The “Debate” Over ChatGPT is Caused by the Ought-to-be-Obvious Irony of Plagiarism Checkers
Oh, it’s rant time. You’ve been warned.
Plagiarism checkers are automated software advertised to detect cheating. These tools, designed to protect the sanctity of academia and the originality of thought, have given rise to a new breed of student who deceives not only us but also themself. It starts by being sold the idea that ‘knowledge is power’ is code for ‘go to university to get a good job.’ The pursuit of higher learning has been so tragically distorted that the perverse incentives created by plagiarism checkers have gone unnoticed. These digital guards of originality, supposedly our saviors from the scourge of cheating, have inadvertently created a world where students are actually encouraged to cheat.
Instead of fostering a culture that celebrates ingenuity, critical thinking, and problem-solving, anti-cheating AI software tools have become the overseers of an academic rat race, where students scramble to find competing tools to outwit the algorithm. Instead of being here to learn and understand, they are here to game the system, compelled to commit intellectual fraud in order to appease the insatiable appetite of the digital gatekeepers. The very essence of academia — the pursuit of knowledge and intellectual skill — is being suffocated under the weight of these tools. Students are no longer encouraged to think for themselves or — god forbid — have a unique perspective or creative thought. Instead, they are led to believe that work flagged by the algorithm is bad and anything they can sneak past it is good, which brings us to ChatGPT.
ChatGPT, an AI text-generating system, is incredibly adept at paraphrasing content, allowing students to bypass plagiarism detectors with zero effort. The gold standard of intellectual fraud detection was defeated in one fell swoop. Of course, plagiarism-checking software will soon be replaced by AI detection software, and the cycle will repeat, filling the coffers of tech company investors at the expense of the rest of society. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but it’s also lined with B2B grifters, like wolves stalking their prey of hobbled bureaucracies.
The whole affair reminds me of playing recreational soccer, both with and without referees. Self-officiated games were fun, fair, and still competitive. But, add a referee to the game, and it turned into a sordid competition of who could manipulate the rules to their advantage. Players began exaggerating fouls, arguing with the referee, and exploiting every loophole they could find. Sportsmanship was replaced by a relentless desire to win at any cost. This seems to have been an automatic reaction to the existence of the referee, who was seen as the banker in an economic system of fouls and penalties — commit a foul, get caught, pay the price, and the slate is clean. And if you’re not caught? Well, that’s not your fault now, is it?
Anti-cheating tools are the referees. The great irony is that their mere existence destroys the very institutions they were introduced to protect by palliating acts of intellectual dishonesty. They have fostered a belief that subverting the algorithm is more important than the genuine pursuit of knowledge. And, if you do score a hypothetical goal despite it, well, that’s even better.
And what about the educators? Instead of nurturing the inquisitive minds of our students, we are forced to become the enforcers of a system that stifles creativity and punishes exploration. No longer are we the guides of students on their intellectual journey — we are the police who threaten would-be cheaters with digital sticks.
The result? A generation of students who have learned not the joys of discovery or the satisfaction of intellectual growth but rather that a set of arbitrary rules like ‘up to 15% text overlap is acceptable’ delineate which actions are truly virtuous.