Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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Policy on the use of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT

Posted: Sep 05, 2023 11:09;
Last Modified: Sep 05, 2023 13:09


“Chatbots” such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT represent a new type of aid for research and writing. The bots combine the power of a search engine with the ability to produce human-sounding text based on “Large Language Models.”

They are particularly powerful at synthesising search results, mimicking specific styles of writing, and editing, each of which has a place in the research workflow. They are also at the moment extremely prone to producing profound errors (known as “hallucinations”) when asked to do complex tasks: creating false events, people, books, and quotations while sounding extremely authoritative.

I use such bots (e.g. Bing and ChatGPT) in my own research and writing and I assume that many students will find them to be useful as well. At the same time, I am also responsible for the content of my research and writing — meaning that I am responsible for ensuring no hallucinations enter into my final drafts due to errors on the part of any tool or resource.

It is impossible to police (and indeed in many cases even to acknowledge) the influence of AI on student (or any) writing. At the one extreme, for example, I imagine few people would argue that an essay produced by ChatGPT to a prompt “Write me an essay on Beowulf” would be any less cheating than buying an essay from an essay site. But at the other, we do not generally forbid students from using writing tools such as spelling and grammar checkers (both of which involve the use of a different kind of AI application). So what if you ask AI to reorganise a paragraph for you or reduce the number of words in something that is too long? Or what if you ask a Chatbot to report to you what is known about a particular subject (beware: this is a place where hallucinations are frequent)?

Given the current uncertainty as to best practice in the use of generative AI in student work, my policy at the moment is to rely on the requirement that all work in my classes is submitted in good faith as the product of the student’s own intellectual efforts — i.e. the same rules I have been using with regard to all my assignments for several years. This continues to mean that





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