• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Online uproar over Nigerian English flagged as ChatGPT-ish

Higher-order thinking: 3 ways ChatGPT will transform education for African students

There is a growing practice of tagging emails and other forms of communication with certain words as potentially generated by Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Tech investor Paul Graham recently sparked online debate after tagging a text as AI generated because it used the word ‘delve.’ He argued that the word was a telltale sign of AI-generated text.

Graham tweeted, “Someone sent me a cold email proposing a novel project. Then I noticed it used the word ‘delve.’”

“My point here is not that I dislike ‘delve,’ though I do, but that it’s a sign that text was written by ChatGPT,” he expanded. His initial tweet, which has over 10 million views, sparked a debate about the growing bias against seemingly ordinary words.

Others, like Ankita Gupta, chief executive officer and co-founder at Aktodotio, chimed in with additional potential AI-friendly words “‘Delve, safeguard, robust, demystify, in this digital world.’ All ChatGPT. I am rejecting all content with any of these words,” Gupta said.

Liana Fricker, a Venture Catalyst, added, “See also: foster, embark, empower, harness, unlock, unleash and crucial.”

The rise of large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, known for their formal style and extensive vocabulary usage, and their increasing prominence in content generation have enabled suspicion around larger-than-average vocabulary. Today, writers get flagged by AI plagiarism detectors when they use certain words.

Ruona Meyer, a celebrated journalist, quoted Graham’s tweet, “I had to tweet-shout this because my brother is getting called out for using ChatGPT in assignments at the postgrad level as we speak. Just days ago, he had to write a paragraph on the spot in class (on a question asked by the lecturer), and the AI detector still said it was likely ChatGPT.

“These things aren’t just Twitter banter by Graham and Co. It is affecting real humans and undermining trust in honest writers.”

Farida Adamu lamented, “I had to water down the writing in my thesis so the AI detector would stop flagging my work. I swear I am not making this up.”

“This worries me more than it amuses me. I once sent a response to someone, and they said, “If I didn’t know you personally, I’d say you typed this with ChatGPT.” Why? I used a word they were unfamiliar with. Isn’t that just sad,” Dedoyin Ajayi, a therapist, stated.

Nigerians are particularly concerned about this trend, fearing it might undermine Nigerian English’s unique character and flair.

Wale Lawal, founder and editor-in-chief of The Republic, explained, “The most exciting thing about Nigerian English is not even our love of big words. We invent and reinvent words. Like how do you explain ‘razz,’ ‘normal level,’ ‘one kind,’ ‘format,’ ‘jazz’ to a non-Nigerian?”

Many Nigerians argue that English has been adopted to fit into cultural contexts, and judging all writings through one cultural lens would be wrong.

Stephanie Busari, Senior Editor for Africa at CNN, tweeted, “People who learn English as a second language tend to speak it more formally and not colloquially like in UK or US. I was an avid reader as a child and was made fun of in the UK for using big words.”

Editi Effiòng, a filmmaker, argued, “Nigerian English has since evolved far above what the British handed over. In many cases, it is a standalone dialect, possibly superior to what the colonials ferried over.”

This echoes Chinua Achebe’s belief, “Let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English, for we intend to do unheard of things with it.”

On an X thread, Nigerians are showcasing the difference between how Americans and Nigerians say the same thing. Oluyomi Ojo, the founder of Printivo, explained, “Nigerians use specific vocabularies in emails/comms; Americans don’t. Americans write as they speak.”

However, AI fails to make this distinction, cementing fears of underrepresentation with these language models. Graham’s tweet is also inspiring renewed calls for Africans to participate in AI development.

Elnathan John, a celebrated writer, argued on X, “This is why we need to invest more in producing and publishing our own work. Imagine after being force-fed colonial languages, being forced to speak it better than its owners, then being told that no one used basic words like ‘delve’ in real life.”

Dr. ‘Bosun Tijani, the minister for Communications, Innovation and Digital Economy, added, “Now that we have another case study, can we “delve” into the possible bias and lack of inclusion in AI dataset?”