What Most People Get Wrong About ChatGPT and Effective Communication Skills

Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike
What Most People Get Wrong About ChatGPT and Effective Communication Skills

It feels like you can’t go anywhere without hearing about ChatGPT these days. In the last week alone, I’ve had the topic brought up to me in an airplane, at a dinner party, and even by a server in a restaurant! WeChat and Facebook posts are discussing it. Twitter is buzzing. And of course, the global speech and debate community is, surprise!, debating it too.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is an AI-powered chatbot that enables users to have conversations with an AI-generated virtual assistant. It uses natural language processing techniques to generate responses, and can be used for educational and entertainment purposes. ChatGPT itself was created by OpenAI, a company founded by Sam Altman, previous head of Y Combinator. There are numerous competitors to ChatGPT already from Google, Baidu, Tencent, and other brands that will soon be released.

What might the impact of ChatGPT be on debate?

There’s great consternation about this already in online forums, but the most near-term impacts that AI software like ChatGPT may have is to:

  1. Dramatically lower the barrier to argument generation

  2. Increase the likelihood of cheating

  3. Result in further emphasis on style

Let’s dive in and explore those one-by-one:

Why might AI and ChatGPT reduce the barrier to generating arguments?

Because ChatGPT is able to rapidly process large amounts of data, it can generate arguments more quickly and easily than a human could. This allows for more complex arguments to be generated that might otherwise be too time consuming for a human to form. Additionally, ChatGPT could make it easier for novice debaters to access a wide range of arguments and topics, providing them with a greater opportunity to learn and participate in debate.

Let’s imagine the context of a debate that a junior-level debater has no previous experience in. How about: “This House regrets the rise of shareholder activism.” (In this case, we’re defining shareholder activism as when owners of shares in publicly-traded companies vocally and publicly express their displeasure of management activities and propose methods of generating superior financial returns.)

What are arguments in support of ‘the rise of shareholder activism is good?’

  1. Shareholder activism can lead to improved transparency and more ethical corporate practices
  2. Increased scrutiny of corporate governance can lead to better management decisions
  3. Activism can act as a check on corporate mismanagement and abuses of power by management
  4. Shareholder activism can lead to improved shareholder value, as well as increased dividends
  5. Activists can pressure companies to invest in new technologies and strategies which may lead to increased innovation
  6. Shareholder activism can help create a more competitive market environment, spurring the growth of the industry as a whole.

Whether or not you agree with those claims, they were created in less than 10 seconds by AI. This completely changes the dynamic of preparing for a debate. Now, AI can of course be incorrect and we expect to see far more students regurgitate information they don’t actually understand, which will be deemed inaccurate by the judges, but regardless - even if 5 of 6 arguments are solid, that just saved a remarkable amount of mental lifting for all competing students. What’s more - imagine now asking ChatGPT:

“Can you provide a detailed breakdown of how this argument helps people from marginalized communities?”

In just 10 seconds, this is our result when asked about the first argument above:

“Shareholder activism has the potential to help people from marginalized communities by shedding light on corporate practices that may be discriminatory or fail to provide equitable opportunities. Improved transparency can help hold companies accountable for their actions, and holding companies accountable can result in more equitable access to jobs and resources. Additionally, shareholder activists can push companies to invest in initiatives that support diversity and inclusion, and to make sure that marginalized communities have a voice in the decision-making process.

These initiatives can lead to more equitable access to education and healthcare, as well as greater representation in the corporate world. Additionally, shareholder activism has the potential to challenge structural inequalities and create a more level playing field for those who have been historically disadvantaged.”

As you can see - the barrier to generating arguments and also to filling out more detailed outlines has just dropped dramatically. What previously may have taken a student 30 minutes has now taken 60 seconds.

Why will this increase the likelihood of cheating?

Although it’s unfashionable to talk about: Adults cheat. Students cheat, too. Especially when the stakes are HIGH, many people cheat. When the perceived benefit from accomplishing a goal outweighs the negative consequence of being caught AND the probability of being caught, cheating might be perceived as reasonable. Plus, as we all know, if it feels like everyone around you is cheating, then it’s not so bad, so cheating is likely to increase even further.

Cheating is much easier when the technology is available to generate arguments with little effort. Students can use ChatGPT to quickly generate arguments and outlines and use them without fully understanding the material. This makes it much easier for students to plagiarize and submit false information without being caught. Additionally, ChatGPT can be used to generate debate topics and arguments that are more complex than what the student could generate on their own, which may be difficult for judges to detect. Ultimately, this could lead to an uneven playing field where students that are using ChatGPT have an advantage.

The use of ChatGPT can lead to further issues in debate competitions. In order to prevent students from using the technology to gain an unfair advantage, tournament organizers must implement policies that forbid the use of such technology in the competition. Additionally, policies should be put in place to ensure that the tournament judges have the tools to detect any evidence of cheating. Without these measures, the integrity of the competition may be put at risk.

Teachers and administrators are having these exact conversations at schools all across the world. The impact of AI on academic work is already being tested, with multiple PhD students reportedly completing their theses (hundreds of pages long) in mere days with the help of AI…

What are the potential long-term effects of ChatGPT on the debate community?

It is difficult to predict the long-term effects of ChatGPT on the debate community, but there are some potential outcomes. One possible outcome is that the use of AI-generated arguments may lead to a decrease in the quality of arguments presented in debates. As AI-generated arguments become more prevalent, they may become a crutch that students rely on to form their arguments instead of truly engaging with the material. This could lead to more shallow debates and the erosion of critical thinking skills.

Another potential outcome is that AI-generated arguments may create a divide in the debate community between those that use the technology and those that do not. This could lead to an increase in competition between teams, as those that use ChatGPT are seen as having an advantage over those that don't. Additionally, AI-generated arguments may lead to debates becoming more focused on quantity and less on quality, as many students may be inclined to rely on the technology instead of engaging in deeper discussions.

Finally, AI-generated arguments could lead to a decrease in the overall enjoyment of debating. If students feel that they must use the technology to remain competitive, they may become less passionate about debating, leading to a decline in attendance at tournaments.

Why is this likely to increase the value of public speaking skills?

The increased use of AI-generated arguments may lead to a shift in the way debates are judged and scored. Instead of merely focusing on the content of the arguments, judges may begin to focus more on the delivery and public speaking skills of the debaters. This could lead to an increased emphasis on public speaking skills, as those that can present their arguments more effectively and persuasively may be seen as more desirable. Additionally, public speaking skills may become a greater factor in the final outcome of debates, as teams that can effectively present their arguments may be more likely to win. Finally, public speaking skills may become more important in the overall enjoyment of debates, as those that can present their arguments in an interesting and engaging manner may be seen as more captivating.

We expect the same to be true for college admissions essays as well, with more emphasis moving towards interviews. Admissions officers may begin to focus more on the delivery and persuasion of the student in the interview and less on the content of the essay. This could lead to a more competitive process, as those students who can effectively communicate their ideas during the interview may have an advantage over those who cannot. Additionally, being able to present oneself in an interesting and engaging manner may be seen as more desirable, leading to an increased emphasis on public speaking skills in the interview process.

Moving forward - it may be difficult to trust the authenticity of anything that you read (and potentially soon, videos, as deep fakes continue to improve). A live public speech or conversation may be the last refuge for truly authentic communication.

While the future is uncertain, we are more confident than ever that effective verbal communication skills will never go out of style.

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Coach Mike
Post by Coach Mike