With AI and ChatGPT, will human reading + human writing become extinct?

For God’s sake, let us be men not monkeys minding machines or sitting with our tails curled while the machine amuses us. – DH Lawrence

  • OpenAI, Microsoft, and Google all announced exciting new developments with ChatGPT and generative AI. In this age of AI accelaration, the advances are exponential and measured in weeks, not years.
  • Here’s Yusuf Mehdi of Microsoft explaining how the integration of ChatGPT into Bing and Edge enables one to have ChatGPT immediately “create” and “compose” paragraphs from a simple prompt given by a human.
  • Not to be outdone, Google demoed how AI has been integrated in Google’s Workspace. One can ask AI to summarize a chain of emails and to write a brief of the content.
  • Meanwhile, GPT-4 can do well on virtually every standardized test, including the SAT, AP exams, LSAT, GRE, and multi-state bar exam. And it will only get better and better. Sorry, humans.

Will human reading and human writing become extinct?

  • While these advances in AI and ChatGPT are incredibly impressive, they also raise profound questions for humans: Will human reading and human writing become extinct?
  • First, let’s discuss human reading. Humans began reading and writing only a few thousand years ago. Both skills are considered to be important aspects of education and learning. (“Illiterate” is the term used to describe someone who cannot read or write.)
  • But, as Microsoft, Google, and many AI apps and extensions now provide, humans don’t have to read anything–other than the summaries generated by AI. Anything written–especially if “TLDR“–can be converted into summaries by AI.

Why waste the time struggling reading difficult or lengthy materials if ChatGPT can reduce it to bullet points?

  • Now let’s discuss human writing. ChatGPT and generative AI are probably even more impressive in writing instead of just summarizing. I’ve read the writings and work product of hundreds of students. In my view, ChatGPT is already writing at a level that would place it among the top writers, if not the top writer, of the classes I taught.
  • Others have also recognized the level of writing is better than “most middle managers.”

I am no Luddite but…

  • As an educator, author, and avid reader, I have growing concerns. I love technology, but not if it supplants human analysis, creativity, and insight.
  • I’m far more impressed and far more worried by ChatGPT’s exponential growth than Harvard’s Steven Pinker was on Feb. 14.
  • If humans don’t need to read any work or content that is complex or lengthy (but instead can get a ChatGPT summary of it), I fear the analytical skills of humans will atrophy.
  • The same with writing. Writing a bunch of prompts or directions to ChatGPT or AI to write something that AI generates isn’t the same as humans writing original content on their own without AI assistance. When a human writes, the precise wording, sentences, and paragraphs require the human’s choices and intellectual thought.
  • By contrast, when a human prompts ChatGPT to write, none of the wording, sentences, or paragraphs requires the human’s choices or intellect at all. It’s almost as simple as ordering food to be delivered on Instacart. The food was prepared by someone else.

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