If you read my blogs kinda regularly, you know that one of the things that is important to me, is that writing is easy to read – and understand. In my last post after dabbling with ChatGPT, I said I’d delve a little deeper into what it yields. I experimented, comparing human and ChatGPT generated copy. Before I begin, and in case you’ve been under a rock:
What is ChatGPT?
This is what OpenAI’s website says about its own product:
We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.
What that short answer doesn’t say is that the model which, everybody’s referring to as the chatbot, has been trained. In writing all over the interweb – up to 2021. Teachers and education institutions are rightly concerned that free access will intensify the cheating scourge. And plagiarism.
A mixed blessing
This will have, I’m happy to say, a significant impact on assignment mills. If you don’t believe they exist, trust me, they do. Via not just this website and other online platforms on which I have profiles, I have been approached to write students’ assignments. This I will not do, and I say so, here. So, clearly those students are illiterate and need help. Based on my homework, that help, however, is neither me nor ChatGPT.
Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a series of articles on menstruation and period pain. The particular client and the topic, mean that what is published must meet at least the following three criteria:
- scientifically accurate – factual
- properly referenced – not only is plagiarism a no-no, sourcing our references is important for the client and the reader
- educational, engaging and easy to read
There are others but they’re not relevant to this particular exercise.
The questions I asked the chat bot were based on my brief which is to deliver factual information. Within the limits I mentioned above, I have a certain “creative” license. I did not ask the bot to tell a human interest story. Rather, I gave it the broad “headline” from which I am expected to work.
Briefs 1 and 2: Painful periods and what do do period pains feel like?
Although for the purposes of my work, these were two separate articles, for this exercise, I combined them.
The direct approach
I started by asking the bot a basic question which is below, with the answer: There is nothing inaccurate about that answer. With the requirement that I write a minimum of 500 words, that answer is a little thin. So, I literally asked – Again, there was nothing inaccurate about the information that ChatGPT delivered. Still, I was not happy.
I decided to start a new, what that platform calls, “chat” and I typed in:
Write a 500-word blog on painful periods
The full response is in the block below:
|Periods can be a painful experience for many women. Menstrual cramps, bloating, mood swings, and headaches are common symptoms experienced during a woman’s monthly cycle. While some discomfort during periods is normal, severe pain can significantly impact a woman’s daily life and routine. One of the main causes of painful periods is dysmenorrhea, which is the medical term for menstrual cramps. These cramps occur when the uterus contracts to shed its lining, leading to discomfort and pain in the lower abdominal area. Women may also experience pain in their lower back, hips, and thighs. The severity of cramps varies from woman to woman, with some experiencing only mild discomfort while others struggle with severe pain that can last for several days. Endometriosis is another condition that can cause painful periods. This is a condition where the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus grows outside of it, leading to pain and discomfort during periods. Women with endometriosis may also experience heavy bleeding, bloating, and pain during sex. Hormonal imbalances can also contribute to painful periods. When the levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone are not balanced, it can lead to irregular periods and associated discomfort. Women who are going through menopause may also experience pain during their periods as hormonal imbalances become more pronounced. In some cases, an underlying medical condition such as fibroids or adhesions can cause painful periods. Fibroids are non-cancerous growths that develop in the uterus and can cause heavy bleeding, pain, and discomfort during periods. Adhesions, on the other hand, are scar tissues that develop in the pelvic region and can cause pain during periods. To alleviate the pain associated with periods, there are several things that women can do. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be effective in reducing menstrual cramps. Heat therapy, such as using a heating pad on the lower abdominal area, can also provide relief. Exercise and physical activity can help reduce period pain and improve overall health. Women who are struggling with severe pain during periods should consider speaking with their healthcare provider to discuss treatment options. In conclusion, periods can be a painful experience for many women. While some discomfort during periods is normal, severe pain can significantly impact a woman’s daily life and routine. Understanding the underlying causes of painful periods, as well as taking steps to manage the pain, can help women feel more comfortable and in control during their monthly cycle.|
I have not simply copied and pasted the full articles that we prepared, but images of excerpts that deal with the same – or similar – questions: First: Read the full article here.Secondly: This is the opening paragraph of the article on painful periods:
Brief 3: Your first period – a matter for laughter (not really)
Clearly this is a very broad topic and I typed in that exact phrase. The result is in the screenshot below: I confess that when I saw that response, I laughed out loud. I was, to some extent, comforted.
The differences between the bot-generated copy and
my a human’s writing
Looking at the writing carefully, there are three major differences:
- The first, in my opinion, is that while the bot’s copy is scientifically correct, it’s a little less readable. That, it could be argued, is exactly because it is a matter of opinion.
- The bot does not make links between the biological function and society, noting that a woman’s first period has cultural significance in most communities. Nor can it offer comment like, for example, not wishing period pain on one’s worst enemy. I suspect the bot could be told to do that, but when you’ve spent time doing that, you might as well have written the article yourself.
- None of the pieces that the bot spat out has references. I’m not suggesting that the bot has plagiarised, but… Some would suggest it does, while others suggest not. Again, I suspect if I’d asked for sources, they’d have been provided. Again, there’s a rub: ethically and morally, I could not submit a piece of work to a client without having checked the veracity of those sources, and that they comply with their specific requirements. I might as well do the research, myself.
In reflecting on all the hype around AI generated writing, I am reminded of the fear mongering when I was doing my first teaching qualification, nearly forty years ago, and when computers were first introduced to the classroom. That fear is so last century. The computer – in all its iterations – PC, smart phone and tablet has become an essential tool for educators. Whether it’s part of the learning process or preparing for teaching and even assessment. Teachers still exist. In fact, some consider them a rare and valued commodity. Educators – off all sorts – do important work and impact our lives from shortly after birth throughout most, if not all our phases of adult life, as pre- and school teachers, lecturers, trainers, mentors and coaches. This time round, I think that some of the fears are legitimate as this article suggests – on one level. A closer read and there are clear caveats. Significant for me, and potentially other writers, is that language bots will push us out of our comfort zones to hone our skills and to think even more critically about what our writing actually says. A seminal message for me, in all the reading I’ve been doing around open AI language bots, is that they Hoover up whatever’s on the interweb, but (at the moment), cannot make value judgements about that content or what they spew out. This raises red flags. Let’s go back to the 20th century teacher-computer conundrum. If I use this analogy
- in relation to writing and AI, drawing on what I’ve read, and
- where good writing reflects nuances, emotion and tone, not to mention creative license, that are typically and only human –
Real writers have nothing to fear. On the contrary, AI could help to crack open that writer’s block. Yes, that is a thing and perhaps a topic for another day. In other contexts too, I suspect, language bots could be useful tools.
Will I use ChatGPT?
I’ve been asked this question and right now, honestly, the jury is still out. I’m not saying I won’t. I’m not saying I will. PS In doing my homework for this article, ChatGPT tells me I’ve overstayed my welcome. So, right now, I cannot. PPS When I hit publish, WordPress told me I’d done 23 revisions. If you find missing words, weird word order and typos, this is why.
Contact Fiona if you’d like her to write for you