'I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That' - AI and Human Development

26 April 2023

By James Carver, Methodist Youth President

Artificial intelligence (AI), A dream of Sci-fi lovers ever since its first imagining in the late 1800s. From Hal 9000 to J.A.R.V.I.S, to Data, to Wall-e, Science fiction has showed us a world with information at our fingertips, but they have also showed us many dangers including humans becoming over-reliant, the systems malfunctioning, or the intelligence misinterpreting the human world. Well, science fiction has become science fact with a new open access form of Artificial Intelligence; ChatGPT.

Similar to Siri or Alexa, ChatGPT is a text base AI system which responds to queries by searching the the internet for information to form an answer. However, ChatGPT is more advanced by being able to create rather than just respond. Since its release a few months ago ChatGPT has helped people to create visually stunning websites by creating computer codes, created 3D animations, and has written many essays and sermons from simple commands. It sounds like a paradise, but there are some problems with using ChatGPT such as it only being able to receive information published before 2021, the software not providing referencing increasing the risk of plagiarism, and although it has ethics filters, these are not infallible.

Over the last few months there have been numerous reports in the news of students using the software to write their university assignments for them, one American university newspaper found that “17 percent [of students] said they had used ChatGPT on assignments or exams at the end of 2022. Some admitted to submitting the chatbot’s writing as their own” (Science news, 2023[1]) and although schools are banning the software on campus computers, in an age when nearly everyone has a phone in their pocket, it is almost impossible to police; especially when it can almost perfectly replicate genuine work (see BBC, 2023[2]).

As part of forming this article, I decided to test out ChatGPT for myself by asking the system to “write me a 1000 word essay on the Methodist Church in Britain’s Children and Youth Gathering, 3Generate”. For context 3Generate is a weekend event where Methodist Children and Young People come together to worship, pray, and share what God is saying to them; its aim is to ensure the voices of children and young people are fed into Methodist decision making. When I saw the results I wasn’t sure if I was scared or impressed. For me, writing the 3Generate report to the Methodist Conference took approximately 22.5 hours; excluding the consultations involved. ChatGPT gave me a detailed summary in less than 10 seconds.

Overall the essay was perfect apart from three areas:

Firstly was its conclusion that 3Generate was “Founded in 2014.” This incorrect because the Youth Assembly has taken place since 1995, when Charter 95 was brought to the Conference. ‘3Generate’ is the latest iteration of the Youth Assembly, focusing on inclusion, wider age ranges, and participation, and the first Youth Assembly to use that name was in 2011. My belief is that this mistake was caused by the AI system searching the whole internet for the keyword “3Generate” and so missed out and excluded earlier gatherings that didn’t use this name, though that still doesn’t account for the system choosing 2014 and not 2011 as the start date!  

Secondly, as mentioned earlier, ChatGPT can only retrieve information which existed before 2021, and so its results mentioned that “the event is open to young people aged 8 to 23, with different age groups having their own dedicated spaces and activities.” Over the last few years 3Generate has open up to 4-7 year-olds and has moved away from the stream model, replacing it for an integrated event with cross-generational conversations taking place across the weekend.

Finally, the essay came back as just 637 words, a fact which I hadn’t noticed until I imported it into a word document. However, its conclusion that “[3Generate] is a testament to the power of youth voices and the importance of creating spaces where young people can come together to explore and celebrate their faith” stood out to me because, although it is correct and I may be biased, ChatGPT when asked about itself says it does not have emotions so how did it reach this emotional response? Well, my conclusion is that this is something someone else said, a real person, with a real view that the system copied.

To some people, AI Assistance may seem like a good thing when comparing the benefits against the risks but there is a side of AI essays that scare me the most, which is the impact it will have on human development. Think about it, if we hand over all the writing we do, all the creative things we form, or all of our research over for Artificial intelligence to do, we will slowly but surely lose these and other skills.  As a writer this scares me because the most beautiful thing God gave us was our ability to speak, debate, and think. This is the point of essays, they are not some check-marking tool to test our knowledge of a topic, they are tests to see how well we are developing as people who are able to contribute to the betterment of our society, defend our arguments and decisions in real-time, and be able to speak for ourselves. With our ability to do these things transferred to AI, what do we become?

Overall, from my experience of using ChatGPT, I believe we are safe at the moment if we use it in moderation. However, as time goes on and people work out how to get around the systems and filters the potential problems ever increases in probability. As a final test, I asked ChatGPT about how I’d get away with a crime? and it resolutely told me its ethical filters prohibited it from answering but some day, someone may get just the right wording to bypass the filters and instead of “I’m Sorry Dave, I’m Afraid I Can’t Do That”, It may actually answer the question.

Finally, I would like to share a word with students using ChatGPT, I know you probably feel stressed, pressured by your family to get high grades, or you just want some spare time to work out who you are as a beautiful person God made. Until about 7 months ago, I was in your shoes writing my own essays to the crack of dawn, finding a lot of them tough but now is not the time to use AI to write your essays, I know that my certificate saying James Carver, BA (Hons) Criminology is not just a piece of paper on the wall. It is a symbol of everything I went through, all the times I pushed myself. Please believe in yourself and your work, like God believes in you.


[1] https://www.sciencenews.org/article/chatgpt-ai-artificial-intelligence-education-cheating-accuracy?ref=upstract.com

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-64785020