ChatGPT and me

By: Ambeth R. Ocampo - @inquirerdotnet - Columnist/Philippine Daily Inquirer | August 11,2023 - 06:25 AM

People who fear artificial intelligence (AI) have watched too many science-fiction films about robots running a world where humans are enslaved. AI has been upon us for a long time, and it has been getting better, smarter by the day. I realized this years ago, when I received an email invitation to a dinner. When I clicked on “reply,” I did not get a blank space for a message; I was given an option to accept or decline. While most people saw this as a welcome development, it frightened me to know that Google was reading my mail.

Google has been tracking us for a long time, building an individual personal profile based on the biographical details we provide to sign in: name, birth date, gender, email address, physical address, phone number (cellular and landline), maiden name of mother or name of pet, or whatever security question option they provide. Google tracks all our searches, recording the sites we visit. It tracking every click of yes or no to build a profile based on our preferences. I would like to think Google knows more about me than my friends and family do.

To prove this to my students, I ask them to take out their devices and search for something simple like “spoon.” They compare search results and realize that these are based on their previous search history. Google is giving them results tailored to the profile it has of them. Now we have ChatGPT (generative pre-trained transformer) that creates human-like responses to queries in a chat. Should educators worry that students will use it for their term papers? Is this cheating? Plagiarism?

In my course syllabus, students submit a handwritten commitment form that states they will finish the course, and be diligent and intelligent. It now states that they will indicate use of ChatGPT in their papers, and ensure that all data and insights provided will be validated by a human person—meaning them. So far, ChatGPT sounds human-like, but doesn’t know how to vet information.

ChatGPT told Nonoy Tan that “Ambeth Ocampo” authored “banned books.” Elmer Nocheseda asked ChatGPT to describe, analyze, and define “Ambeth Ocampo” and this is what was generated:

“Ambeth Ocampo is a Filipino historian, writer, and academic who is known for his significant contributions to Philippine historiography. He has played a crucial role in popularizing and reinterpreting Philippine history through his writings and lectures. Ocampo is notable for his engaging and accessible writing style, which has made history more relatable and interesting to a wider audience.

“Description: Ambeth Ocampo was born on Aug. 13, 1961, in Quezon City, Philippines. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philippine Studies, magna cum laude, from the Ateneo de Manila University. He later pursued graduate studies at the University of the Philippines, where he obtained a master’s degree in Asean Studies and a doctorate in Philippine Studies.

“Ocampo is renowned for his work in historical research, particularly focusing on the late 19th to early 20th centuries of Philippine history. He is best known for his column, ‘Looking Back,’ which has been published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer since 1990. In this column, he offers fresh perspectives on well-known historical events, figures, and artifacts, often providing intriguing insights and debunking common misconceptions. One of Ocampo’s defining characteristics is his ability to bridge the gap between academic history and popular culture. His approachable and witty writing style has made history more approachable for the general public, sparking a renewed interest in Philippine heritage.

“In summary, Ambeth Ocampo is a prominent figure in Philippine historiography, known for his engaging writing style, insightful historical analysis, and efforts to make history more accessible to a wider audience. His work has had a lasting impact on how Filipinos perceive and engage with their own history.”

Except for the academic background, I got my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from De La Salle University, everything else can be read as a eulogy at my funeral! ChatGPT is not the enemy. If properly used, it can be a positive force in education. It teaches the responsible student how to do: research, validation and citation of sources, analysis, etc. I am not worried about it yet knowing that my search history, the basis for ChatGPT, is superior to that of my freshman student. Nothing can ever replace a human mind and heart.


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