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This 22 year old is trying to save us from ChatGPT before it changes writing forever

Edward Tian

While many Americans were hungover on New Year’s Day, 22-year-old Edward Tian was feverishly working on a new app to combat abuse of a powerful new artificial intelligence tool called ChatGPT.

Given the buzz it’s generated, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of ChatGPT. It is an interactive chatbot based on machine learning. Technology has basically engulfed the entire Internet, reading humanity’s collective works and learning patterns in language that it can replicate. All you have to do is give it a prompt, and ChatGPT can do an endless array of things: write a story in a certain style, answer a question, explain a concept, compose an email — a college Write an essay – and it will spit out coherent, seemingly human-written text in seconds.

The technology is both great – and terrifying.

“I think we’re absolutely at a tipping point,” says Edward. “This technology is incredible. I believe she is the future. But at the same time, it’s like opening Pandora’s box. And we need safeguards to use them responsibly.”

Edward is a senior at Princeton University, where he majors in computer science and minors in journalism. Before his recent foray into the limelight, Edward’s biggest plans were to graduate from college and have his wisdom teeth pulled. Now he’s taking calls from venture capital firms, education leaders and global media outlets.

For the past few years, Edward has been investigating an AI system called GPT-3, a predecessor to ChatGPT that was less user-friendly and largely inaccessible to the general public because it was behind a paywall. As part of his undergraduate degree this fall semester, Edward researched how to recognize text written by the AI ​​system while working at Princeton’s Natural Language Processing Lab.

Then, as the semester ended, OpenAI, the company behind GPT-3 and other AI tools, released ChatGPT to the public for free. For the millions of people around the world who have used it ever since, interacting with the technology has been like a glimpse into the future; a future that not so long ago would have seemed like science fiction.

Despite studying AI, Edward, like the rest of us, was amazed by the power of ChatGPT. He and his friends used it to write poetry and raps on top of each other. “And it was like, ‘Wow, these results are pretty good,'” says Edward. It seemed like everyone on campus was talking about how remarkable this new technology was. Sure, the generated text is pretty formulaic and not always accurate. But it also feels like the beginning of a revolution.

Many users of the new technology quickly turned their astonishment into concern. How many jobs will this destroy? Will this empower nefarious actors and further corrupt our public discourse? How will this disrupt our education system? What’s the point of learning to write essays in school when AI – which is expected to improve exponentially in the near future – can do it for us?

Stephen Marche, enrolls The Atlantic last month declared “The College Essay Is Dead”. He paints ChatGPT and the AI ​​revolution as part of an existential crisis for the humanities. “The essay, particularly the bachelor’s essay, has been at the center of humanistic pedagogy for generations,” writes Marche. “This is how we teach kids how to research, think and write. This whole tradition is about to be destroyed from the ground up.”

Edward against the machine

After the fall semester ended, Edward went home to Toronto for the holidays. He hung out with his family. He watched Netflix. But he couldn’t shake the thought of the monumental challenges humanity is facing due to rapidly evolving AI.

And then he had an idea. What if he applied what he learned in school over the past few years to help the public determine if something was typewritten?

Edward already had the know-how and even the software on his laptop to create such a program. Ironically, this software, named GitHub Co-Pilot, is powered by GPT-3. With his help, Edward was able to create a new app in three days. It’s a testament to the power of this technology to make us more productive.

On January 2nd, Edward released his app. He called it GPTZero. It basically uses ChatGPT against itself, checking if the AI ​​system is “zero or very much involved” in the creation of a given text.

When Edward went to bed that night, he wasn’t expecting much from his app. “When I put that out, I just thought maybe a few dozen people would try it at best,” says Edward. “I didn’t expect what happened.”

When Edward woke up, his phone had exploded. He saw countless texts and DMs from journalists, principals, teachers, you name it, from places as far away as France and Switzerland. His app, hosted by a free platform, became so popular that it crashed. Thrilled by his app’s popularity and purpose, the hosting platform has since provided Edward with the resources needed to scale the app’s services to a mass audience.

Fight against the hallmarking of everything

Edward says he has a few primary reasons for creating GPTZero. The first is transparency. “People deserve to know whether something was written by a human or by a machine,” he says.

With that in mind, one obvious use for GPTZero is to help teachers determine if their students are plagiarizing their essays from ChatGPT. “Teachers from all over the world worry about it,” says Edward.

However, some in the tech world are not entirely convinced that copying and pasting what ChatGPT churns out is even a problem. “‘ChatGPT plagiarism’ is absolutely not an issue,” Marc Andreessen, a venture capitalist and internet pioneer, tweeted earlier this month. “If you can’t overwrite a machine, what do you write?”

Elon Musk, one of the original co-founders of OpenAI, recently tweeted, “It’s a new world. Goodbye homework!” in response to reports that schools are introducing tough new measures against ChatGPT plagiarism.

Of course, these are just superficial tweets. But it really does feel like we’ve entered a new world, one in which we’re being forced to reevaluate our education system and even the value—or at least the method—of teaching children to write.

Many of us lost our will – even our ability – to remember phone numbers when cell phones appeared. By offloading memorization to a machine, we have become dependent on calling our friends and family. You could say it was the best and it cleared our heads to focus on other things. Or you see it as a kind of de-evolution, a dulling of our mental abilities. Don’t lose your phone!

Now humanity faces an even greater dependency on machines. It is possible that we are heading towards a world in which an even larger proportion of the population will lose their ability to write well. It’s a world where all of our written communication could become like a Hallmark card, written without our own creativity, personality, ideas, emotions or idiosyncrasies. Call it the hallmark of everything.

But when we give people Hallmark cards, at least people know we’re giving them Hallmark cards. When you use ChatGPT to text your friend congratulations or an apology, they might not even know it was typewritten.

Which brings us to the other purpose Edward envisions for his app: identifying and incentivizing originality in human writing. “We lose that individuality when we stop teaching writing in schools,” says Edward. “Human writing can be so beautiful, and there are aspects of it that computers should never co-opt. And it feels like this is being compromised if everyone is using ChatGPT to write.”

Edward is not a Luddite. He’s not trying to stop the AI. He believes that’s impossible, and says he opposes blanket bans on the use of ChatGPT recently announced by New York City public schools. Students, he believes, will still use the technology. And he says it’s important they can learn how to use it. You must be aware of the technological changes permeating our world. “It makes no sense that we go blindly into this future,” he says. “Instead, you must take the security precautions to step into that future.”

As for his post-college plans, Edward says the excitement — and clear demand — for his new app has convinced him that he should focus on making it a better, more accurate product. “If you’re a teacher or educator, our team – which is just me at the moment and my best friend from college, who just joined yesterday – would love to speak to you,” says Edward.

So if you come across text that you suspect was typewritten, perhaps run it through Edward’s new app? You can find it on

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