ChatGPT Strikes at the Heart of the Scientific World View

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But as important as these effects are, the furor over ChatGPT points to something even more significant. In recent years, expertise with data collection and manipulation has all too often, in almost every area of human endeavour, been equated with a deep understanding of that area. Examples include digital contact tracing (health) and cryptocurrencies (finance).

ChatGPT continues this trend. It offers further evidence of the rise of what is, in effect, a post-rational, post-scientific world view: a belief that if you gather enough data and have enough computing power, you can “create” authoritative knowledge. In this world, it’s the technician, not the scientist, who is seen as the most knowledgeable. It’s a world in which intellectual authority rests not with subject matter experts but with those who can create and manipulate digital data. In short, knowledge itself is being redefined.

As inconvenient as it will be for teachers to police against ChatGPT-enabled cheating, the hassles they’re facing illustrate but one tiny piece of the upheaval we can expect: we haven’t even begun to grapple with the full implications of this transformation.

Ryan Watkins