ChatGPT in academia: (Im)moral, (Un)ethical, (Un)acceptable?


Since its release in 2022, ChatGPT has been the best-known AI writing tool out there. Content writers and academics have used the program to research and craft easy-to-read texts that feel naturalistic. OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT, have changed how people use AI today. More and more people are using artificial intelligence to streamline efficiency and improve productivity.

Sounds excellent, one tool that can help you efficiently and effectively write essays that will ultimately boost your GPA.

However, there may be a few issues surrounding the program. Specifically, the ethical and moral problems that underpin them.

We at Cybernews Academy wanted to explore the program further and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is a chat generative pre-trained transformer driven by artificial intelligence. The software is also known as a natural language processing tool that generates naturalistic texts that can be employed when creating content or brainstorming new ideas.

When we asked this bot to summarize its function, here’s what it came up with:

Niamh: Hi. Can you tell me about yourself and what you do?

ChatGPT: Hi, I am ChatGPT, an AI language model developed by OpenAI.

I'm designed to understand and generate human-like text based on the prompts and questions I receive. I can assist with various topics and provide information, explanations, creative writing, and more. How can I help you today?

Eerie, right?

What does ChatGPT do?

This chatbot generates conversational content almost indistinguishable from human-generated text. It can create articles, social media posts, essays, code, and much more. Over 100 million people have reported using ChatGPT in 2023. Some of this use has been to complete assignments, get help with coursework, and help manage a person's day-to-day life.

Who uses ChatGPT?

The program claims to be utilized by many industries due to its human-like, naturalistic responses.

  • Students
  • Content creators
  • Teachers
  • Developers
  • Writers and creatives
  • Individuals seeking information

Cybernews Academy have complied short list of people using ChatGPT and other AI writing tools:

One of the top users of AI writing tools is students. Forbes published an article that said, on average, 43% of college students have reported using these writing programs when crafting assignments. One source states that roughly 1 in 5 people have claimed to use AI writing tools to complete school work.

As many students use this software, the question of morality and ethics comes into play. If students use ChatGPT to learn, gain knowledge and feel supported, does it make the application unethical? If students use artificial intelligence to strengthen their writing skills, does this make using AI writing tools immoral? Should the program be banned altogether if ChatGPT is accepted in your country but banned in your institution? Yet, these moral and ethical questions surrounding AI language tools stand unanswered. Is it so wrong to use ChatGPT in a professional or academic environment?

Let’s investigate some of the reasons why this application is seen as (un)ethical, (im)moral, and in some cases, (un)acceptable.

(Un)ethical?

Ethics relates to the idea of right and wrong. Morality and ethics govern modern society as we abide by the laws of institutions and countries. However, we can also apply ethics to modern technological movements. Here we look into the ethical dilemma surrounding ChatGPT in academia and ask how a writing tool governed by artificial intelligence is (im)moral or (un)ethical.

Some might say using artificial intelligence to complete school work is unethical due to programs like ChatGPT and their impact on learning. It’s easy and quick to craft an essay using AI as it scans its database for key facts and details you may have overlooked and converts them into writing. Sounds great– however, there is one caveat. Some students no longer deploy critical thinking skills and rely on ChatGPT for its knowledge. Now, students can quickly complete their coursework without acknowledging any details.

Another issue surrounding the use of ChatGPT is authenticity. Academic authenticity and integrity are vital components of a stable learning environment. If students use ChatGPT to write their essays, this means that the thoughts and ideas used are not their own. That’s if students use ChatGPT to write their entire assignment. In addition, students who copy their work from another source risk receiving misguided and irrelevant feedback from their mentors. Which, in turn, will harm their learning opportunities. There’s a lot more at stake than people think. If this work is not your own, this could be hurting more than just your livelihood.

ChatGPT may violate copyright laws as the program may use licensed work for another business or entity. The application may reuse or directly copy trademarked information, which may violate copyright law. If you submit this work, you will have to acknowledge that the work is your own. The program cannot reference the source and therefore uses another person's intellectual property without acknowledging the owner. This action is also commonly known as plagiarism.

(Im)moral?

