OpenAI’s ChatGPT’s potential impact

Owen Yu ’23 ponders the subject of mathematical intelligence as he examines Junaid Mubeen’s “Mathematical Intelligence: A Story of Human Superiority Over Machines” – Ethan Lee ’24

Artificial intelligence is nothing new. However, in this age of technology, ChatGPT, the new chatbot created by OpenAI, has quickly made a name for itself by growing faster than almost any other platform on the internet. In January, ChatGPT hit over 100 million users. In comparison, it took TikTok, a viral social media platform, over nine months to grow its user base to that size. In fact, Google searches of ChatGPT generate more than 638 million results, more interest than world-famous artists like Drake and Taylor Swift.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning involve three main steps: receiving and perceiving info, synthesizing and analyzing info, and inferring information. The last step is crucial and depends on the data set and machine learning program nuances. The program is trained by providing feedback on the inferences it makes.

ChatGPT, or Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer, is no different than the simplest of AI programs. Where it differs from other chatbots is the size of its data set, as well as the actual technology used to interpret the data set and generate text. 

ChatGPT is built off a class of machine learning called Natural Language Processing models, which are also called Large Language Models. These Large Language Models analyze large datasets of text and look for relationships between different words in the dataset. The datasets are huge: ChatGPT’s is over 500 gigabytes of pure text. In comparison, this article is only a few kilobytes of text, and a kilobyte is a million times smaller than a gigabyte. With the recent innovations in computing and graphics cards, large language models have been able to increase their capabilities over the past few years by allowing for faster and more efficient processing of data.

“I don’t want to be apocalyptic of this new technology…It is not the end of high school education or anything like that.”

Dr. Del Rosario

Using this data, ChatGPT is able to produce responses to questions by inferring the interpretation of a prompt put into the program using the Large Language Model to produce relatively natural language and using the internet to pull specific information needed to produce a response. 

Nonetheless, with its release to the public, the powerful technology of ChatGPT has found its way into classrooms across the world, including those in Wilson Hall. 

“ChatGPT is a really good tool that guys are able to use,” history teacher and Honor Council faculty advisor Mr. Jeremy Hart said. “I’ve listened to a lot of arguments that ask, ‘What’s the difference between ChatGPT and Google?’ It really just puts all the information into one spot that is digestible.”

On the other hand, math teacher Mr. Matt Ator doesn’t see much use for the new technology in his math classes. 

“I have not found it particularly useful in the math classroom so far,” Mr. Ator said. “We were doing some open-ended problems in class, and we tried to feed the questions into ChatGPT just to see what would happen. It really struggled to take the context of the problem and turn it into an answer.”

While the chatbot did spit out a numerical answer, the process to arrive at the answer was convoluted and incorrect in many ways. 

“It is probably naive of me to think this, but I don’t think that [ChatGPT] will make much of a difference in the math classroom in the way this will affect English and history classes,” Mr. Ator said. “People are going to ask ‘Why do I need to write an analysis when this can do it for me?’ Math teachers have been getting that question with calculators for years.”

With both a STEM and humanities background, Mr. Ator noted that the arrival of ChatGPT almost levels the playing field of the two disciplines.

“[ChatGPT] creates a more relatable conversation between the two disciplines,” Mr. Ator said. “In the same way that [math teachers] have been dealing with the graphing calculator, Desmos, Symbolab, there’s a more relatable thing that is affecting every class now.”

English teacher Dr. Micah Del Rosario has more of a firm stance on ChatGPT.

“I don’t like it,” Dr. Del Rosario said. “I don’t have a problem with AI inherently, more the fact that [ChatGPT] became mass available to high school students across the nation.”

Dr. Del Rosario however, does not think that the results of ChatGPT will be as bad as many are making it out to be.

“When it comes to history, it is more than just the information.”

Mr. Hart

“I don’t want to be apocalyptic of this new technology,” Dr. Del Rosario said. “It is not the end of high school education or anything like that.”

Mr. Hart agrees with this sentiment. 

“The initial reaction that everyone was really nervous that ChatGPT would end writing and research was a little overblown,” Mr. Hart said. “It is a new tool. The introduction of the internet was seen as the end of researching and here we are.” 

Dr. Del Rosario also noted the many shortcomings of the platform’s writing.

“In class, I did an exercise where I punched in the prompt ‘Write me an essay on masculinity in [The Brief Wondrous Life of] Oscar Wao,’ and what it came up with was not true for anybody that has read the book carefully,” Dr. Del Rosario said. “I then asked it to put in textual evidence, and it made up quotes.” 

The analytic aspect of ChatGPT is one of many shortcomings of the chatbot. Because of the program and methodology of machine learning, AIs can only repeat and make inferences from data given to them. 

“When it comes to history, it is more than just the information,” Mr. Hart said. “History is about the skills: knowing how to research, knowing what a good source is, building an argument, thinking about building an argument. These things are more important than the actual content.”

Dr. Del Rosario shared similar ideas.

“The human aspect of the humanities is individual critical thinking,” Dr. Del Rosario said. “Brainstorming ideas for papers is a fundamental part of English. Students will tell me that developing and defending arguments is their favorite part of this class.” 

