This is Edward Tian. He’s a 22-year old senior at Princeton University. While most of us were nursing hangovers on New Year’s Day, Tian was working feverishly on a new app to combat the abuse and misuse of ChatGPT.
Over the last couple years, he’s been researching how to detect text written by AI while working at Princeton’s Natural Language Processing Lab.
When OpenAI released ChatGPT to the public for free, it caused a stir, and students all over the world quickly cottoned onto the idea of getting AI to write their essays, dissertations and other scholarly assignments.
Despite being well versed in AI, Edward Tian was astounded by the power of ChatGPT. The bewilderment quickly turned to alarm. How many jobs will this kill? How will this disrupt our education system? What is the point of learning to write essays at school when AI, which is expected to get exponentially better in the near future, can do that for us?
The concern turned to an epiphany.
Tian decided to apply his learning to identify prose that has been written by a machine.
Tian already had the knowledge to create such a program and was able to create a new app, GPTZero, within three days. The app, ironically, uses ChatGPT against itself, checking whether “there’s zero involvement or a lot of involvement” by the AI.
Tian released his app to the world and went to bed, not expecting much reaction to it.
But when Tian woke up, his phone had exploded (figuratively, of course). He saw countless DMs from journalists, principals, teachers and investors from places as far away as Europe. His app became so popular it crashed the platform it was being hosted on.
Tian’s motivation for creating GPTZero is first and foremost transparency. “Humans deserve to know when something is written by a human or written by a machine,” he said.
One obvious application for GPTZero is to help teachers identify whether their students are plagiarising their essays from AI. Of course, there are many, especially in the tech sector, that are celebrating the power of ChatGPT. Elon Musk, one of the original co-founders of OpenAI, recently tweeted, “It’s a new world. Goodbye homework!” He would say something like that, wouldn’t he. (Genius Idiot).
There is no stopping AI, that’s for sure. But it does present some interesting quandaries. If children don’t have to develop critical thinking skills – and leave it to AI – will we become a dumber species? More worrying, will we become so reliant on AI, (because it will surely take over everything in time) that we will not know how to do anything for ourselves? Are we setting ourselves up to being ‘ruled’ by machines. Films like The Matrix and Terminator are science fiction. But we could be moving one step closer to a world where those ideas become a reality.