or misuse. 

Our students have been brought up with everything digital “free” ever since they were born.  The basic premise of the Internet is knowledge for all—and it’s free.  But it’s not free. Someone had to write it, or create it, and thus the reason for copyright.  That a person who creates something should either be paid for it or get credit for it.  But that went out the window with the internet.  All our kids have known in their Internet existence is to download, copy, and paste without a thought to copyright, let alone plagiarism. 

Plagiarism is a form of identity theft.  To plagiarize is to consciously use someone else’s words and creativity and take credit for it as your own.  Plain and simple, it’s stealing someone’s imagination, hard work, and creativity and saying it’s yours.  And we’re all guilty of internet plagiarism.  We do it so easily that we don’t even think about it.  The plagiarism talk should now be right up there with the birds-and-bees talk.  It’s that important.  Because now, you can plagiarize with AI impunity and never get caught.  

But wait, I’ve heard about software that can distinguish between AI-written papers and student- written papers so it should be easy to ferret out those who wrote an AI paper.  Recently, a graduate student tried an experiment with such AI software.  She wrote a paper in front of her teacher so that her teacher could see all the draft versions and revisions. 

AI

When the final version was finished, they submitted it to an AI writing detector.   The AI software said her paper had been written by AI.  The software was correct.  It was written by AI—an “Actual Individual.”   Now, if AI can’t tell whether a human being writes a paper or AI, then who are we to believe?

The real question we should be asking is:  Why shouldn’t we use AI to write our papers?   Or as my son so elegantly puts it, “Why do I have to learn that?”   Now we have a real discussion on our hands and not the finger-wagging, do-as-I-say response.  Now, we as parents and educators can purposefully talk about the true value of character and the real value of learning.

Character is your moral engine.  Coming from within you, it powers much of your belief systems and how you “walk your talk.”  The discussion we now need to have with our kids and our students is the practical morality of plagiarism.  Why is it wrong? 

Because it’s not your own thoughts.  It’s not your take on the universe.  It’s not your opinion, your emotions, or your hard-won knowledge that you are giving to the world.  It’s the Internet’s version of you—which isn’t you.  The very essence of what distinguishes you in this world is your “you-ness.”  That there is no other you in the world.  Why would you substitute that for a machine-generated version of you?  Because it’s easy?  That’s an interesting place to start a conversation.

If you don’t write, you don’t learn how to write.  Writing is rewriting.  For better or worse, writing teaches us how to think and communicate clearly.  It’s a way of developing our thought muscles to become “stronger” and better at thinking, and as a result, become better at communicating our thoughts to the world.  I wish it were easier but it’s not.  Don’t we all wish we could take the magic work-out pill and instantly be in great shape?  But now we do have a magic writing pill.  It’s called AI.  But you’re not learning unless you count learning as asking AI to write a paper for you.  

Who better than Arnold Schwarzenegger to put it succinctly:  “There are no shortcuts—everything is reps, reps, reps.”   Just like a professional basketball, football, baseball, hockey player—a thousand thousand reps of whatever skill you need to learn makes you the best at what you do.  And yes, a thousand words written a thousand times will actually teach you how to write.  I wish it were otherwise, but the way we humans are constructed makes learning a bit Schwarzeneggen—as in pain makes gain.  

As a writer, I am naturally biased towards becoming a better writer.  But there’s a fundamental reason for learning to read and write.  It makes us better thinkers so we can question the universe around us.  It makes us more curious, which makes us more creative, which makes us more innovative, and the list goes on.  I can’t adroitly answer the universal kid question of “Why do I have to learn that?”  What parent or teacher can?  But much like the importance of teaching character, the importance of reading and writing core makes us smarter, savvier human beings who, with these timeless tools, will have a better chance of navigating our Internet/AI laden society.  

AI

If everyone is thinking the same way, who is thinking differently (to paraphrase General Patton’s saying).  If all you do is become an AI addict, then you will think the same as everyone else.  Because the strange twisty algorithmic logic of AI is that as it learns more and more from every response it gets, it also learns more and more mistakes.  Computer scientists are finding more and more errors in AI now because AI is learning from AI.  And with each iteration of AI, there are more problems.  Think about how much you want to plagiarize from a source you can’t fully trust.

The ultimate question becomes: Why read or write when A.I. can do it all for you?  What then is the purpose of education or of learning at all?  We are now instantly and existentially placed at the crossroads of what it means to learn as human beings. Why be curious when curiosity can be so easily manufactured?”  

Our kids and students are surrounded by technological shortcuts, actions that they think will make their life easier. AI will become the ultimate shortcut as we all become AI addicts.

It is an urgent time at this crossroads of AI and learning.  As parents and teachers, we must remain vigilant to our greatest strength—our humanness and humanity.  We cannot give that away as it is our prize possession.  So, we must teach timeless values…That character matters.  Hard work matters.  Thinking, reading, and writing matter.  Talking, discussing, and questioning matters. We must engage our kids and our students, asking them to be the best they can be to themselves and give them free rein to think and communicate those thoughts.  We want them to engage.  To be curious.  To be passionate about learning.  And to be spectacularly themselves.

ABOUT CAREW PAPRITZ: 

Carew Papritz is the award-winning author of the bestselling inspirational book, The Legacy Letters.  Through his innovative literacy efforts to inspire kids to read, Papriz has created the “I Love to Read” and “First-Ever Book Signings” through his “CarewTube” video series.  He is also the creator of National Thank You Letter Day, and the World’s Largest Thank You Letter–receiving a Guinness World Record for the project. As an educational thought leader, Papritz continues in his personal passion to teach people of all ages about personal and global legacy issues.  Papritz’s writing has been published in a number of media outlets including the Kelly Clarkson Show, Huffpost, Inc., Reader’s Digest, Fox News, Woman’s World Magazine, Yahoo! News, & First Time Parent Magazine.

FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT: https://thelegacyletters.com/ 

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