ChatGPT and the ethics of digital citizenship

Mark Luetkehoelter, Librarian

At this point, you have probably heard of ChatGPT. ChatGPT is a conversational natural language processing tool launched by OpenAI in November 2022. Between my writing this and you reading it, it most likely already has made big jumps in its capabilities and other technology is racing to catch up with it (e.g., Google’s rival product, Bard). Artificial intelligence may have reached a tipping point, and if your name is Sarah Connor, you may want to start keeping a sharper eye out for those terminators.
What can ChatGPT do? You can have conversations with it and ask it to perform tasks like composing business proposals or medical notes, coding software programs, writing stories or letters, helping with language translation and so much more. On the flip side, it can also be used to write school papers or take tests, post deceptive misinformation on social media and make life much easier for cybercriminals.
The easiness with which it makes cheating at papers and exams has schools and colleges scrambling for strategies on how to deal with it.
A Dec. 23, 2022, column in The New York Times entitled “How to use ChatGPT and still be a good person” points out that with the excitement of all the wonderful things ChatGPT can do, we should be wary of drawbacks and unintended consequences. The article encourages thoughtful, meaningful considerations of the ethical and safety issues that come with it.
In addition to that New York Times article, there are many other current articles available through our library databases like EbscoHOST or Opposing Viewpoints examining the pros and cons of ChatGPT and more broadly, artificial intelligence.
A book in the Madison College Libraries you might want to check out is “Ethics in the Digital Domain,” by Robert Fortner. Fortner challenges students to consider the future they inhabit.
It is great all the things technology and artificial intelligence are giving us, but as those things develop, we need to think about the privacy, security, consent, surveillance and discourse issues that go along.
For a little more irreverent and less scary look at the ethics of artificial intelligence, check out Janelle Shane’s “You Look Like a Thing, and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why It’s Making the World a Weirder Place.”
Feb. 23, 2023, is designated as Digital Learning Day. The day is not only meant to celebrate the ever-growing number of ways we can learn in a digital environment, but also to reflect on online privacy, ethics and responsibility. Take a look at the site for some great resources and information about it.
A big aspect of Digital Learning Day is encouraging people to be better digital citizens, to be thoughtful and careful about how they use technology.
To that end, the libraries have assembled some terrific resources on the concept of Digital Citizenship you might want to explore.