Sunday, July 30, 2023

Another problem with CHATgpt

 I was giving a recruiting talk for my REU program and I had some slides with testimonials from students:



This REU experience was greatly beneficial in expanding my knowledge and experience with machine learning. Dr. Gasarch, the mentors, my team, and the professors were all very supportive and encouraging, and I learned so much from them over the course of the program. The program was a perfect way to explore different research aspects and allow me to get a better idea of how research is conducted. I am very thankful for this experience.


The experience of REU CAAR was excellent. I participated in some research before, yet this is the first time for me to do research in a group, which was great!

Though auction design as a topic was not familiar to me before, I learned it by reading several papers. Our program includes both mathematical and computer science components. That is nice as I am interested in both, and our group members divided the work so we all worked on stuff we cared about.

Aside from the research, the lunches and talks were interesting. Thanks to Professor Gasarch, his helper Auguste,  and all the mentors. I would recommend it to anyone interested in computer science or mathematics.

The students laughed and all said 

Those are obviously produced by CHAT-GPT.

They weren't. In fact, they were emailed to me by students in August 2022 before CHAT-GPT was a thing. I told the audience that; however,  I doubt they believed me and I didn't want to dwell on the point. The more you say its not CHAT-GPT, the more it sounds like it is.

This incident is minor. But it portends a bigger problem: Will everything be suspect? How do you prove something was not produced by CHAT-GPT? For some things that might not matter, but for testimonials it matters that it's from a human being.  For what other writings is it important that they came from a human being?  Here are some examples and counterexamples and questions

1) A witness to a crime has his written statement done by CHAT-GPT. IF its just helping him write up what he really saw, thats fine(?).  IAMNAL (I am not a lawyer)

2) You writes a novel but its later found out that its by CHAT-GPT. IF you are  up front about this on the cover of the book AND the novel is good, I see no problem with this. But what about the other way around- it really IS written by you  but nobody believes you. And if nobody cares then it will be
even harder to convince people that it was written by you. Imagine the following:

AUDIENCE: The novel was clearly written by a CHAT-GPT, but that's fine since it was a great novel and you provided the input.

YOU: No, It really was written by me.

AUDIENCE: (annoyed) whatever you say. 

3) When a celebrity writes a book we just assume it was ghostwritten (I do anyway). And I don't care--- all I care about is if the book is good or bad. But ghostwriters cost money. CHAT-GPT will allow us all to have ghostwriters. But I am thinking of the other direction: If a writer (celeb or not) actually writes a book without a ghostwriter or CHAT-GPT, it would be hard to convince us of that. 

4) I wonder if the number of times it matters that it was no CHAT-GPT is small and getting smaller. 


  1. convince of us that -> convince us of that.

    Personally, I'm hopeful that the garbage that comes out of ChatGPT will make more people realize how important careful and accurate and thoughtful writing is.

    The distopian view would be that as ChatGPT output becomes more common and ChatGPT has only it's own garbage to work with, the human race becomes as illiterate as rats. (E.g., no one needs substack any more, so the incorrect programming examples start to outnumber the correct ones.)

    1. The text that GPT generates unfortunately mirrors an intrinsic human deficiency to regurgitate bullshit as is clear from the enormous labor that people have dedicated (who were clearly labouring under duress as chattels of someone else weilding extreme violence and cruelty) to creating artefacts displayed proudly in musuems, in tomes and on walls and within shrines from all different "civil"izations (however "un"civil they were in the current context).
      Humans are certainly making progress towards rationalization but old habits die hard.

    2. This is a reply to both comments.
      1) thanks for corrections. I wonder if bad spelling and grammar makes a post seem LESS like CHATGPT or MORE like CHATGPT.

      2) AH- the fault lies in the testimonials being so generic and content free. I don't know how to fix that. Ask the students to put in more personal stuff? Not sure I want to tamper with or influence their testimonials.