by Akim Reinhardt and GPTChatbot
A couple months back, I wrote an open letter to fellow professors. Don’t panic, I said. Yes, new crops of student plagiarism bound are sprout in the fertile fields of free, online AI software. But it’ll be alright. Here’s how to adjust.
Then it occurred to me: Why should students have all the fun? I can now plagiarize just as easily as they can. So I decided to have the GPT Chatbot write my monthly 3QD column and see what we get.
First I established that the chatbot could identify 3QD, and me as one of its contributers. It thinks I’m a writer (yes), journalist (eh), and editor (not really). No mention of me being a historian, a professor, or man of dubious character. It claims I’ve written for the Washington Post and the Guardian; the truth is I’ve been interviewed by those news outlets, but never written for them.
Then I asked it to write a thousand word essay. Not counting its disclaimer, the GPT Chatbot pumped out just over half that (590 words). That essay follows. I graded it and have marked it up [my comments are red and in squared brackets, like so]. Let’s see how we did.
Prompt: Write a 1000 word essay in the style of 3 Quarks Daily writer Akim Reinhardt
Response: Note: As an AI language model, I can generate text in the style of Akim Reinhardt, but the content and opinions expressed in the essay are purely generated by AI and do not reflect the views of any human writer.
The Uncertain Future of Democracy in the United States
The United States of America has long been regarded as a beacon of democracy in the world, a shining example of a free and open society that values individual rights and liberties [By some; others have long criticized it for not living up to its vaunted values. Also, a punchier lede would help]. However, recent years have seen a troubling erosion of democratic norms and institutions in the country, raising questions about the future of democracy in the US. [Does it represent an absolute descent or a regression to the norm? In retrospect, 1968–2000 may have been a highpoint for U.S. democracy, preceded and now proceeded by numerous attempts, both legal and corrupt, to limit the franchise and thwart the will of the majority.]
One of the key challenges facing American democracy is the increasing polarization and partisanship of the political landscape. [Good! Obvious, but good.] In recent decades, the country has become more divided along ideological and partisan lines, with Republicans and Democrats increasingly viewing each other as enemies rather than political opponents [Yes, but why? I would probably babble on for several paragraphs about the history of these divisions and the factors now exacerbating them]. This has led to a breakdown in civility [Fuck civility] and compromise [Yeah, that’s a key one in a democracy.], as well as a growing sense of political tribalism [As a professor of Native American history, I find “tribalism” in this context to be a very problematic word.] that threatens to undermine democratic norms and institutions.
Another major threat to American democracy is the rise of authoritarianism and populism [Amen]. The 2016 election of Donald Trump, a populist candidate who openly flouted democratic norms and institutions, was a wake-up call for many Americans and people around the world. Trump’s presidency was marked by attacks on the press, the judiciary, and other key institutions of democracy, as well as a willingness to use his power for personal gain and to intimidate political opponents.
While Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election was a relief to many, the forces that fueled his rise to power have not gone away. In fact, they continue to be a potent force in American politics, fueled [Your repetition of “fueled” and “force” is lazy writing] by a sense of grievance and resentment among many conservative and working-class Americans who feel left behind by the rapid changes of the 21st century. [This is simplistic and incomplete. Many hardcore Conservatives support Tump, despite not liking him, because he will support their culturally conservative and tax-slashing priorities. Furthermore, many Trump supporters have not been left behind economically, but are middle class or better suburbanites and exurbanites. And most poor and working class American voters still vote Democrat, when they vote, particularly minorities and to a lesser extent women. The resentments Trump champions are often more rhetorical than material, and his rhetoric is specifically designed to appeal to white Judeo-Christian voters who are unhappy about the civil rights gains of black and brown people and are opposed to Latin American, ie. brown-skinned, Spanish-speaking immigration. This, despite most of his supporters not competing with those immigrants for jobs, and not having substantial interactions with black or brown people. Finally, Trump’s anti-elite rhetoric appeals not only to people who’ve been “left behind,” but who resent the cultural capital accumulated by highly educated white collar workers, whereas his anti-media broadsides are a crude, but effective effort to simply undermine narratives that are rightly critical of him. Thus, the main dividing lines among supporters and opponents are race, followed by gender and formal education.]
