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I’m hearing a lot about the artificially intelligent ChatGPT these days. Should I pay attention?

The headline “The End of High School English?” caught my eye. It was a teaser for an article about ChatGPT, the text-generating tool that has been getting a lot of press lately.

Generative AI tools, the generic term for computer programs that create “original” text or images, has been talked about for years, but now the public has access to some of the more powerful applications, creating quite a stir. From outright fear (The machines really are taking over!) to wonderment (It wrote that? With spot-on King James Version language?) to excitement (Think how this could speed up research!).

These tools work by ingesting untold numbers of documents and images. From this vast collection the programs learn language patterns to form well-written sentences and algorithms to create beautiful images. The output is so good it’s fooling art contest judges and doing better than humans on medical, business, and law exams.

Pretty cool, eh? Mostly. But questions quickly arise: If the computer is using copyrighted text or images, can it take credit for the result? If most of the information fed into the machine is biased, won’t the result also be biased? It might be written in perfect form, but is the information reliable? Did anyone review this first? Can I trust it to be a reliable source?

Back to the headline that grabbed my attention. The fear underlying the headline is legitimate: if a machine can write so well, how is a teacher to know if her students are really doing the writing? Fortunately, in God’s great design, for every problem humans create, there are other humans working hard at solving the problem, like the 22-year-old Toronto student who over winter break created an app that can detect whether something was written by a human or a machine. As you can imagine, teachers everywhere are lining up to get it.

Dean Heetderks is co-director of Ministry Support Services of the CRC and art director of The Banner. What has been your reaction to generative AI tools so far? Tell him at

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