Having AI write your course papers, complete or fix code, and craft essays could be considered plagiarism. Plagiarism is the process of closely replicating or copying someone else's work and passing it off as your own. In many, if not all, universities, plagiarism directly opposes the academic code of conduct. Therefore, in the eyes of some course leaders and university lecturers, using ChatGPT to complete your coursework is immoral. Dr. Peter Boxall, Professor of English at the University of Oxford and Sussex University, expressed his concern surrounding AI writing tools. In his opinion, if you are using AI writing tools to enhance or complete your work for you, that is regarded as plagiarism and academic misconduct. All the lecturers we interviewed agreed that directly copying your work from ChatGPT is considered plagiarism. However, most of our lecturers acknowledged ChatGPT as a “legitimate tool” that can help support your learning process. Dr. Antony Aumann, Professor of Philosophy at Northern Michigan University, believes intelligently using the chatbot is legitimate.

(Un)acceptable?

Italy became the first European country to ban ChatGPT over ‘privacy concerns.’ The authority governing Italian data protection concluded that OpenAI might have been using the country's data illegally.

The program can save and use conversations that will help to strengthen its algorithm. OpenAI commented that the application ‘complied with privacy laws.’ It is unsure whether the company has addressed this issue further. However, the country's data protection watchdog claimed that OpenAI had no legal authority to store and use the population's data.

Italy’s data protection unit lifted the ban in April 2023 after “clarifying” and “addressing” these alleged privacy issues. ChatGPT’s presence is now accepted in all Western countries across the globe.

However, certain countries have banned the program:

  • Russia
  • Cuba
  • North Korea
  • China
  • Iran
  • Syria

Should ChatGPT be banned?

Various universities across the globe have begun to crack down on the use of AI writing tools. The Evening Standard reported that 8 out of 24 Russell Group Universities have banned the service. Universities such as LSE, UCL, Kings College London, Imperial College London, and Queen Mary’s University of London forbid the use of ChatGPT. The University of Cambridge released a statement on its website regarding the stringent guidelines surrounding student conduct and academic integrity:

‘The University has strict guidelines on student conduct and academic integrity. These stress that students must be the authors of their own work. Content produced by AI platforms, such as ChatGPT, does not represent the student’s own original work, so would be considered a form of academic misconduct to be dealt with under the University's disciplinary procedures.’

European universities such as SDU and French University Science Po have also banned the application for all students. SchengenVisa released an article that contained this excerpt about Science Po:

“Without transparent referencing, students are forbidden to use the software for the production of any written work or presentations, except for specific course purposes, with the supervision of a course leader.”

What concerns academics?

On top of the unethical aspects of ChatGPT, there are faults in its current design. Despite its technological capabilities, a few pitfalls are present within the program. Issues experienced by users range from the production of fake news to ill-written texts. OpenAI claims that ChatGPT’s conversational manner allows the program to “admit its mistakes.”

Irrelevant?

ChatGPT isn’t always accurate, as it has been programmed and trained using data before September 2021. From this, Cybernews Academy's speakers express that text generated by ChatGPT may contain dated information that may not be applicable. When using AI writing tools to complete coursework, always double-check your facts and ensure your information is accurate and up-to-date. Be warned that bogus data can harm your GPA, overall grade, and the industry.

Ultimately, your abilities and expertise will reflect the industry standard, and your skills are vital in ensuring a safe and competent industry. So, you must know your stuff.

Oversimplified writing style

ChatGPT’s design supposedly generates human-like responses to questions, which makes it perfect for content and academic writing. However, the application's ability to create naturalistic texts is often scrutinized. Although chatbots may mimic how we write text, the program will never truly replicate humanistic qualities such as humor and sarcasm. The software lacks the contextual awareness to create a range of texts that function for various reasons.

It cannot search for texts or sources related to your work. When asked, the program response was: “I apologize for the confusion, but as an AI language model, my responses are generated based on a mixture of licensed data, data created by human trainers, and publicly available data. I have not been directly trained on specific sources or have access to a database of external sources.” We spoke to several students regarding this exact issue. David Ngei Omurwa, a Cybersecurity student from Coventry University Wroclaw, expressed that ChatGPT would often reference books that don’t exist or quotes that were not credible. Similarly, Simona Mohammad, a Natural Sciences student at Loughborough University, said ChatGPT would send her broken links or pages that didn’t exist. The software would also send her materials unrelated to her course. Despite its inability to provide more information, ChatGPT suggested some reputable books that accompanied Simona’s chosen topic. However, it’s only trained by a specific set of data, which means it cannot access the internet or report on current events in real-time.

