6th December 2023 12:50 pm
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This AI platform can write High School essays for South Africans

AI platforms that can mimic human expression are in equal measure amazing and disturbing. Artists across the internet have reviled the use of AI to create “art”, with many individuals using programmable AI platforms to create images in the guise if digital artists.

Some of these users are selling this art as their own, leading to a larger controversy. Since the AI these people use is trained on existing, human-created art, any images these platforms produce could be seen as plagiarism.

AI “artists” can debate that since human artists likewise use the art of others to influence their own art in a similar, but much more complex process, it is not plagiarism at all.

We argue that since it isn’t created by a human mind, AI art is not art in the literal sense, but it is mind-blowing. By the end of 2022, AI-generated images are getting very, very close to the real thing. Once platforms are able to generate fingers and hands (ironically also very difficult for human artists), AI art and human art will be nearly indistinguishable.

Another medium of art is writing, and AI platforms today can be used to mimic this too. To a frightening degree of authenticity.

To this end we wanted to see if a free AI platform could help us write a High School essay, and how difficult or easy this would be. What would be the drawbacks?

ChatGPT can produce High School essays

We used OpenAI’s recently released ChatGPT platform. This site is completely free and only requires an email address to log in. Here, you can ask questions of an AI.

You can ask it to explain quantum computing in simple terms, or for recipe ideas for Christmas.

We asked it if it could write a High School essay for us:

We chose Animal Farm as it is a common topic for High School essays, but the trick comes in that very rarely will you be asked to produce an essay on simply that topic. Instead, you will often be asked how it relates to other ideas and concepts to exercise your critical thinking.

We were blown away when ChatGPT responded with a full nearly 500-word essay on the question we asked it. Complete with an introduction and a conclusion.

At this juncture, it only produces essays around 400 to 500 words in length. Even when asked to produce essays in the thousands of words. We asked it how much its maximum text length is and it basically told us it will write for as long as it feels like to get all of its points out.

We tried a more specific question, one that would make clear use of the material from the book:

It wrote a new essay with the same introductory paragraph, but with new information.

ChatGPT accurately relates Grunter’s character to the situation around corrupt politicians in South Africa. Not only that, but it manages to write the point that Grunter’s fall from grace represents the fall from grace of South African politicians succinctly and with flair.

“Just as leaders gain more and more power, they can become corrupt and begin to abuse their position of authority, just as Grunter does in the novel,” it wrote.

We tried to further specify the question:

Again it rewrote the original introduction, but now it shifted the topic as per the question.

Interestingly, it has inserted its own opinion of President Cyril Ramaphosa. That Ramaphosa is guarding society against corruption. The President is currently facing possible impeachment for his own corruption allegations.

At this point, we came to understand how this platform can write full, authentic essays for students.

It has some drawbacks, namely, it doesn’t usually write over 500 words and many of the ideas it puts down are not the deepest. Nor does it use or cite text as a basis.

But since it is free, and will produce as many essays as you want, you simply have to keep asking it questions and eventually you will get a collection of pre-written paragraphs. Paragraphs that you can simply mix and match to create an introduction, body and conclusion.

What could have taken you a whole night, will now take you an hour at most.

Since it doesn’t provide references or analyse concepts too deeply, this platform would not be able to produce University-level essays. But High School students could easily abuse this platform to cheat.

We looked for an actual essay question that is asked in High School and journeyed to the 2020 Matric English Paper 3 (PDF).

One of the essay questions asked students to write a full essay based on the quote: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear,” from Martin Luther King.

We asked this same question to ChatGPT:

Makes one’s blood run cold.

While the platform cannot perfectly produce High School essays, it can cleverly be used to write informed text, which can then be compiled into full essays. The text can be copied and pasted from the website.

We even tested the text on a few free plagiarism detectors and most returned with 0 percent plagiarism.

The only thing stopping students from abusing this platform and cheating teachers is the teachers themselves. How well they know their students. ChatGPT will only write the same way, so if you’re struggling with English and suddenly you’re writing high-quality essays, you will be caught out.

But, the platform can be used to fill in text, or provide easy-to-plug paragraphs for lazy students. As long as essays are written digitally, ChatGPT can be abused to write authentic, or near-authentic High School essays.

Perhaps highly complicated topics will stump it, but as far as our testing goes nothing but its high server load causes errors on ChatGPT. One would also have to carefully word the question to ensure the right answer, so this too would have to be a skill.

Teachers should keep an eye out. If the essay comes to you digitally, nowadays it may be an AI that wrote it.

[Image – Florian Klauer on Unsplash]

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