At the same time, the US [U.S. not US] is facing a host of other challenges that are putting pressure on its democratic institutions. These include rising economic inequality, demographic changes, and the threat of global pandemics and climate change. [All of these issues are real, but I don’t see how they directly “put pressure on democratic institutions.” Seems like a reach. File under: plausible but unexplained.] All of these challenges require strong and effective government action [Demographic changes, such as the aging of Boomers and the ascendance of Millennials, “require strong and effective government actions”? That’s silly. Are you alluding to immigration policy? Be more specific.], but the US political system has become increasingly dysfunctional and gridlocked, making it difficult to address these [or most any other] issues in a meaningful way.
The future of American democracy is uncertain, but there are some steps that [Americans] can
be tak en to strengthen its institutions and ensure its survival. One of the most important is to restore a sense of civility [Ha!] and compromise [Yes] to American politics. This will require leaders on both sides of the aisle to reach across the divide and find common ground on issues of importance to all Americans. [Bullshit. Most Republican politicians are far less willing to compromise than Democrats, having graduated from stubborn obstructionism to populist authoritarianism. Re-establishing functional democracy will require Republican voters to become de-radicalized and begin electing non-radical politicians who are willing to compromise instead of gain and exercise power at any and all costs, which is perhaps the main symptom of our eroding democracy.]
Another key step is to strengthen democratic institutions and norms, such as the rule of law [Yes, and begin by holding criminal politicians accountable], an independent judiciary [Yes], and a free and independent press [This is simplistic. Propagandistic garbage such as Newsmax and Fox News is “free and independent;” or at least as independent as one is likely to find in a society throughly dominated by corporate capitalism.]. These institutions are essential for holding government officials accountable and ensuring that power is not abused for personal gain or political ends.
Finally, it is essential to address the root causes of political polarization and partisanship in the US [You’re goddamned right is. And again, U.S., not US. It’s the abbreviation of a name, not short for THIS IS US.]. This will require a concerted effort to bridge the gap between different groups of Americans [by de-radicalizing right wing discourse and welcoming Republican voters back to the edges of rationality], to address the underlying economic and social issues that are driving division [This is mostly a discursive issue; growing economic inequality is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but it feeds right wing radicalization very indirectly, if at all], and to promote a sense of common purpose and national identity [Careful, right wingers are already promoting a sense of common purpose and national identity; it just happens to be a very fucked up one.].
In conclusion, the future of American democracy is uncertain, but it is not inevitable. There are steps that can be taken to strengthen its institutions and ensure its survival in the face of growing threats. By restoring civility and compromise to American politics, strengthening democratic institutions and norms, and addressing the underlying causes of polarization and partisanship, we can build a more robust and resilient democracy that can withstand the challenges of the 21st century.
Comments: Let’s start with the positive; it’s always good to start with the positive when you’re hammering a student’s work, even if that student is lifeless string of computer code. This essay is well organized, with very well written prose, and a lot of clear theses. But where’s the evidence? You don’t seem to offer any. Without it, the essay amounts to pile of I believe this and I think that. It’s a box wrapped up in pretty paper with nothing inside it. Consequently, when I find some of your contentions unconvincing and even unlikely, the default is to simply refute them because you’ve offered no proof to back any of them up.
The great irony here, is that you are engaging in a similar style of general discourse, though infinitely more politely and eloquently, as is Donald Trump in his assaults on democracy. True, you are not spouting out-and-out lies, and that’s a very important difference. But similar to Trump, you are making assertions, offering no evidence to back them up, and expecting people to believe them simply because you say so. Of course you are not a socio/psychopath like Trump, and you might even have more self-awareness, artificial though it may be. However, we can’t simply take your word for it when it comes to complex analyses of America’s crumbling democracy. In the end, you and Trump are both colorful gift boxes. Yours is expertly wrapped in a seasonal holiday paper. His, in garish, glossy gold wrapping, is unevenly cut and poorly folded and taped. Inside of yours is nothing. Inside of his is a steaming pile of horse shit.
I realize a C+ on this assignment sets your class grade back, so I’ll let you to try again. You can earn extra credit by answering the following prompt.
Dear Computer: Can you save us?
Akim Reinhardt’s website, riddled with human error, is ThePublicProfessor.com