Rogot writing 1581551791

Yet another tech wrinkle in the cheating economy: artificial intelligence that writes term papers.

According to EdSurge, always a reliable source,1 a “growing number of companies” offer students “an algorithm that writes term papers for them based on chosen keywords”.

For instance, after subscribing to a service called EssaySoft, you can tell its essay generator to write a paper on, say, “symbolism in the Great Gatsby” (or whatever you need for class). Then you enter how many words you want the final paper to be, select other specs from drop-down menus (set research depth to “low” if you want the machine to return an answer as fast as possible), and click “Generate Essay.”

I remember writing the very same paper in college for my freshman American Literature course. My writing probably wasn’t any better than the rather lame bot-generated example cited in the article since I was never very good at reading the minds of long dead authors.

As you might expect, the prospect of students buying machine-written assignments isn’t sitting well with universities.

“The internet and machine learning is going to totally shake up what education is and how we validate when students have knowledge that we can verify,” argues Tricia Bertram Gallant, director of the Academic Integrity Office at the University of California San Diego.

“Within five years,” she predicts, “these essay generators will be good enough that they won’t have to hire people anymore. They can just have the essay generator do it.”

Think of the poor grad students in Kenya who will be put out of work by this technology.

Anyway, there is another response to consider, besides freaking out over the coming SkyNet cheating services. Maybe schools should reconsider assigning these traditional assignments in the first place.

Does this exercise really “validate when students have knowledge”? Is that particular body of knowledge worth the time and effort spent to accumulate it? Are there better ways for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned from reading the Great Gatsby?

Other than by reproducing the same paper submitted by tens of thousands of students over many decades.

The image is the one used in the original EdSurge article. I was too lazy to find something else.

1. Source for what, I’m still not sure. See also.