In his classroom, Dr. Del Rosario was sure to make clear the difference between the many different uses of ChatGPT. 

“Using ChatGPT to come up with a thesis feels like plagiarism to me. I don’t care whether it came from a person or a robot. You didn’t come up with the idea yourself, and that is an ugly and hypocritical thought to me, versus just using ChatGPT to check your grammar of a paragraph,” Dr. Del Rosario said.

“Again, we want to assess student work, we want to make sure that our students are capable of doing something.”

Mr. kolade

Dean of Students Mr. Luqman Kolade also views ChatGPT as a resource for students.

“It’s a tool, like anything else,” Mr. Kolade said. “If used in the right ways, it can be beneficial. I actually suggested to a kid that if they are having trouble with any basic grammar things to use ChatGPT.”

Mr. Ator views this moment of changing technology as an opportunity to improve teaching.

“[ChatGPT] can lead everybody to a conversation about how we are asking questions so that we are acknowledging the tools that exist,” Mr. Ator said. “You have a calculator, you have ChatGPT. How can we use that to enhance your knowledge instead of making you do everything on paper. What’s the purpose in that?”

Mr. Ator also believes that AI can be an incredibly useful tool to make connections that humans would not normally make.

“As AIs develop larger databases and are able to glean more from them, you are going to have these neural networks that are able to make connections that humans haven’t,” Mr. Ator said. “We saw this with AlphaGo.”

AlphaGo was a groundbreaking AI developed to play the ancient game of Go. Before its creation, no computer program had ever defeated a professional Go player. AlphaGo accomplished this feat by using data from human matches and self-play to “solve” the game of Go, a feat previously considered impossible. This marked a significant moment in the advancement of AI and Machine Learning technology. 

“[Alpha-Go] was making moves that people were totally floored by,” Mr. Ator said. “It was able to analyze data and come up with conclusions that were not intuitive to us.”

However, there is a fine line between a tool used to improve versus a tool used to cheat.

“Some students will use shortcuts, as students have always done,” Mr. Kolade said. “Our job as educators is to assess student work, not assess ChatGPT’s work.”

ChatGPT is not a tool that creates original content: it merely recycles content from its database. 

“Again, we want to assess student work, we want to make sure that our students are capable of doing something,” Mr. Kolade said. “It is not, ‘what can a student plug into ChatGPT?’ And as such, if you submit work that is not your own, it will be treated as such.”

The Honor Council has already received cases involving the use of ChatGPT to cheat.

“When it comes to the Honor Council, the [ChatGPT] cases that we have violated question one of the Honor Code: ‘Does this action mislead or deceive?’ and question 2: ‘Does this action give me an unfair advantage?’” Mr. Hart said. 

Honor Council Chairman Ryan Davey agrees with the idea of ChatGPT being unacceptable when used to cheat.

“Bottom line, [ChatGPT] is no different from regular academic dishonesty,” Davey said. “It’s still taking work that is not your own and trying to pass it as your own. It is the expectation that you submit your own work.”

The Honor Council has treated these cases very similarly to plagiarism. 

“We don’t necessarily treat it worse than plagiarism,” Davey said. “But in my personal opinion, it almost is worse than regular plagiarism as ChatGPT is designed to hide that it’s from another author or source. It feels more dishonest.” 

Yet, students continue to experiment with ChatGPT as a tool. 

“We have creativity, the ability of estimation, the ability to work in groups, [that] sets us apart from AI.”

Mr. Ator

“I haven’t used it for school work, but I have played around with ChatGPT especially when it first came out,” Third Former Jack Ford said. “The answers it produces lack vision and a greater picture.”

Other students have used it as an appendage to their work. 

“I have used ChatGPT to complete my work and to supplement my work,” an anonymous Third Former said. “I don’t really know how it works.”

Many students do not know how this technology works.

“I know that it’s developed by OpenAI and that’s about it,” Fifth Former Render Ford said. “I don’t really see how it is different from Google and a calculator.”

With this in mind, teachers in the upper school have begun to tackle ChatGPT in their classrooms.

“Today’s ChatGPT is the Sparknotes of ten years ago,” Mr. Hart said. “It’s all about…teaching you guys to use the right tools and use the tools correctly.”

Teachers all over the upper school have discussed ChatGPT at great length in the classroom, as well as doing exercises that demonstrate ChatGPT’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Mr. Ator’s Advance Topics in Math* class has recently added a book called Mathematical Intelligence to its curriculum in order to try and bring some understanding to the closed-door nature of AI programs.

“[The book] explores the way that humans think, particularly through the lens of mathematics that inanimate AI can’t,” Mr. Ator said. “We have creativity, the ability of estimation, the ability to work in groups, [that] sets us apart from AI.”

The book was published in November of 2022 and references many of the innovations that led to the advent of ChatGPT. 

“We need to be critical of not personifying these things and saying ‘It thinks this.’ It doesn’t think,” Mr. Ator said. “It’s a database that’s kicking out information. It’s still up to us to do the thinking.”

Author: Ethan Lee '24

Ethan Lee is a Editor-in-Chief for The Index, a position he took in May 2023. He has previously held the position of Managing Editor and edited the News section of The Index. When not writing, Ethan can be found on the squash court or in a crew boat, or working on an art project.