AI & Writing

Thank you for another thoughtful conversation this week. I am happy we touched upon such a significant aspect of writing in this day and age – the question of artificial intelligence. As you all know, this topic is loaded and urgent, and I have already devoted an entire semester to this inquiry in the Spring 2023 semester (with my ENG 5085 course entitled “The Human Nature of Writing“.

Thanks to Jenny’ presentation last night, we were able to loop back briefly to this topic in order to consider the urgency of this conversation, and to think about the significance of meaning in writing. Meaning is a will or intention to connect with others, which lives beyond the “first level” or superficial acknowledgement of our own ups and downs. In seeking meaning, we recognize astounding truths that are actually universal yet profoundly unique (at once). In this sense, meaning cannot simply lie in our own feelings. Rather, meaning is the poignant reminder that we are not alone in our complex experiences of the universe, no matter how unique we are. Meaning is about connecting – and about the experiences that keep us connected to others – as we all journey through the mystery and wonder of what is human.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms might be able to provide more direct support for students, and they have the potential to empower educators to be more adaptive to learner needs. AI might allow teachers to be able to do things that have never been done before. But it is also clear that there are great risks.  The enterprise of both teaching and learning is, by nature, a shifting and dynamic terrain. But now more than ever, we must rethink our approach to how we do this work together. It is important to remember just how much these AI algorithms can be biased. They run the risk of “baking in” problematic and skewed forms of data. Artificial intelligence technologies reveal the potential to hide, speed up, or deepen discrimination (while appearing neutral or even benevolent). 

How are we going to handle ourselves around these machines? In a new world, wherein there is no intention in AI produced texts – (a machine on its own never has an intention) – what are the real stakes of writing? Maybe what is really at stake is the discernment and the credulity of the reader? What is real, for now, is that the problem of obscuring that line and blurring what’s human and what’s not, has the power to unravel society. Make no mistake, this is a game changing moment on a multitude of levels. And we will continue to discuss and “troubleshoot” what the role of these new forms of writing might play in determining our shared future.

Our class slides:

Your to do list:

Our theme for next class will be the exploration of “Voice in Writing” and also “Revision in Writing”. Please read:

Voice in Writing Again: Embracing Contraries by Peter Elbow (from Michael) & Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers by Nancy Sommers (from Max).

Please write your eight blog which should be a reflection on both voice & revision. See you in our classroom on Nov. 6th!

Happy Halloween!!

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