News  |  ,   |  February 17, 2020

What happens when a machine can write as well as an academic?

News article by Michael Mindzak.
Published in University Affairs.


As AI-facilitated algorithmic writing improves, it poses tricky questions about authorship and what constitutes an “original” paper or assignment.

Recently one morning, I asked my computer a relatively simple question: can artificial intelligence (AI) write?

We’re not too certain on what artificial intelligence will be able to write, but there are some scenarios in which computers could be responsible for a huge number of word documents …

The biggest potential scenarios would involve machines analyzing what has already been written and determining what pieces need to be edited to make the content seem fresh. A robot system analyzing words for typos could do something like this on a big project …

The above sentences were composed by a machine in a matter of seconds. The tool used is a freely accessible interface based on the GPT-2 text generator released by OpenAI – a company founded by technology industry leaders, including Elon Musk and Sam Altman. Only a limited version of the tool was made available, as it was dubbed “too dangerous” by the company to release fully into the world.

While we can take such grandiose claims with a grain of salt, the existence of advanced, or advancing, algorithmic writing technologies is not too far off. As issues surrounding artificial intelligence continue to be discussed and debated by scientists, futurists and ethicists, higher education also finds itself thrust into the mix of this rapidly evolving field. The implications will likely be far-reaching. [ . . . ]