There’s a meme going around about artifical intelligence (AI) software actually being plagiarism software, but that’s not really what’s going on.

I’ve used ChatGPT to see what it would do. For topics where there’s a lot of info out there, it’s maybe 80% on point, but genericizes the info, has no particular (or at least no strong) “thesis,” shows no evidence of research, provides no references (and can’t if you ask it to), and is poorly written. So, all of that is similar to a high school or early undergrad essay that would probably get a C or D.

If it directly took sentences from somewhere without citing them, that would be plagiarism/fail/F, but I don’t find that’s usually what it does. It’s more insidious than that.

On more obscure topics (even when the facts are out there in at least a few places), it makes up almost everything and is only maybe 20% accurate, in addition to many of the above problems. That’s not plagiarism, but it’s a definite fail/F.

The program is actually really good at coming up with poems and lyrics in the style of certain writers, but that is also not plagiarism.

Academic Work for Free

Spending hundreds of hours every year doing academic work on book chapters, journal articles, and conference papers when I don’t even have an academic job — and am thus doing it all for free — is highly exploitative. So, after my current projects wrap up in the next couple of months, I’m not going to do these things anymore. I want to do more academic research and writing, but the system is not set up to pay anyone directly. That needs to change.

Academic Research and Writing

Of the eighteen people contributing to the forthcoming Cambridge University Press book on progressive rock, sixteen are university-affiliated academics (so it would be reasonable for them to expect to do such things as a part of their employment), one is VP of Education at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and one is a computer technology order support specialist making the equivalent of about $11 U.S. per hour. Guess which one resents doing academic research and writing for free, given that it has nothing to do with his employment?

“Deep Digital” Writing & Reading

This article begs the question as to what “skim writing” might entail. Academic research and writing seem like an awful lot of trouble, given that it takes a long time to produce with almost no-one encountering it after all that. Also, Malcolm Gladwell and others are just going to reorganize selected parts of it, anyhow. Why not skip the middle man? Why shouldn’t we try to get to “deep digital” parallels to writing and reading?