ChatGPT? Good Grief!

by Mary Anne Duggan

It’s hard to put into words how I feel about the sudden explosion of AI (and ChatGPT in particular). My son happens to work in AI, and our conversations usually leave me with a blank look on my face. I nod politely as not to let on how little I understand about this thing that will supposedly upend how we all live and work.

Sometimes I feel like technological roadkill. The advancements are rushing by at 100mph, and I’m left stunned by the side of the road. As I think about it more, the feeling I have might be one of grief.

So, I asked my new, best worst friend ChatGPT to tell me a little more about grief so I can figure out if this feeling fits. In less than 30 seconds, this is what my “friend” delivered:

“The stages of grief, as identified by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, are:

  • Denial: This stage involves disbelief or denial of the reality of the loss.
  • Anger: This stage involves feelings of anger, resentment, or frustration about the loss.
  • Bargaining: This stage involves a desire to make a deal or bargain with a higher power or with fate to change the outcome.
  • Depression: This stage involves feelings of sadness, loneliness, and despair about the loss.
  • Acceptance: This stage involves accepting the reality of the loss and moving forward with life.

It is important to note that not everyone experiences all of these stages, and they may not necessarily occur in a linear or predictable order. Grief is a highly individualized and personal experience, and people may experience a range of emotions and reactions that are unique to their situation.”

Hmm, this might be what I’m going through. But my new friend left out all the nuances of Kübler-Ross’s research on grief (which was actually conducted with critically-ill patients and not the grieving public in general). No mention is made of the problems of stage theories in general or the liberal application of Kübler-Ross’s stages to any kind of loss one might have. In short, ChatGPT is not ready to replace me as a professor just yet.

But, if my career is on life-support from the attack of AI, perhaps the stages of grief apply to me as the not-quite-dead-yet patient:

Denial – I teach statistics. Surely ChatGPT can’t solve the multi-step hypothesis testing items I assign to my students.

Anger – ChatGPT can solve the multi-step hypothesis testing items I assign to my students! Gaaahhh! It also can correctly answer multiple choice items pated from Canvas. *sound of punching pillows*

Bargaining – If I just demand that my online students come to the testing center four times a semester it will all be okay. If I just show my students why learning statistics is important it will be okay . . .  If I just . . . If I just . . . If I just . . .

Depression – Instead of finding solutions, I’ll rewatch season 2 of Ted Lasso for the third time (and “Believe!”)

Acceptance – ChatGPT isn’t going anywhere. Since I am not going anywhere either, acceptance is the only option.

Acceptance, however, doesn’t mean resignation. I can accept this new way of finding information and turn it to my, and my students’, advantage. Not quite sure how I’ll do that yet, maybe I’ll ask my new friend.


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