The ethical dilemma on ChatGPT

  • Dr. Ravi S. Iyer
  • Published 19/04/2023
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The ethical dilemma on ChatGPT

With the advent of the most powerful AI yet, many are questioning if ChatGPT will prove to be a technologically superior tool that will make work easier, efficient and faster or will it unleash an unconstrained reign of the robots

Are you applying for your dream job but don’t have the time or energy to immerse yourself in the best practices of resume writing and are considering hiring the services of a professional resume writer? Or is that sorted, but you are now overwhelmed with how to position yourself suitably to your dream company through a well-crafted covering letter? There’s no need to fret; an AI-powered tool is up your alley to tide you through this difficulty. ChatGPT will write a customized CV and cover letter for each job you apply for. That’s not all. Thanks to its potent natural language processing capabilities, it can improve your existing CV by editing it; its rich expertise in many industries can help you prepare for a job interview by generating speculative interview scenarios, providing you with not just potential questions, but also astute responses to those questions, and equip you with what it takes to crack the interview.

The fairy-tale doesn’t stop here. This AI-powered software is a wizard at math, and if you can clearly state the problem, it can solve the most challenging algebra puzzles. If you are trying to debug your erroneous language code, it will tell you where you missed the comma in the coding. Give it a few pointers and it will write an essay on any subject, no matter how challenging it might be and if you have written one yourself it will grade it for you too! Tell ChatGPT what limited ingredients you have in your pantry, and it will give you a list of delectable dishes you could cook up with them, and also provide their recipes. It can create music, translate your content into native languages and if you are lonely, you can use it to chat up, though you never know where that tête-à-tête might take you!

So what do we have on our hands? A technologically superior tool that will make technical work easier, efficient and faster? Yes. Can it replace human creativity? No. Is it ethically acceptable? That’s a question mark.

What is ChatGPT and what is the commotion around it about?

ChatGPT (GPT stands for generative pre-trained transformer), developed by OpenAI, a San Francisco-based artificial intelligence firm, with initial funding from Elon Musk, is a program that can realistically write like a human. It has created quite a sensation since its launch in November 2022 and within the first two months of its unveiling, it has had more than 100 million users, making it the fastest-growing consumer application. In March 2023, OpenAI launched the GPT-4 technology in the ChatGPT Plus Plan that has the ability to generate more than 25,000 words in 26 languages! Microsoft announced plans to invest 10 billion dollars in it and to integrate it into its Windows, Edge, and Office applications in the very near future. That was one impressive start!

But within 2 weeks, a data breach which partly exposed conversations and some users’ personal details including email addresses and the last four digits of their credit cards brought the entire euphoria around ChatGPT crashing down. Italy’s privacy watchdog, The Italian Data Protection Authority, has temporarily banned it, describing the move as a provisional measure “until ChatGPT respects privacy”. More than 1,000 artificial intelligence experts and researchers, including Elon Musk, co-founder OpenAI, Steve Woznaik the co-founder of Apple, engineers from Google, Meta, Microsoft, and academicians too have joined a call for “an immediate pause on the creation of giant AIs for at least six months, so the capabilities and dangers of systems such as GPT-4 can be properly studied and mitigated”. In an open letter, they stated clearly, “Recent months have seen AI labs locked in an out-of-control race to develop and deploy ever more powerful digital minds that no one – not even their creators – can understand, predict, or reliably control.” That’s quite an honest admission coming from the minds behind these robots themselves.

Legal and ethical issues with ChatGPT

To err is human, and since humans have given birth to AI, we cannot expect it to be error-free either. This actuality exposes us to the big bad world of legal and ethical dilemma concerning its use. The buzz is on; but some notables, including `The Ethicalist’, a digital-first sustainable lifestyle magazine, have tried to converse with the software itself about what it can and cannot do. What follows is some potent inferences and a summary of confessions, directly from the horse’s mouth:

  • ChatGPT accesses large chunks of information from the Internet, so originality of content is a matter of grave concern.
  • When writing assignments, such as essays or articles, it has the ability to pick what it needs and present a well mashed, superbly presented piece of work. But it’s hard to determine the source of the information, as it doesn’t provide references. It’s `human co-author’ will still need to search through the Internet to determine where the system picked the information from and provide due credits to avoid copyright issues.
  • In creating the text, ChatGPT commits the plagiarism, but since a non-human cannot be held responsible, it exposes the writer to the risk of potential litigation. This deems it necessary to review the write-up, which then doubles the work.
  • According to OpenAI’s terms of service, ChatGPT is for users above 13 years of age, but it lacks the ability to do an age verification process, dangerously exposing children to information that may be age inappropriate.
  • ChatGPT is based on information from the Internet, which may contain biases of the writers, and it picks those biases too, since it cannot judge between what is `ethically’ right and wrong. Its responses may then have racial, gender, socio economic prejudices.
  • The software is based on information up to 2021; what it turns out might already be outdated and irrelevant stuff.
  • The software is reasonably efficient for writing work, but it is far from competent in many areas, such as creating rocket equations or in a medical advisory capacity. You might be creating a potentially catastrophic situation if you bypass the human expertise and rely on AI for these matters.
  • Ask it to prepare a legal document, it might well be able to as it has access to all the information in the world, but it hasn’t studied law and cannot interpret what the law would permit in a given situation, and what you may be left with at hand is just a mass of well-written, but totally unusable paperwork.
  • The system is designed to say things that are plausible, but they may not be correct, and then accuracy of the content it generates is an issue. According to Emily M. Bender, a professor of linguistics at the University of Washington who studies AI systems, “It gets things wrong, because it’s not actually designed to get things right.”
  • The system can be hacked and used to spread malware to user devices. Data theft is possible if it does not properly protect customer records using methods like encryption and this could also encourage online fraud.
  • The use of ChatGPT in education poses a huge threat: Students are likely to become overly dependent on technology to solve their problems, answer questions or write their essays, leading to a weakening in critical thinking and problem-solving skills and degrade students’ learning and creativity in the long run.

Way forward

We live in the digital era, and new technologies that enable the automation of processes are rapidly coming up. ChatGPT and other such tools will without doubt make technical work easier, efficient and faster but we need to be cognizant of the fact that technologies like this cannot replace human creativity. Also, they are still in their infancy, and there are already plenty of ethical issues to take into account with its use. Technological advancements are great as long as there’s responsible use of technology, hence, like all AI, ChatGPT too need to be regulated, but it might take a while for governments to put meaningful regulation into action. Till then, humans need to hold on to their position; else an unconstrained reign of the robots is imminent.



(The author is Dean, School of Computer Science, UPES)

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Dr. Ravi S. Iyer
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The writer is Dr. Ravi S. Iyer, Dean, UPES School of Computer Science

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