Akim Reinhardt’s Plagiarized 3QD Essay

by Akim Reinhardt and GPTChatbot

Computers in the 1950s - History-ComputerA 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.] Read more »

Plagiarism in the Era of AI

by Akim Reinhardt

2001: A Space Odyssey's HAL 9000 Was Originally a Female | Smart News| Smithsonian Magazine

The ChatGPT Bot has changed everything! That’s the basic vibe I’m getting from frantic press reports, early return think pieces, and even public-facing academicians. Specifically, this new, free AI software, only a few weeks old and still improving, is already churning out high school-quality essays on just about any subject a teacher might assign, and it now stands as a real threat to the very concept of high school and even college term papers.

As a History professor myself, I suppose I should be duly panicked. However, I don’t see the rise of the bot as something to fear or even resent. That’s not to say there isn’t cause for concern. There absolutely is, and adjustments are required.  But my own personal history leads me to see charlatanism as something you simply have to deal with. Growing up in New York City, we learned to dodge it from a young age, with an understanding that it was up to us to spot it. Suckers may not deserve to get taken in a sidewalk game of Three Card Monty, as hustlers love to claim, thereby muddying their own immorality. However, even if the victims are to be pitied, suckers fill an ecological niche: they function as an object lesson to the rest of us: Don’t be like them. Don’t be a chump. I also wasn’t a very good undergraduate college student, though I didn’t cheat (too much pride, not enough giving a shit).

Add it all up, and I’m primed to stop cheaters. I know how a lazy student thinks, and I’m always on the alert, guarding against getting taken. I’ve also been designing and grading college student assignments for close to a quarter-century. So for me, this new AI bot is not scarey, or even revolutionary. It’s just the latest con for those who would seek to dupe me out of my most prized professional possession: passing grades. A quick rundown shows how the academic bunko game has changed just in my time as a professor. Read more »