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A Pocket Archive (23)

I squinted at the screen, then chuckled in disbelief at the glowing text on the screen. What in the chatgtp was this drivel?

Content aside, the message was so poorly written that it made a very specific part of my editorial brain itch in a way that made me half-mad for want of a red pen. Even worse, someone was clearly very proud of it. At least the spelling was right this time, but autocorrect is a poor substitute for a proofreader. Hopefully it was just the unpolished prose of an AI. if not, well...

I sighed, took a screenshot, then forwarded it to my writing group. The replies were almost instantaneous and a moment later, my pocket felt as though there were a beehive in it. I hummed softly to myself and filled the electric kettle, nearly stepping on a cat in the process. Tea always goes well with 'tea', especially on rainy days.

I scooped up a protesting cat, then settled on the couch with a blanket, balancing a steaming mug on my knee. When I retrieved my phone, I instantly regretted taking a sip first, because hot chamomile almost came spurting out my nose as I read the comments flashing on the screen. I had definitely found my tribe. Writers, especially clever ones, are uproarious together and more savage than master artists at a Russian art critique. My own thumbs began flying across the screen in response and I felt some of the heaviness lift from the room as I laughed. Eventually, I tossed the phone into a nearby chair and collapsed into the pillows, pinching the bridge of my nose between my thumb and forefinger in exasperation. S. was right- if a real person had drafted that note, then that individual was clearly unhinged and desperately needed to be institutionalized. Regardless of whether the message was A.I. generated or not, however, it definitely made me glad I wasn't teaching at the moment. I couldn't imagine navigating that world in an academic setting.

I have very mixed feelings about AI. In one regard, it's impressive, even in the early stages, but everything it produces feels a little bit off, kind of like a digital skinwalker, and it never quite does what you want. It's definitely fun to play with (For example, J. and I spent over an hour trying to prompt it to place a mustache on a snail in a MetaVerse chat), but I doubt it will ever be able to accurately replicate or replace the role of real people's creativity. At the same time, maybe we're reaching a point where it's going to be impossible to know what's real and what isn't. As technology advances, perhaps it will become a crutch and no one will have to produce anything anymore, so our own intelligence will atrophy and become artificial as a result.

The only way I can imagine graders or educators could definitively prevent plagiarism or cheating would be to have in-person, hand-written exams and essays. I already don't like the idea of my kid going through the current education system, but there is absolutely no way she's going to if by that point everything is digital. Are we already at the point that you can chatgtp your way through school? Not to mention the problem with internet creeps, especially since they prey on kids more and the internet gives them more access. Angry uncles and grandfathers with shotguns are more than adequate physical protection, and it would be a while before I would really have to worry about anything, but internet safety is a whole different ballgame. And yet, I don't like the idea of social or technological isolation. So how does one shield their kids from threats while simultaneously not stunting them?

I pulled the blanket over my head and closed my eyes. I was starting to get a headache. Hopefully I was just over-thinking again. AI was undeniably cool, but carried an almost palpable sense of danger with it. It definitely makes me feel lucky that I was born when I was, because it would never be my "normal". Sometimes it feels like the tail end of the 90's was the last truly "happy" space before everything became complicated, even though millennials remain notoriously cynical (though arguably rightly so). The latest waves were not so lucky. Then again, maybe I'm just getting into my "old, overly-critical-of-the-new-generation" phase. I hope not, but everyone gets there eventually.

Feeling suddenly nostalgic, I got up and logged into Netflix before texting the giant, who replied with a quick "omw". Perhaps some 90's sitcoms over a shared bag of popcorn was just the distraction I needed.


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