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ChatGPT: Friend or Foe to Humanists?

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

It can be tempting for researchers, writers, and others with backgrounds in the humanities to respond defensively to the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), pointing out the many skills they possess that cannot be replicated by machines. And in fact, as ChatGPT itself points out when asked (see below), humans trained in fields like history do boast many capabilities that AI will not gain any time soon. (ChatGPT might have added the sophisticated and creative use of primary sources to form a coherent narrative.)

But adopting a defensive posture risks missing all of the ways that humanists can use AI to innovate and improve the work they do—just as they have always exploited new technologies and methodologies. It also misses how their unique capabilities can help frame and apply the use of AI in the world. For instance, as the ChatGPT answer also points out, AI’s capacity to process, organize, and recognize patterns within large-scale data opens up revolutionary new possibilities in fields like history that examine change over time, even if humans still must frame, interpret, and apply the findings from that data.

For humanists, the conversation should not focus on humans and AI as competitors. It should focus on how best to marry humanistic skills with AI’s capabilities in order to better serve the organizations and communities around us. And new, exciting possibilities for doing that are emerging every day.

Arielle Gorin is a Saybrook Senior Consultant. She is currently at work on an anniversary campaign for a leading multi-family office. This post originally appeared on Saybrook's LinkedIn page.


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