AI Plagiarism: Why Schools Are Banning ChatGPT

The rise of artificial intelligence is here. And it doesn’t look like Skynet, HAL 9000, or any other malevolent computer hell-bent on taking over humanity. At the tail end of 2022, AI art applications such as Lensa AI sparked debates over the ethical implementation of the technology. Now, schools are banning new software called ChatGPT that helps students write their essays for fear of AI plagiarism. Are their fears warranted?

Why is everyone suddenly concerned about AI plagiarism?

The issue at heart is artificial intelligence must use existing works to train its silicone brain to learn its task. Lensa AI came under fire because it blatantly recreated the artists’ work that it trained with without their permission. 

Alex Kantrowitz reports that an AI blog copied his work almost word for word, with minor changes. Though the AI program switched out a word here and there, the substack blog clearly used Kantrowitz’s work without consent.

Academics worry students could use ChatGPT to cheat on assignments. 

The New York City and Seattle public school systems have already banned Chat GPT in classrooms. And Vox reports that an MBA class at Wharton experimented with the bot. When they finished, they ran the AI-created works through Turnitin, a common academic plagiarism detector. The screening software found nothing wrong with the AI-generated texts. 

However, the team at OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, understands the ethical gray area their software represents. The Guardian reports Scott Aaronson, a researcher at OpenAI, says they’re working on the issue. The company will implement a watermarking system to notify readers that AI wrote the text they’re reading. Aaronson says the system helps prevent cheating on homework and combats AI-generated propaganda.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that OpenAI CEO Sam Altman says the world should adapt to the new technology. However, Edward Tian, the creator of GPTZero, a tool that detects ChatGPT plagiarism, also opposes banning the software in schools. “It doesn’t make sense that we go into that future blindly,” Tian said. Instead, you need to build the safeguards to enter that future.”

Additionally, The New York Times recently published an opinion that called for schools to use ChatGPT as a learning tool. The column evokes the old (and false) argument that students shouldn’t use calculators because they won’t always have one. Just like calculators, AI can be beneficial for teaching students, so long as students use it correctly.

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