“You may use ChatGPT to generate to draft an argument for your exam. However, please do submit: 1) the text generated by ChatGPT and 2) a 500-word (max) explanation as to how improved, edited, and built on the text created by AI. Failure to properly disclose the use of ChatGPT will be considered a form of cheating, and your final exam will automatically be given a zero.” - This school assignment was my first encounter with the famed AI chatbot.
As ChatGPT went viral on social media for its ability to produce human-like responses and speed up different processes like writing, universities such as mine took a cautious approach towards using it for school assignments. Most of my school professors viewed it as a tool for cheating, reducing the need for students to think critically and put in hard work.
Subsequently, many enacted policies, such as automatic zeroes and mandatory submission via Turnitin, to deter usage. With the looming threat of failing a module, I locked up the temptation of using ChatGPT and threw away the key. Hence, I never properly sat down to try what the professors made seem like a magical genie that would relieve me of my university toil.
I embarked on my first internship at LivingWord Communications a few months later. To my surprise, within the first week, my boss instructed me to use ChatGPT to assist in drafting a media note. I was baffled. Although I had heard about the increasing integration of AI in the workplace, encountering it so early on was unexpected. Maybe you could say I lived under a rock, as I had only anticipated using AI after graduation. Additionally, based on my impression of ChatGPT from my professors, it felt like my boss was asking me to cheat or get AI to do all my work for me. However, after my first attempt at prompting the chatbot, I was rudely awakened from that impression when it did not spit back a perfectly drafted media note.
The Art of Prompting ChatGPT
My first encounter with ChatGPT taught me that it is not some kind of magical genie that could auto-generate my workload away. Instead, when provided with general instructions and an even broader set of information, the chatbot could only spit back a flimsy attempt at a media note. During a discussion with my colleagues about the outcomes I got from ChatGPT, I realised there is an art to prompting ChatGPT - much of which still involves critical thinking.
My colleagues got better quality writing and prompts from ChatGPT because they could utilise relevant information from their knowledge and experience as experienced PR practitioners. Being well-versed in what makes a story angle compelling and engaging from a PR perspective, they could give clear instructions to ChatGPT on the exact tone and content that the written piece should have. As a result, the output served as a good baseline to build on for a quality first draft.
This experience made me realise that ChatGPT does not completely remove the need to think critically, contrary to what I assumed based on my schooling experience. Instead of serving as an external, independent brain, ChatGPT is more like a customisable tool that helps to speed up the writing process. As a tool, it still depends on the user to guide it in the right direction. Thus, to fully benefit from the tool, one must think critically and creatively about the best data and instructions to feed it. This is where human discernment and expertise come in, as AI often do not have the full contextual knowledge to identify biases, errors and gaps or consider the broader implications of information and decisions.
Harnessing the Power of ChatGPT
After experimenting with ChatGPT, I slowly figured out how to use it to bring me the greatest value. First, it is very good at restructuring sentences or even stringing words together such that they make sense. Often when I have a good idea but struggle to flesh it out in coherent sentences, I would just throw the disjointed words along with an explanation of how I would like the logical flow of my sentence to be into the chatbot. The results are eloquent and logical sentences that lack personality but make a very good first draft overall. By using this method, I can have a quicker turnaround time for my writing.
ChatGPT is also very good at checking for grammatical mistakes and providing quick research and idea generation to kick-start discussions. The first function is not as impressive, as already existing services like Grammerly can achieve this. The second function, however, has been immensely beneficial.
My colleagues are often required to have a certain level of proficiency and knowledge across various industries. For example, when pitching our clients to the media, we often write the first draft. This can be challenging as often we are not the experts on the topics. In such situations, ChatGPT is a valuable resource to reduce the time spent on research and content development.
The Future in the Light of AI
The past three months’ internship at LivingWord Communications has given me fresh perspectives on AI and will change how I approach my last two years of university education.
Firstly, my time here has debunked the myth of AI making PR job prospects obsolete. Instead of viewing it as a competitor, AI is more of a personalised tool, enabling me to be more efficient and productive at my job and attain higher job satisfaction. Despite its proven proficiency in many areas, it still has many limitations. For example, it is not always able to adopt an appropriate tone when writing pitches to different media types. When crafting pitches for lifestyle media, it tends to use too many flowery words, requiring me to edit its content, as it struggles to achieve the appropriate balance between overly enthusiastic and formal.
Additionally, while ChatGPT is useful for brainstorming and overcoming writer’s block, its ideas are not always unique, as it draws information from its existing online database. Furthermore, from its collection of ideas, it is not always able to discern which ideas are attractive and impactful, especially from a PR perspective. Another drawback of using ChatGPT is the need to ensure no misinformation. As an AI language model, it may provide factually incorrect or outdated information, requiring scrutiny and verification of content.
While AI, such as ChatGPT, currently has many limitations, we can anticipate its continuous development into increasingly powerful tools. This naturally leads to the question of whether AI will develop to the point where we cannot find jobs. However, throughout history, humans have always managed to upskill themselves alongside the development of technology. While technology may cause the death of certain jobs, new jobs will also be created. This is why lifelong learning, upskilling, and a mindset of continuous self-improvement are crucial in adapting to the ever-changing job landscape. By actively seeking new knowledge and skill sets, we can better position ourselves to embrace the opportunities presented by AI and the evolving job market. It has also encouraged me to explore beyond my field of study and use my remaining time at university to develop skills that technology cannot replace. These include:
1. Honing my people skills
Firstly, I want to further develop my cultural intelligence and relationship-building skills. These skills can never fully be replicated by machines. Yet, they are indispensable in the working world as they allow us to read people, make good first impressions, and persuade decision-makers. Ultimately, these will help to build my abilities in management and communication, which were ranked in the “LinkedIn 2023 Most In-Demand Skills” study as some of the top skills that will help me to stay in demand in today’s shifting job market. In any workplace, hybrid or not, business requires interaction with fellow human beings, colleagues or customers. Thus, companies will always need professionals who can do this well. As an SMU student, I have opportunities to develop my cultural intelligence and relationship-building skills through various aspects of the syllabus, such as group projects with local and exchange students. Additionally, I will look for opportunities to build my people skill by going on an exchange study programme, engaging with clients for school projects, presenting in front of the class and participating in extracurricular activities.
2. Strengthening my critical thinking
Besides cultural intelligence and relationship-building, I will use my university education as an opportunity to train my critical thinking skills. More specifically, learning to ask critical questions, healthily critique what is taught, recognise the root cause of problems and communicate information more effectively. As previously mentioned, critical thinking is still essential even in a world where AI has streamlined certain job processes. Critical thinking was ranked in the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2023” as the top core skill that employers look out for. Critical thinkers are sought after as they can complete tasks independently, make rational decisions, and swiftly tackle problems pragmatically and creatively. In any organisation, these are daily occurrences and employees, no matter what level, are expected to proficiently handle them as part of their jobs.
3. Putting analytical thinking skills into action
Recognising the significance of and the demand for critical thinking, I am motivated to take ownership of my learning and intentionally seek opportunities, even simple ones, to practice and sharpen my analytical thinking skills. For example, rather than zoning out when my classmates present in an early morning class, I can grab tea or coffee and pay attention to what they say. By paying attention, there are opportunities to learn from their presentation and, more importantly, go through the mental gymnastics of questioning what they are saying rather than just accepting it at face value. Doing this will provide a fruitful learning experience and slowly mould my mindset into an active and critical thinker rather than a passive listener.