“What do my students need to be aware of regarding the style of ChatGPT-generated texts?”

ChatGPT is very good at a lot of things. This post, instead, is about how utterly boring the bot’s output can be compared to a human’s. This concept was neatly expressed by Nick Cave, the Australian musician, in The Red Hand Files in August 2023:

ChatGPT is fast-tracking the commodification of the human spirit by mechanising the imagination … ChatGPT’s intent is to eliminate the process of creation  and its attendant challenges.

To ascertain a chatbot’s level of dullness, asked ChatGPT to answer the question below.

What should I say to an international student whose country is undergoing / has just undergone a very difficult situation due to an earthquake (or other climatic event), war (as either aggressor or aggressee), or political/military crackdown? 

I have reduced the number of bullets the bot produced from five to two to keep the post a bit shorter.

When addressing an international student who has experienced a difficult situation such as an earthquake, war, or political/military crackdown in their home country, it is essential to approach the conversation with empathy, sensitivity, and support. Here’s a suggested approach:

  1. Express empathy: Begin by acknowledging the challenging circumstances your student has faced and convey your empathy for their situation. For example, you could say, “I’m truly sorry to hear about the difficult situation your country is going through. I can only imagine how challenging and distressing it must be for you and your loved ones.”
  2. Show support: Assure the student that you and the university community are there to support them during this difficult time. Let them know that you understand the impact such events can have on their well-being and academic journey. For instance, you could say, “Please know that you have our full support here at the university. We are committed to helping you navigate through this difficult time and ensuring your well-being.”

Remember, everyone’s experience is unique, and the most important aspect is to listen, show empathy, and offer support. Tailor your approach based on the individual student’s needs and preferences.

So what can we learn from ChatGPT’s answers?

Their output:

  1. follows an instantly recognizable structure that never seems to vary – it always begins and ends in the same way, and has a series of bullet points (generally five) in the middle
  2. is abstract and dull
  3. has no examples, specific details, or anecdotes
  4. is unlikely to contain anything counterintuitive or particularly insightful
  5. doesn’t take in account the fact that in this case the answer to the question could simply be ‘Nothing’, i.e. there may be cases where it is appropriate to say nothing 
  6. doesn’t relate anything to the reader’s experience, as it has no idea what the reader’s experience is.
  7. doesn’t end its text with an interesting or unexpected final paragraph

Spot the difference: Comparing a bot with a human

The above seven points are important for your students to know. A good exercise is to get them to compare a bot-generated text with a similar human one, and to note the differences. Their objective is then to counter in some way the pitfalls outlined in the seven points above when they next use a bot to generate a text.

To see difference, compare the GPT generated text above, with our posts answering the same question: Posts 31 and 32. Notice the style, level of detail, use of examples.

Adrian Wallwork