Full disclosure. I was going to write about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its offshoots like ChatGPT at some point later this summer, but not now. I changed my mind yesterday when I got this email.
In case you don’t know, Jetpack is a plugin that bloggers use to protect their website and provide statistics on their content. But now Jetpack is offering to actually write the content. This is from an email I received yesterday.
Here are a few examples of the features the Jetpack AI Assistant offers to enhance your content creation journey:
- Seamless WordPress Integration: The Jetpack AI Assistant effortlessly integrates with the WordPress Editor, offering an intuitive interface to interact with AI.
- AI-Powered Content Generation: Simply provide a prompt, and watch as Jetpack AI Assistant crafts compelling blog posts, detailed pages, structured lists, and comprehensive tables — all customized to match your unique requirements.
- Superior Spelling and Grammar Check: Avoid those embarrassing mistakes with Jetpack AI Assistant’s spelling and grammar correction features.
- Adaptive Tone Adjustment: Whether your style is formal or conversational, the AI Assistant adapts to fit your needs.
- Title & Summary Generation: Struggling to find a good title or summary? Jetpack AI Assistant has you covered. It will create fitting titles and concise summaries for your posts.
- Translate Effortlessly: AI‑powered translations are at your fingertips so you can break down language barriers.
Sounds perfect right? A genie will do all your writing for you while you sit back and have a ‘cup of Joe’.
Well, I’m saying “not so fast.” At least for history topics.
I’ll get to my reasons in a moment, but first I’m going to let ChatGPT do the talking for me. Here’s what I got back when I asked it to tell me the pros and cons of using AI for historical research.
My prompt: please list the pros and cons of using ai for historical research
Using AI for historical research can have several pros and cons. Here are some of the key points to consider:
- Enhanced Access to Information: AI-powered tools and technologies can facilitate broader access to historical information. Digitization and indexing projects, combined with AI-powered search algorithms, can make historical sources more readily available to researchers.
- Data Analysis and Processing: AI can efficiently process vast amounts of historical data, including documents, archives, texts, images, and audio recordings. It can help historians analyze and organize large datasets quickly, saving time and effort.
- Pattern Recognition and Insights: AI algorithms can identify patterns and correlations within historical data that might be difficult or time-consuming for human researchers to uncover. This can lead to new insights, discoveries, and a deeper understanding of historical events and trends.
- Language Translation and Transcription: AI can assist in translating historical documents from different languages, making primary sources accessible to researchers who may not be proficient in those languages. It can also automate the transcription process, converting handwritten or hard-to-read texts into digital, searchable formats.
- Preservation and Restoration: AI can contribute to the preservation and restoration of historical artifacts, documents, and artworks. Advanced imaging techniques, machine learning algorithms, and computer vision can help restore damaged or degraded materials, preserving them for future generations. Through technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR), AI can convert physical materials into digital formats, making them easily searchable and accessible to researchers.
- Lack of contextual understanding: While AI algorithms excel at processing data, they often lack contextual understanding and the ability to interpret historical events in their broader social, cultural, and political contexts. Human researchers are better equipped to provide nuanced interpretations and contextual analyses.
- Bias and limitations in training data: AI systems are only as good as the data they are trained on. AI algorithms are trained on existing data, which may contain biases, inaccuracies, or omissions. If historical data used to train AI models reflects systemic biases or historical distortions, it can perpetuate and amplify those biases in the analysis and interpretation of historical events.
- Loss of Human Perspective: Relying solely on AI for historical research might result in the loss of the human perspective, creativity, and intuition that historians bring to their work. Historical research involves subjective judgments, interpretation, and the ability to craft narratives that go beyond mere data analysis.
- Interpretation challenges: Historical research often involves interpreting and making sense of incomplete or conflicting information. AI algorithms may struggle with ambiguity, uncertainty, and contradictory evidence, leading to potentially inaccurate or oversimplified conclusions.
- Limited creativity and critical thinking: AI algorithms primarily rely on pattern recognition and predefined rules. They may lack the creative and critical thinking abilities of human researchers, which are often crucial for historical research.
- Ethical considerations: The use of AI in historical research raises ethical concerns, particularly regarding data privacy, ownership and intellectual property rights, and the potential for misuse. Additionally, there may be ethical dilemmas surrounding the development and deployment of AI systems that automate or replace human researchers. Care must be taken to ensure that historical materials are used ethically and respectfully, especially when dealing with sensitive or personal information.
- Technical Limitations: AI technologies are not infallible and can have technical limitations. Machine learning models can produce errors, misinterpretations, or inaccuracies, especially when faced with complex or ambiguous historical data.
ChatGPT’s Conclusion: It’s important to note that AI can be a valuable tool in historical research, but it should not replace human expertise and critical analysis. A balanced approach that combines AI-driven analysis with human interpretation and contextual understanding is often the most effective.
What do I think?
I’ve been playing around with the free version of ChatGPT. Sign up here if you’d like to give it a try.
Mainly I’ve been using it to test ideas and to get rid of the ‘how to fill a blank page’ problem. I’ve found it incredibly useful for those purposes. I haven’t used it write a blog post or to do serious research.
I’ve been told that if you ask for sources for the information ChatGPT gives you, you’d better be very careful to check every single source. Many of the sources they give you just don’t exist. And there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the chat that says Free Research Preview. ChatGPT may produce inaccurate information about people, places, or facts.
Want to use AI for work? You might want to think twice. Here’s an article from the New York Times titled Here’s What Happens When Your Lawyer Uses ChatGPT.
And if you’re a student, you need to be even more careful. There are apps that can discern if a paper was written by a human or a chatbot and any educators I know are using them. They’re hard to fool!
Perhaps more importantly, how can you make sure that the information you’re using is accurate. Can you tell if something you’re reading has been created by a chatbot? It’s hard. Read this article and test your ability to tell the difference. It’s a lot of fun!
Play around with AI, but BE CAREFUL. IT CAN BE A CLEVER LIAR. DO NOT TRUST IT. VERIFY EVERYTHING!
I’d love to hear what you think. Have you tried AI? Have you found it useful? How are you using it? Do you want to try it? Is it a force for good or is everything about it negative? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
Feature Photo: Focal Foto on Flickr