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The AI Conundrum



Let’s talk about AI and writers.


AI/ChatGPT are all the rage. In case you have been living a happy life using your flip phone and getting up to change the channel on your television, I’ll explain. 


AI can rewrite a non-existent episode of Seinfeld using all the right characters with each of their quirky personalities correctly. AI can then rewrite that new episode and change all of their language to Shakespearean while also in keeping with their distinct personalities.


Here we go:


Title: "The Emoji Conundrum"

INT. JERRY'S APARTMENT - DAY

Jerry is sitting on the couch, browsing his phone.

JERRY:

(looking puzzled)

What is the deal with emojis? I mean, can we really express complex emotions with tiny, yellow faces?

ELAINE:

(sitting at the table, scrolling through her phone)

I don't know, Jerry. Sometimes a thumbs up is all you need.

KRAMER enters, bursting through the door with a new invention - an oversized emoji mask.

KRAMER:

(introducing the mask)

Jerry, Elaine, feast your eyes on the next big thing: Emojikramer!

JERRY:

(disbelief)

Emojikramer? What's the point?

KRAMER:

(grinning)

It's the future of communication, Jerry! Instead of wasting time with words, you just put on the mask and convey your emotions instantly.

GEORGE enters, looking frustrated.

GEORGE:

(muttering)

I hate emojis. They always get me into trouble.

ELAINE:

(raising an eyebrow)

How can emojis get you into trouble?

GEORGE:

(exasperated)

I sent my boss a "laughing so hard I'm crying" emoji after he told me his cat died. Now he thinks I'm heartless.

JERRY:

(mocking)

Well, in your defense, George, your boss's cat was always stealing your lunch.

KRAMER:

(putting on the Emojikramer mask)

You see, Jerry? Emojis eliminate misunderstandings. Watch this.

Kramer starts using exaggerated emoji gestures, attempting to communicate without words.

ELAINE:

(confused)

Kramer, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

KRAMER:

(grinning)

That's the beauty of it! It's open to interpretation. Like modern art.

Jerry's phone rings, and he answers.

JERRY:

(on the phone)

Hello? Oh, hey, Newman. What's up?

NEWMAN (voiceover):

(angry)

You sent me a thumbs down emoji! What's the meaning of this?

JERRY:

(defending himself)

Newman, it was a pocket text. I didn't mean anything by it.

NEWMAN (voiceover):

(suspicious)

A likely story, Seinfeld.

Elaine laughs, and George shakes his head.

EXT. MONK'S CAFE - LATER

The gang sits at their usual booth, still discussing emojis.

JERRY:

(smirking)

Maybe we should just stick to words. You know, the good old-fashioned way.

KRAMER:

(disappointed)

You're just not embracing progress, Jerry.

The waitress approaches, and George nervously tries to order using emojis, causing more confusion.

WAITRESS:

(irritated)

Are you ordering food or casting a spell?

The gang bursts into laughter as George struggles with his emoji order.

FADE OUT.


Now I’ve asked ChatGPT to rewrite the scene having characters use Shakespearean language:


Title: "The Bard's Befuddlement"

INT. JERRY'S APARTMENT - DAY

Jerry sits upon yon couch, perusing his mobile device.

JERRY:

(looking puzzled)

What ho! What manner of sorcery be emojis? Can we verily express intricate emotions with minuscule, yellow visages?

ELAINE:

(sitting at yon table, scrolling through her phone)

I know not, Jerry. Sometimes a thumbs up doth suffice.

Entereth KRAMER, bursting through the door with a novel invention - an oversized emoji mask.

KRAMER:

(introducing the mask)

Jerry, Elaine, feast your orbs on the next grand thing: Emojikramer!

JERRY:

(disbelief)

Emojikramer? What folly is this?

KRAMER:

(grinning)

'Tis the future of communication, Jerry! Instead of wasting breath with words, don the mask and convey thy emotions instantly.

GEORGE enters, looking vexed.

GEORGE:

(muttering)

I hate emojis. They forever entangle me in miseries.

ELAINE:

(raising an eyebrow)

How can emojis bring thee trouble?

GEORGE:

(exasperated)

I sent mine boss a "laughing so hard I'm crying" emoji after he told me his cat hath perished. Now he thinks I'm heartless.

JERRY:

(mocking)

In thy defense, George, thy boss's cat was a rascal stealing thy lunch.

KRAMER:

(putting on the Emojikramer mask)

Behold, Jerry! Emojis eradicate misunderstandings. Observe.

