Professors, students unsure whether AI software is helpful, harmful

The emergence of AI software has grown immensely as professors and students are unsure if it is a useful tool or if it will harm students in the long run. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

Professors and students have mixed feelings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) software such as ChatGPT, which can be used to produce a whole essay and sound like a real human in the matter of seconds.

ChatGPT is an AI software released on Nov. 30, 2022 by an AI firm called OpenAI. It is among one of the most popular chatbot websites that students have gained awareness of. Users can plug in a topic, writing style and how they want it to sound, and then their project will be completed in seconds. Since students have been using it, Turnitin is now checking for the use of AI generated information, according to its website.

Political science professor and doctoral student Angela El-Fayez said she does think it can be a helpful tool if the software is used correctly.

“I think it can be helpful for those who struggle with writing to get them started with their papers, but it can be problematic when they are using it to write a whole essay,” she said.

El-Fayez said she tried the software herself but was disappointed in the amount of inaccurate information given about her home country of Jordan. When it would give an incorrect result, she said she would correct it, close out of the application and then try again. The results were different every time she tried it, which she said was concerning to her.

Freshman Julian Kolesar said he believes the tool can be very useful and fun, and is impressed with how much content it can produce in the matter of seconds.

“I started using it literally the day it came out and I started making poems and songs with it just to see what kind of creative elements I could get out of it. Then I realized, ‘Wow, this is insane. How can I apply this to my daily life?’” he said.

Junior mass communications major Joey Lachman said he believes it can be a useful tool, but the advanced technology it is using is scary.

“I think it can be harmful for students just because you can rely on AI to do your schoolwork instead of developing your own thoughts and skills to do it yourself,” he said.

Lachman said that if people are able to do their own original work, it will make them stand out from everyone else and it will benefit them in the long run.

El-Fayez said she thinks students can only use this software so much before it catches up to them too. The real work will always shine through and prevail over AI generated work, according to El-Fayez.

Another AI chatbot that has recently stepped into the spotlight is “MyAI friend” on Snapchat. This chatbot can also write an essay based on the information it is given by users. If students send whatever criteria they need it to cover, then it can produce an essay or piece of writing very quickly.

These technology platforms are able to sound like a real human, and people can even name a specific age for the work to imitate, according to Kolesar.

“If you say ‘Write like an angry 19-year-old college student about the problems of inequality in America,’ you’ll get a pretty angry response like a 19-year-old college student who is broke,” he said.

USF has recognized the emergence of AI and is pushing for students to use it as a tool. Individuals can take a three hour long course that teaches them about the software, and they can earn a certificate, according to the USF website.

About 69% of students across the country are worried that these AI applications will one day take the jobs of real people, according to a 2022 survey. El-Fayez said she thinks otherwise, since this has to do with the work produced by the human mind.

“When you look at the possibility of automation, I don’t think that will happen because nothing is a substitute for human contact and creativity,” El-Fayez said.