Much of our talk about ChatGPT has been about students using it to cheat, but there are ways to use it that academics might be interested in trying for themselves.
One interesting set of ChatGPT apps are “readers.” You upload a PDF and then you ask the app questions about it. One of these apps is Filechat. Another is Humata. (There’s also Embra, a ChatGPT-based assistant that integrates into your other apps, such as Chrome; it is in limited beta release, and I have not tried it.) Filechat gives you a certain number of free questions; when you run out, you have the option to buy more. Humata is free, but seems more prone to crashing.
I tried both out on an article I’d been meaning to read, but hadn’t (and still haven’t, alas): “Understanding Philosophy” by Michael Hannon (Nottingham) and James Nguyen (Stockholm), published recently in Inquiry. Of the two, I thought Humata had better answers, but keep in mind this is an n=1 experiment.
Here is the opening of my exchange about the article with Filechat:
And here’s the beginning of my conversation about the article with Humata:
One of the nice things about Humata is that it provides the page citations that form the basis of its answers, and highlights the corresponding text of the article.
ChatGPT can also work as a preliminary translator. I fed it the opening paragraph of “АНАЛИТИЧЕСКАЯ ФИЛОСОФИЯ, ЭПИСТЕМОЛОГИЯ И ФИЛОСОФИЯ НАУКИ” by В. Н. Карпович, published in the Siberian Journal of Philosophy:
People who need help with writing can ask ChatGPT to, for example, rewrite texts in idiomatic English, or rewrite a text in a simplified manner. This could come in handy in a variety of ways, for example, for teaching complicated texts—particularly for scholars who are self-aware enough to realize that they may unwittingly presume their students understand more than they do. Here is ChatGPT rewriting the first section of the Introduction to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason:
ChatGPT can also handle certain administrative tasks. You could paste in a list of names and have them alphabetized and reformatted, for example, or ask ChatGPT to convert bibliographic entries from one style to another. Or you can have it draft rejection letters.
You can also use it to help finish your sentences. Outline is an online writing app, similar to Google Docs in its collaborative potential, but with ChatGPT built in to help you write. If, for example you’re stuck halfway through a sentence, you can hit a button to bring up the AI, which can help you find the perfect words to finish off your thought. You can also use it to help you come up with new ideas or directions for your text. (I typed the first two and half sentences of this paragraph into Outline, and then asked it for help; it wrote the part in italics.)
When it comes to teaching, several ideas have been floating around, including:
- Feeding ChatGPT or one of the reader apps some text and asking it to generate quiz questions, discussion prompts, etc.
- Asking one of the reader apps which parts of a text are the hardest to understand, so you get a sense of what you might need to put more effort into explaining to your students.
- Asking ChatGPT questions and having your students critique its answers.
I’m sure some readers have come up with or heard other ideas for making use of ChatGPT, other large language models, and AI apps in their work. Please pass them along in the comments.