Artificial Intelligence: Why I’m not worried yet

Prompt by Ashton Weiss, image generated by Midjourney AI.
(Illustration by: Ashton Weiss)
Prompt by Ashton Weiss, image generated by Midjourney AI. (Illustration by: Ashton Weiss)

The following two paragraphs were written by ChatGPT in response to the prompt: “Write two paragraphs about how AI will be received and dealt with at Southern Adventist University.”

“It is likely that the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) at Southern Adventist University will be met with a mix of excitement and skepticism. On one hand, the university community will likely recognize the potential benefits of using AI in areas such as research, education, and administrative tasks. For example, AI could be used to analyze large data sets, assist with personalized learning, and automate repetitive tasks. On the other hand, there may be concerns about the potential negative impacts of AI on jobs and privacy.

To address these concerns, it is important for the university to have open and transparent communication about the use of AI on campus. This could involve educating the community about the capabilities and limitations of AI, as well as outlining clear guidelines for its use. Additionally, the university should actively involve students, faculty, and staff in the decision-making process for implementing AI, to ensure that any concerns are heard and addressed. By taking a proactive and inclusive approach, Southern Adventist University can effectively navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by AI.”

It sounds a little like filler material for a class essay combined with a monotone public transit announcement, but then, I mean, so do a lot of the papers I turn in. This particular response feels “objective,” impersonal, federal, as if this collective human product has the potential to come closer to the truths most of us believe because it paves over the idiosyncrasies, the troubled childhoods and radical philosophies — when it doesn’t snag on them. 

It’s general, and it covers its bases, addressing concerns and taking few risks while it optimistically touts its helpfulness. It’s a little difficult not to anthropomorphize the “author,” giving “it” (as if it were a single being) a name like Hal or Sonny, but why wouldn’t it be? It uses the language of the anthropoi — it’s ultra-human, in one sense.

But what do AI programs mean for us, college students pursuing our studies with ChatGPT’s presence humming away in the background when we are assigned essay prompts or coding tasks, as people are about to graduate into a world that might just realize it doesn’t need us for what we’ve spent all this time learning? It’s scary, frankly, and American sci-fi has been telling us for decades that we should be afraid.

As someone who enjoys art and writing, I have cause to be worried about how this will affect my work. But I’m not really, at least not yet. The process of creating what I do is not separate from the “product,” for me. Artist Makoto Fukimura finds the process of creating inherently fundamental: “Our sense of beauty and creativity are central to what it means to be made in the image of a creative God.”  

A given object or image I have made has a history, and the more involved with it I am, the more I am a part of it and it a part of me. We don’t stop creating because we have more time-efficient means of developing end results to consume — I didn’t take ceramics class last semester because I can’t buy tea mugs from Etsy or any other given store. I personally do not use AI programs for my schoolwork because that feels to me like a shortsighted, tragic waste of the money I pay for my education.

I have a lot of hope that people will continue to value work in any discipline that was created entirely by a human (using relevant materials), though the type of work might alter. But I also think there is a lot of room for collaborating with AI programs, for building off of human creativity and sifting through ways to alleviate the world’s myriad of problems. I look forward to watching it evolve and revolutionize how things are done — we may be forced to become even more original and creative.

But I also remember that in the very best futuristic sci-fi, the humans have usually successfully created AI and then eventually exterminated it when it began to get out of control. I’ll be curious to see if the humanity of reality ever comes to a similar conclusion. 

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