ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence (AI) language model chatbot launched by OpenAI in November 2022, has immediately demonstrated its amazing ability to produce coherent and, apparently, genuine pieces of writing. However, this impressive program has simultaneously opened the door to a lively debate about deepfake authorship.
The main worry is focusing on ChatGPT's potential to generate fake but seemingly credible news. Some commentators were also quick to worry about the toll that AI-supported plagiarism could cause in the education sector because it may become extremely difficult for teachers to detect bot-generated text. "The college essay is dead," wrote the Atlantic.
Nevertheless, this prediction is unlikely since there are several workarounds. For instance, even computer-equipped students would be unable to benefit from ChatGPT if they were required to write in class without an internet connection. An even better solution would be simply requiring them to write essays by hand - a process that could benefit them in many ways.
Neuroscience research has discovered that, to the human brain, handwriting is very different from typing letters on a keyboard. Handwriting requires the use of precise motor skills, which boost activity in various areas of the brain, unlike machine typing. Letter-specific motor skills engage our brains in ways linked to learning and memory development. This stimulation can be beneficial even when a writer is only copying AI-written text by hand.
“Handwriting forces those areas responsible for memory and learning to communicate with each other, which helps form networks that can make it easier to recall or learn new information,” said Audrey van der Meer, professor of neuropsychology at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
Moreover, other scientists have found that longhand leads to better processing of ideas, helping students to create more original work. Actually, when it comes to essay writing, doing it by hand is fundamentally different than doing it on an electronic device. When writing by hand, we need to know, from the start, where we want to go with sentences, what we want to tell, and how we want to say it (what the structure will be). Typing on a keyboard requires much less forethought since we can dump out the contents of our minds and then hammer the text into shape later - an easier way but much less educational.
Picture: Boy writing, with sister, by Albert Anker (Wikimedia Commons)