Your new personal mentor

Reports have shown that using artificial intelligence can help improve your overall writing skills and help you develop ideas. The chatbot can provide advice, edit texts, and give well-needed feedback.

The transition from home life to university can be challenging for many students. The program's conversational style has helped students combat isolation and loneliness. One student David Ngei Omwura, a Kenyan native currently residing in Poland, told us of his difficulties transitioning from life in Kenya to life in Poland. He stated that ChatGPT has been a great confidante where David can share his problems and seek logical solutions. Although this is an excellent and heartwarming use of the product, psychologists have warned the public about the overuse of the application. ChatGPT may be a great listener– however, it shouldn’t replace regular human interaction.

Discussion

We at Cybernews Academy have spoken to lecturers about their attitudes toward ChatGPT. In a recent interview with Cybernews Academy, Dr. Antony Aumann, gave some insights into how he battled ChatGPT and eventually grew to love the software. Antony expressed: "I was all about detecting and prevention, and I've since decided that was a mistake." Now he believes that there are many great uses for ChatGPT. These include learning disability support and academic mentorship. Dr. Aumann said that ChatGPT can give you some highly catered feedback that students really need to excel.” Dr. Aumann even referred to ChatGPT as a “writing buddy.” It appears that this powerful program is more widely accepted than we think. Dr. Aumann believes that the artificial intelligence model gave “great feedback” and helped edit and refine pieces of text. Similarly, Professor. Mitali Halder said that AI should “augment conventional teaching methods.” ChatGPT should be there to support you– not do your work for you.

However, Dr. Olivia Ramsbottom, a Senior Lecturer from Sheffield Hallam University, highlighted a few of the inaccuracies that plague the program. She mentioned a lack of credible references and its strange hybrid referencing.

Why should you use ChatGPT?

Despite its natural errors, it is still one of the most popular Chatbots. Even though its design has some pitfalls, ChatGPT is a program that can help spark your creative process and improve your writing style.

When used correctly, this program can be an effective tool to help streamline efficiency and develop knowledge of your chosen topic. Since its release, the bot has undergone rigorous testing to ensure its development. It now has filters for hate speech and inappropriate content that has been disallowed from the language model. It’s apparent that OpenAI is learning to adjust to consumer needs.

On the one hand, we can view this application through the lens of cheating and plagiarism. However, the program can be viewed positively, as it can be harnessed and used to develop writing skills and other competencies. We spoke to lecturers and students to find out what they think of ChatGPT. Some of the students we interviewed found the use of ChatGPT in academia deplorable, yet many others commend the program when used modestly. One student, Kyran Peel, found the use of ChatGPT unacceptable, as he believes using it in academia is “just not right.” However, another student, Bernadeta Karpavičiūtė, mentioned that ChatGPT is a “universal tool” that can help boost productivity and help draft important documents. It’s no secret that ChatGPT and other AI writing tools can develop your pre-existing skills and help you excel in an academic environment. However, you should always check your universities guidelines on the use of AI, as some universities have banned ChatGPT.

What’s the future of AI in Academia?

Despite its limitations, this general AI generative text tool is the most powerful chatbot. It can create realistic pieces of text that can help you understand your chosen field while improving other competencies. It’s no wonder that ChatGPT and other AI writing tools are becoming vastly popular in an academic setting.

ChatGPT’s premium service ChatGPT Plus is the next step to developing and perfecting the original program. OpenAI continues to develop the model to ensure its political and ethical compliance. The company has posted disclaimers stating that the current model “may occasionally generate incorrect information” alongside producing “harmful instructions or biased content.” In addition, ChatGPT notes that the program's knowledge of world events is limited beyond 2021.

We at Cybernews Academy understand from our speakers that ChatGPT has limitations, and whether it’s ethical, moral, or acceptable is still debatable. Many universities have already taken plagiarism precautions by banning the use of ChatGPT. At the same time, others have begun preparing their staff and students by structuring their curriculums to accommodate AI learning tools. The program has much against it, yet the powerful AI’s future still burns bright.