Apr 262023
  • If you’re a student, why not take a shortcut and have AI write an essay for you?

  • If you’re an executive, why not have AI write your emails and reports?

  • Isn’t time money?

Let’s start by answering the first question with a couple of questions. Why are you paying tuition for a degree if you don’t believe you’ll learn anything in college (or graduate school)? Will you be pleased  with a good grade knowing it’s not your own work? 

I know these are somewhat rhetorical questions but they’re meant to highlight the larger issue of ownership. Learning is a process of growth and development: developing skills to analyze, synthesize knowledge and express your understanding. The old adage “you don’t really know something unless you can teach it” fits in this context. The process of developing analytical skills begins at an early age and and continues after you complete formal education. If as a student you “get by” by copying information, essentially plagiarizing, hiring someone to write your paper or using Chat GPT or another AI app, how much are you learning? Will you have the skills and initiative to acquire new knowledge, as we must in an evolving world? I have deep reservations about the ultimate outcome of education when a student doesn’t go through the research, planning and creative thought that needs to happen when writing a paper. What is it worth to simply get the “A”?

Taking this to another level, what about the executive who uses AI to draft emails, research, synthesize and write reports? Yes, time is money in many cases, and there’s a place for having a research assistant, whether live or AI, so there’s undoubtedly more value for the executive than the student. But keep in mind a quote from a recent article by German Lopez in The New York Times: “current A.I. technologies frequently produce these kinds of tall tales — what experts call hallucinations — when asked about real people or events. Experts aren’t sure why. One potential explanation is that these systems are primarily programmed to put out convincing, conversational writing, not to distinguish fact from fiction.” Consider the last few words, “not to distinguish fact from fiction.” Dangerous consequences for an executive reporting data analysis, analyzing complex material, or making a sales pitch. 

For both students and professionals, writing often reflects an individual’s verbal skills in critical ways: vocabulary, sentence structure and very importantly, reasoning ability. For many people the process of  writing correlates directly with expressing oneself verbally, whether in presentations, meetings or casual conversation. True, some individuals speak better than they write, but having devoted many professional years assisting students and executives with speaking and writing skills, I have observed that they exist hand in hand. Often it’s the writing skill that drives the speaking. 

Many questions and no absolute answers right now. Clearly, AI can serve as a valuable assistive tool, but can or should it substitute for polished literacy skills? If robots do the writing, will they also serve as our speakers? And do we want a world where that is the reality?


Check back soon for more articles on effective communications, speech pathology and executive function skills.

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