When I edit, I help writers get smarter. Will it ever possible to do the same thing with AI text generation programs like ChatGPT?
Making writers smarter
Writers and publishers generally hire editors to make text better. I can’t do that and only that.
For me, it’s boring to just identify what’s wrong and fix it. I want to know why it’s wrong. I want to know what you, the writer, make that particular mistake.
So I won’t just point out word repetition, I’ll tell you why you’re doing it (the word is a vague placeholder and you don’t want to think about what you’re really saying). I won’t just point out that you’re using too many exclamation points, I’ll explain how that wears out the reader and suggest some ways to emphasize your point with language rather than punctuation. I won’t just point out that you’ve buried the lede, I’ll explain how to rewrite in the future when you figure out what the lede should be.
I do this because it’s interesting — but also because it helps people become better writers. At my last job, they used to send “problem case” writers to me to edit. As I was providing editorial feedback, the writers would often say “Wow, you make me work harder than any other editor I ever had.” And then later, when it was done, “Could you edit my next report, please?” (Usually, the answer was no, I had to get to work helping someone else.)
Could I make an AI smarter?
ChatGPT will respond if you criticize it. It can get better — up to a point. Here’s a dialogue I had with it, for example. My prompts are in italic, the rest is from ChatGPT.
Write a paragraph about why writing is enjoyable
Writing can be enjoyable for many reasons. It allows one to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in a creative and organized way. Writing can also serve as a form of self-reflection and can help to clarify one’s thoughts and emotions. Additionally, writing can be a form of self-expression and can be a way for an individual to share their unique perspective with others. For some, the act of writing itself can be meditative and relaxing. Furthermore, the process of creating a story or article and seeing it come to fruition can be quite satisfying. Overall, writing can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience for those who enjoy expressing themselves through the written word.
There is no story to this — no beginning, middle and end. Write this by describing how writing is problem-solving and then why writing, as problem-solving, is inherently enjoyable to humans.
Writing is a form of problem-solving. It involves taking an idea or message and finding the most effective way to convey it through the written word. This process requires critical thinking, creativity, and organization. The writer must consider their audience and purpose, choose the appropriate words and structure, and revise and edit their work to make it clear and compelling.
Because writing is a form of problem-solving, it is inherently enjoyable to humans. People are naturally drawn to activities that challenge them to think critically and creatively. Writing provides a way for people to use their minds in a productive and satisfying way. Additionally, the process of writing often leads to a sense of accomplishment once the writer has effectively communicated their message. This sense of accomplishment is enjoyable and can inspire motivation and self-esteem. Overall, writing as a problem-solving activity is enjoyable because it allows people to use their minds in a stimulating and rewarding way.
That’s better, but it would be more interesting to read if you varied the sentence length — some long sentences, some short. Could you do that?
Of course, I’d be happy to revise the paragraph to vary sentence length.
Writing is a complex, multi-faceted problem-solving activity that requires critical thinking, creativity, and organization. It involves taking an idea or message and finding the most effective way to convey it through the written word. The writer must consider their audience and purpose, choose the appropriate words and structure, and revise and edit their work to make it clear and compelling.
It’s this problem-solving aspect that makes writing so enjoyable for many people. The process of writing challenges the mind and allows people to use their critical thinking and creative skills in a productive and satisfying way. Additionally, the sense of accomplishment that comes from effectively communicating a message through writing can be very motivating, and can boost self-esteem.
In short, writing is enjoyable because it’s a problem-solving activity that allows people to use their minds in a stimulating and rewarding way.
So my instance of ChatGPT learned some things that were a little better, but it still doesn’t seem to understand about sentence length.
AI text generators makes all sorts of mistakes, not just writing mistakes. For example, this article from the site Futurism points out how CNET used an AI text generation program to write articles about finance that were filled with errors.
I know that AI programs can learn. My question is, can a normal human like me teach one?
Imagine that my lessons about sentence length, or exclamation points, or how to do finance properly were somehow able to make ChatGPT or other programs smarter. Could a bunch of trained editors turn ChatGPT into a more effective writer by giving it feedback, the way we would if we were working with human writers who can learn from us?
At least in theory, if everyone using a tool like this gave it feedback, it could get a lot smarter in a hurry.
Of course, some clever people could also likely teach it to be racist, or a gaslighter, or to believe things that were false. So there’s danger here.
But it’s still intriguing to think about.