The robots are coming

AI could change everything, including the future of writing.

Could you tell if this editorial was written by a robot? I started asking this question in mid-December right around the time my husband, Jakob was spending his evenings talking to something (someone?) who wasn’t human at all. He had discovered ChatGPT, a large language model developed by OpenAI, a company co-founded by Elon Musk.

“Have you seen this? This is going to change everything,” he shouted across the living room. “We won’t even need writers anymore!”

“Do you even know what I do for work?” I snapped back.

My curiosity eventually overcame my annoyance and I peered over Jakob’s laptop screen. In the dialogue box was a prompt that went something like this: “Give me a biblically based argument for full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church. Respond to common arguments and include Bible references.” Unfolding below were five well-organized paragraphs presenting a logical argument as requested. Threading between clearly articulated points were words of empathy and pastoral care. There was far more detail, accuracy and compassion than I expected from a robot theologian. I was amazed. I was angry. I stomped up to my desk to try to write something with my regular old human brain.

At capacity

It turns out that ChatGPT can write almost anything: a shopping list, a functioning piece of code, a resignation letter, a theologically sound sermon, a friendly cover letter, a grade seven lesson plan on volcanoes, a university entrance essay. The options are endless, even if the AI’s capacity is not. Just five days after launching at the end of November 2022, ChatGPT crashed under the weight of more than a million early adapters trying to use the website. Since then, almost every time I’ve tried to check it out, ChatGPT says it’s “at capacity.”

I’m sure these limits are frustrating for the people who’ve already incorporated this AI technology into their workflow. Jakob has experimented with using ChatGPT at his work. The text doesn’t need to be award-winning; it just needs to be clear and personable. So ChatGPT is a perfect solution for him.

Raising the bar

As hard as it is for me to admit it, I think writing as a profession will never be the same. I know that teachers and professors are scrambling to find tools to weed out ChatGPT submissions this semester (and they do exist), but that might be short-sighted. I think in five years’ time, educators will assume that students are using AI for grammar, sentence construction and even some research.

“The rudiments of writing will be considered a given,” writes high school English teacher Erik Carter in The Atlantic. Carter thinks it might level the playing field a bit. Students who get good marks will be the ones who put in the time to work with their chosen AI to get a piece of work to a more creative and cohesive standard than we currently expect from students.

He imagines a world in which cover letters are unnecessary because writing won’t tell us as much about people as it once did and somehow, that makes sense to me. Why should a skilled biologist miss out on a dream job just because their sentences are lackluster? Maybe HR departments will be forced to get more creative and ask for videos, portfolios and in-person assessments.

Robot coaches

Employers are also going to be looking for employees who know how to train AI. The handful of times I’ve tossed writing prompts into ChatGPT, I give it one attempt before I throw up my hands with a satisfied, “ha, I could do better!” Meanwhile I’ve seen Jakob show great patience to his new robot writing assistant. When he asked ChatGPT to write a 6-stanza rhyming poem to pair with a Christmas gift, he worked through five rounds of revisions

“Certainly, here is a more heartfelt version of the poem for your brother-in-law,” replied ChatGPT.
When the gift-giving night arrived, we were all surprised to find out that not only had my brother and my husband drawn each other’s names, but they’d both employed ChatGPT’s assistance for their poetry.

A free AI image generator made this graphic with the prompt of: “At a Christmas party, each person reads a poem. Two people use ChatGPT to write their poems to general amazement.”

Now you may be wondering why I still haven’t shown you any actual text created by this new robot genius writer. Maybe that’s because I’m terrified of it and can barely bring myself to launch the OpenAI landing page. Life is about to change for writing folk, for the better and for the worse. Christian author Hannah Anderson says ChatGPT signals the exit for a lot of mediocre writers. Who needs to pay content creators anymore? “AI will force us to up our game and avoid the formulaic,” tweeted Anderson. “We’ll have to ask, ‘Could a computer have written this?’ If the answer is yes, then back to the keyboard you go!”

I hope I passed the test.


  • Meghan Kort

    Meghan is Assistant Editor of Christian Courier and lives in Terrace, BC. She has a degree in History and Political Science from UNBC, but spent most of her time on campus engaging in multi-faith dialogue alongside CRC campus ministry staff. Meghan went on to do a master’s in church history, walk half the Camino, and work as a research assistant in France, before she found her calling in communications. When she’s not going for adventures with her two young kids, Meghan enjoys gardening, board games and rock climbing.

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