October 13, 2023

“Did you know there’s a website students are using to write papers for them?” my dad asked me over dinner one evening.

His question caught me off guard. “No, what do you mean?” I responded. 

My high school freshman brother explained how ChatGPT is growing in popularity and can generate unique papers on any subject. At first, I was surprised by this advancement of technology, skeptical of ChatGPT’s abilities, and fearful of what it meant for me as a writer. I concluded ChatGPT was unethical to use in an academic context and seemed to threaten my career goals. 

I wanted nothing to do with it.

But after reflecting more, I realized that closing my eyes to ChatGPT would be foolish for me as a writing major and only hurt me in the long run. So, I began intentionally listening to other perspectives, exploring ChatGPT for myself, and wrestling through my questions. 

Although I still have much to learn, there are a few principles I have found true: ChatGPT will always be a limited writer, being a writer is more than writing, and ChatGPT can be a useful tool.

ChatGPT Will Always Be A Limited Writer

I could tell stories of how I’ve seen ChatGPT’s writing stick out like a sore thumb compared to skilled humans’ writing. While these stories may prove that artificial intelligence (AI) cannot currently craft words as well as humans, these stories don’t provide insight on AI’s future limitations. After all, technology is constantly changing, and a greater version of ChatGPT may arise at any point. Therefore, my proof must come from a source that transcends time. 

Genesis 1 says that God created humans in His own image. While Scripture doesn’t detail all the implications of this truth, it is undeniable that we are innately distinct from any animal, artificial intelligence, or other created thing, and we always will be.

I believe this innate distinction humans have affects how we write. Of course, I don’t think the ability to assemble parts is unique to humans. After all, both humans and beavers assemble materials to build houses for themselves. Beavers have amazing teeth to chop down trees, and they know by instinct how to build a house that suits their needs. 

As impressive as beaver houses are, they cannot compare to human houses. Unlike humans, beavers don’t pay attention to innovation, creativity, beauty, or individuality. They act only on instinct and have no thoughts beyond the material world. 

Similarly, ChatGPT can assemble words in a grammatically correct fashion, but the words will never be as deep, purpose-filled, and beautiful as words a human thoughtfully crafted. 

Unlike humans, ChatGPT cannot communicate new ideas; it can only reorganize ideas humans have already communicated. If humans stopped writing and artificial intelligence started producing all content, there would never be content with new information created. 

Additionally, because ChatGPT has no soul, it can’t draw from personal experiences to enhance its writing and resonate with human hearts. Without personal stories, readers cannot be encouraged by another’s testimony of God’s faithfulness, cry over a shared heartbreak, or learn from others’ past mistakes. 

Being a Writer Is More Than Writing

As already discussed, there is more to great writing than stringing words together. To go a step further, there is more to being an excellent professional writer than writing well.

Placing words on a page is only one aspect of being a writer in the corporate world. Professional writers are often responsible for planning and executing content output on various platforms, evaluating audiences and tailoring content to their desires, and professionally communicating with coworkers and clients. 

Studying Professional Writing and Information Design (PWID) at Cedarville is teaching me to be a well-rounded professional writer. I have taken classes that target specific writing and editing skills, such as English Grammar, Professional Editing, and Style and Mechanics. Other classes, such as User Experience for the Web, Corporate Culture, and Writing and Strategy for the Web have helped me realize that being a valuable professional writer requires more than writing beautifully-crafted sentences. 

ChatGPT may be a decent writer from a grammatical, structural, and even factual standpoint. But studying PWID is training me to be an excellent writer, content strategist, storyteller, and audience analyzer who possesses strong interpersonal and critical thinking skills.

ChatGPT Can Be a Useful Tool

As many people have said regarding AI, “It’s not going away anytime soon,” so it is worth considering its role in a writer’s life. Even though it is limited in its writing abilities and cannot do the full job of a professional writer, it can still be valuable. Accordingly, writers should view ChatGPT as a tool to use with discernment, not as an enemy to hide from or an excuse for laziness.

Productivity is highly valued in our culture’s workplaces. Professional writers who haven’t learned to utilize AI to increase their productivity will likely be replaced by professional writers who have. Perhaps a productive professional writer will effectively use ChatGPT to speed up research processes, brainstorm content ideas, or quickly edit for grammatical mistakes. Firms hire human accountants, but firms expect their accountants to be comfortable using a calculator.

As humans continue to improve artificial intelligence, writers must continue having conversations about AI’s place in our profession. It’s a complicated discussion, and we must be willing to learn and adapt. Although no one knows all the future will bring, the God who does told us He made us distinct (Genesis 1:27), plans to use us for His glory (Ephesians 2:10), commands us to work hard (Colossians 3:23), encourages us to search for wisdom (Proverbs 11:14), and promises to supply our every need (Matthew 6:26).

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Crissa Esse

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