During the second week of every semester, I ask my undergraduate media students to read a newspaper editorial and pluck out words and phrases that reflect the writer’s attitude toward the topic under discussion. The exercise often inspires passionate and refreshingly original responses from students, who view it as an opportunity to let their imaginations fly.

However, a few students from the batch I’m teaching this semester didn’t put much thought into this activity. Most of the answers I came across lacked creativity and well-reasoned commentary on the assigned text and were heavily plagiarised. My teachers’ intuition led me to suspect some form of foul play. Yet, it was difficult for me to ascertain how students sitting in separate corners of the classroom could have churned out practically identical answers.

Upon further investigation, I discovered that the culprit wasn’t just the students but also an AI chatbot. One of the students had inserted — albeit incorrectly — a prompt on ChatGPT for the activity I’d assigned and shared the result with other students through WhatsApp. Convinced that the answer produced by the chatbot was beyond reproach, the students ignored their own creative instincts and settled for an impersonal, mass-produced answer that was, quite frankly, flawed.

In an age where artificial intelligence is being perceived as a worthy substitute for the human mind, such nightmarish tales about a world enslaved by ChatGPT have become fairly common. Since it was launched in November 2022, the AI content generator has been viewed as a counter to human capabilities. Few among us have been spared the ordeal of listening to endless diatribes on how ChatGPT will cost us our jobs. At first glance, the looming threat of redundancy doesn’t seem entirely unrealistic, as the chatbot boasts a diverse menu of enviable features. ChatGPT operates on a language-driven model and can even use images and videos to generate a text-based response that can rival that of a reasonably knowledgeable person.

In light of these distinct capabilities, companies that rely on skilled content writers have viewed the forum as a cost-effective alternative to hiring a large team. These companies cannot be blamed for cutting corners, especially with the global economy on the brink of collapse. Even so, they must recognise that writers will not be rendered extinct through AI-generated forums such as ChatGPT. Instead, these companies could benefit from a synergy of sorts between the human mind and artificial intelligence. It would be erroneous to view this as a marriage of convenience between humankind and technology. Conventional wisdom would have us believe AI chatbots and human faculties have their own strengths and shortcomings. A healthy combination of the two can provide a suitable way forward.

The need for peaceful coexistence between artificial and human intelligence can be gauged from the fact that the content produced through forums such as ChatGPT is devoid of a ‘human touch’. A few weeks ago, I came across a post on Facebook from an author who had asked ChatGPT to write a poem about arranged marriages. She posted the poem created by the chatbot on her status and urged her followers to assess its literary merits. A vast majority of comments drew attention to the distressing reality that writers had been effectively replaced by an AI-generated tool. A discerning comment, penned by a teacher of English Literature, criticised the poem for lacking any speck of creativity. She was of the view that the chatbot had merely recycled superficial statements about arranged marriage and fashioned them into doggerel. This experiment serves as a glaring reminder that writing cannot be perceived as just another task-oriented means of filling the blank page with words. On the contrary, the words must be seeded with fresh insights on a particular theme and resist the temptation to reproduce trite, unoriginal ideas.

AI chatbots will, therefore, struggle to produce great works of literature. Any form of creative, literary and artistic endeavour relies as much on the heart as it does on the head. Bereft of emotional intelligence, a novel, poem or short story will lose its appeal. This is primarily because emotional intelligence is the pulse that lends a necessary three-dimensionality to the written word and makes it more realistic. Emotional intelligence is the product of human experiences and is inextricably linked to social interactions. We cannot expect an AI chatbot to replicate this form of intelligence as it is exclusive to the human race.

Creative writing may be a tricky enterprise for AI chatbots, but more mercantile forms of writing might benefit from the revolutionary features offered by forums such as ChatGPT. Sceptics have been quick to pronounce a death sentence for content writers in an AI-dominated job milieu. Many of them seem to have a narrow outlook on the situation, as discerning experts have assured us that content writers cannot be elbowed away from the job market so easily. At its core, any form of writing is targeted at people and reflects their motivations and aspirations. The written word will lose relevance if people are edged out of the process. The only way to avoid such a bleak possibility is for content writers to use AI chatbots with a greater sense of responsibility. ChatGPT should be used as an accessory to improve the existing standards of work rather than as a substitute for the entire process.

Through the effective use of AI-generated language models, content writers can discover new ideas and streamline the process of writing. At the same time, artificial intelligence can serve as a useful mechanism to guarantee content optimisation and conduct keyword research. What’s more, these tools can facilitate translations of a text that can make it available to a wider audience.

If content writers rely on an AI chatbot for these complex yet significant tasks, they can concentrate their energies on enriching the quality of their writing. Using ChatGPT to fulfil these tasks will not only save time and improve a writer’s efficacy but also ensure that the final product is error-free and exceptional.

At first, content writers may respond cynically to these AI-generated tools as it will result in a radical shift in their work ethics. With time, they will need to stop viewing forums such as ChatGPT as their adversaries. Many of them will need to realise that AI chatbots may ensure convenience but cannot become a dominant force in the overall process. The content writer is at the helm of the process and cannot relinquish control to the AI chatbot.

Many content writers have raised concerns about how AI-generated language models struggle to comprehend cultural and linguistic nuances. These reservations, though valid, should not be viewed as stumbling blocks as they reflect the enormous possibilities of the human imagination. The human race has a far greater awareness of cultural sensitivity, ethicality and emotional intelligence. As a result, we have the edge over an AI chatbot in these matters and can compensate for any of its lapses with our own problem-solving abilities.

Content writers will need to put aside their confrontational attitude towards ChatGPT and develop a more collaborative outlook towards the forum. We can only hope that they can use the platform more responsibly than my students did. The existence of ChatGPT shouldn’t be construed as an excuse to overlook their own capacity for critical thought. It is an opportunity for us to sharpen our abilities and produce superlative work.

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Taha is a novelist, literary critic and journalist. He is the author of Typically Tanya (2018) and Of Rift and Rivalry (2014). Kehar is the co-editor of The Stained-Glass Window: Stories of the Pandemic from Pakistan. His third novel, No Funeral for Nazia, will be released this year.