Kramer starteth using exaggerated emoji gestures, seeking to communicate sans words.

ELAINE:

(confused)

Kramer, I comprehend not what thou art trying to convey.

KRAMER:

(grinning)

That's the beauty of it! 'Tis open to interpretation. Like modern art.

Jerry's phone rings, and he answers.

JERRY:

(on the phone)

Hail? Oh, hey, Newman. What tidings?

NEWMAN (voiceover):

(angry)

Thou sent me a thumbs down emoji! What meaning lies behind this?

JERRY:

(defending himself)

Newman, 'twas a pocket text. I meant naught by it.

NEWMAN (voiceover):

(suspicious)

A likely tale, Seinfeld.

Elaine laughs, and George shakes his head.

EXT. MONK'S CAFE - LATER

The gang sits at their customary booth, still discussing emojis.

JERRY:

(smirking)

Mayhap we should stick to words. Thou knowest, the good old-fashioned way.

KRAMER:

(disappointed)

Thou art not embracing progress, Jerry.

The waitress approaches, and George nervously attempts to order using emojis, causing more confusion.

WAITRESS:

(irritated)

Art thou ordering victuals or casting a spell?

The gang bursts into laughter as George struggles with his emoji order.

FADE OUT.


And I did this in a matter of less than 30 seconds. 


What does this mean for writing, writers, and students/teachers of writing? It does leave us with a lot more questions than answers, but there are a few things that are important to consider both positive and negative. Let’s address one glaring issue: plagiarism. 


The writing and research world has come a long way since the early origins of legally protecting intellectual property. With the invention of the printing press around 1440, it became more apparent that laws were needed to assuage concerns about unauthorized reproduction and distribution of works. The onslaught of AI has tipped that on its head and from where I’m standing, it seems to be spiraling out of control.  If I chose to produce that episode of Seinfeld, who do I cite? To whom do I give credit? In the secondary classroom I just tell my students that if they use a source to create their content, they will be protected by citing it in a standard research format.


But AI is different. AI grabs content from all of the web. Every word that has been recorded or memorialized by keystroke is all gleaned from to compile something like the episode of Seinfeld called “The Emoji Conundrum.” AI does this without citing anyone at all. And users (currently) can use it--without citing anyone at all.


On December 27, 2023 The New York Times announced a lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement alleging that the platform has used its material without permission. The lawsuit exposes a much bigger question regarding the protection of all intellectual property that AI uses to spit out its content. Are all protections lost? Is everything anyone has ever posted onto a digital platform now considered “fair use”?

Another question is how can students safely use AI for writing? And is there a difference between how a third grader can and should use it and how a graduate student can and should use it? 


Here is an example of a prompt third grade students might receive from their teacher: "Imagine you are one of the characters from Charlotte’s Web. Write an essay describing a day in your life, sharing details about your surroundings, your friends or family, and the adventures you have. Use specific examples from the book to support your ideas. Be sure to explain how the events in the book make you feel and how they have changed you as a character." 


A clever third grader will take about 17 seconds to have AI respond: 


Title: A Day in Wilbur's Life


Hello, I'm Wilbur, the pig from Zuckerman's farm. Let me tell you about a special day in my life. My barn is cozy, and I have the best friends and family.

In the morning, I wake up to the warm sun and chat with my friend Charlotte, the clever spider. My family, Mr. and Mrs. Zuckerman, takes care of me, and I feel safe and happy with them.


My barn is lively with friends like Templeton, the grumpy rat, and other animals. We play games, have races, and sometimes, we roll in the mud, which is so much fun!

One special adventure was when Charlotte wrote "Some Pig" in her web. It made me feel important, and people came from town to see me. But there were sad times too when Charlotte had to leave. I learned the importance of friendship and being there for each other.


In conclusion, life on the farm is an adventure. From morning chats with Charlotte to playing with friends, each day is special. The ups and downs taught me to appreciate my family and friends even more. I'm a grateful pig with a lot of love in my heart.


And, at this point, there’s no way to confirm with 100% certainty that the student writer had assistance writing. There are AI checkers, but they don’t claim to be 100% certain. That being said, if this is available, then what is the purpose of assigning a written assignment as it is? Schooling began as reading-focused and has shifted to writing-focused. Does the advent of AI mean a shift back to reading-focused?


Of course a tech-savvy teacher can easily eyeball AI assistance. For now. But with each passing day, AI gets smarter and smarter. Teachers and writers are indeed faced with a definite conundrum. 






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