This Was Written By A Human

February 17th, 2023

By John Marks, Curator of Collections

Artificial intelligence (AI) is in the news this year, specifically software called ChatGPT. The letters stand for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. The program uses language on the internet (but only before 2021…so far) to learn patterns of thought in writing. The Chat part is the ability for it to write like a human.

The software can write essays and take (and pass) exams, including at the graduate level. Teachers at all levels are in a tizzy about this, and rightly so. If students have ChatGPT write 5,000 words on the Russian Revolution, what have they learned?

Man with glasses and long beard

Actual Human

The part that concerns me is the number of online ads I see for using AI to speed up mundane, time-consuming tasks like writing blog articles. (Now that I’ve used my computer to do a little ChatGPT research, I’ll be flooded with more ads. That’s a conversation for another time.) These ads call writing “generating content.” Let software write blogs because you have better things to be doing with your time.

Ten years ago, last month, Executive Director Kerry Lippincott asked the staff to write monthly blog articles for our website. There was no writing style guide and topics were our choice, as long as we submitted one each month. Of the last 120 blog articles I’ve done, some have “written themselves.” Others began with a good idea that refused to gel into an article without a lot of work. Many were written the day they were due. None of them felt like I was “generating content.”

Desk with notebook computer

Actual Computer

Kerry says our job is to tell Geneva’s stories. Whether it’s a blog article , an exhibit, a History Happy Hour, or another format, storytelling is the same. We get an idea then we research to see if we have enough facts, images, and artifacts. We think about how the story fits into what we’re doing. Does it connect to a current exhibit, does it involve under-represented audiences, will it generate responses from the public? We think about our audience for the specific format and story. History Happy Hour people may have different interests from those who read our blog articles.

Going through this process each month makes us better writers, and better historians. It builds up our knowledge of Geneva history. It connects us to our audiences. Being historians, we don’t chase after every new bit of technology. So rest assured, Historic Geneva’s stories will continue to be told by real people.

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2 responses to “This Was Written By A Human”

  1. Norma Press says:

    Glad to hear that! As a writer myself, I fully agree.

  2. Charlie Bauder says:

    Very Interesting. Glad you will stick with it, you do a good job whatever the topic or format. Cannot believe that Kerry has been here 10 years.

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