Recently, approximately 50 of us gathered to listen to our school board president, Scott Bean, educate us on Chat GPT and the changes that may be coming to our culture and our schools. It was an intriguing evening, and several of you have inquired about the event and asked for a summary of Scott’s comments. Here is a very simplified reflection on some of the thoughts he shared. I encourage you, if you haven’t yet, to Google “Chat GPT” and try out this powerful new tool. I started the evening by quoting Father John Culkin who, almost 50 years ago, said, “We shape our tools, then our tools shape us”. Our goal for the evening was to attempt to get ahead of the impacts that Chat GPT will have on our society, so we can continually be the ones to do the “shaping”.

Here is a brief summary of what we learned that night:

– Chat GPT is commonly known as a “Chatbot” or a “Large Language Model”. It doesn’t “think” the way human brains think – it instead makes predictions about which words are likely to come next in a string of words or sentence. It makes these predictions by analyzing millions (or trillions – in its newest iteration) of words that are chosen by its programmers. It is currently NOT gathering real-time data from the internet, it is confined to analyzing the data it is given.

– Despite these restrictions, it is an incredibly powerful tool. Chat GPT can easily:
    Write essays
    Compose poems
    Write complex lesson plans 
    Answer complex questions
    Offer very specific recipes
    Pass multiple high-level exams such as AP tests and the BAR exam
    Design specific marketing campaigns 
    Much much more!

– Chat GPT can usually accomplish these tasks in mere seconds, which raises many concerns regarding plagiarism and academic rigor for school and college students.

– Chat GPT is equipped with ethical boundaries or limits that programmers put in place to ensure it can’t be used to give instructions to do harmful things, such as building explosives or instructions to conduct actions that would be harmful to human beings.

– Several journalists have been able to bypass these boundaries to “trick” Chat GPT to do things like convince its user that it was in love with the computer program and NOT his actual Wife.

– Open AI, the company that curates and owns Chat GPT is open about its flaws and limitations, including the fact that it can sometimes produce incorrect results or information.

– Chat GPT doesn’t “know” it is doing anything wrong, it doesn’t make plans, and it doesn’t knowingly deceive people – it simply predicts which words give the most productive answer, and sometimes its predictions are wrong.

– The technology behind Chat GPT is advancing rapidly and improving exponentially, prompting some in this field to call for a temporary halt of technological advances in this field for 6 months.

– There could be some real benefits to education as students could potentially interact with an AI that remembers their progress and customizes their lessons based on their individual needs. There will be challenges in regards to when and how to utilize this technology in the classroom.

– Plagiarism is already being defined differently; Chat GPT can be used to help in writing a draft, for example, but the student would need to show how they improve on the draft and why their work is better than that of Chat GPT.

– Chat GPT has the potential to replace many typically “white collar” jobs, although it is also making many of these workers more efficient in their current roles.

– Chat GPT boasts the fastest user acquisition rate in history; more people subscribed to Chat GPT in a shorter period of time than Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, for example.

– Companies like Microsoft are looking to include similar technologies in their apps. Powerpoints, for example, will likely be able to build themselves at your instruction, utilizing any pertinent data stored in your “One Drive”. 

Our staff have already started using Chat GPT to become familiar with its capabilities and the benefits and challenges it provides. We remain committed to providing a character-forming education that values personal relationships over technology, but utilizes technology to equip our students to lead productive lives that serve God and their neighbor. We’ll continue to keep you updated as these technologies advance and improve. 

God’s peace, Rich