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Stan’s Stuff - Those with Dyslexia might save us

B y Stan Stewart.

Make some rough notes, a few points on any writing task, and ChatGPT (an artificial intelligence programme) can instantly write an essay, a business letter or a piece for publication on that subject. This is possible today. I am often asked why I don’t use it. What will be possible tomorrow?

Has human ingenuity/creativity hit the wall? It’s about the same as it was yesterday, last year, a hundred years ago. Has it gone about as far as it can go? Slow-coach human brains step aside. From now on artificial intelligence will do all our thinking and our writing! Humans (all of us) will be nothing more than spectators of the cleverness of computerized brains. Really!

Whoops – maybe not. AI can’t cope with people who are dyslexic.

Not long ago, I stumbled upon what was wrong with me. In casual conversation with a medico, I told him about my lifelong inability to distinguish my left (hand or foot) from my right. This has made learning ballroom dancing almost impossible and led to many alarming traffic maneuvers. “Turn right here”. I turn left and the passengers are screaming. My friend (an academic and working professional in this related field) then questioned me about my ability to work with chains of numbers. “Not very good,” I said. “You have directional dyslexia,” he announced. He gave a name to something that has bothered me all my life. In fact, I was relieved. I’m not just stupid. There really is something wrong with my basic wiring. Or should I say, ‘differently wired?

But in the world of ChatGPT, this disability also has its’ upside. ChatGPT is based on logic. It has difficulty with the illogical, non-sensible and the unpredictable. And in some respects, this describes me and my writing. My favourite author is Bill Bryson. I have read many of his travel books and have read his ‘Short History of Nearly Everything’ three times. What I enjoy about Bill Bryson’s writing is that it is unpredictable. For instance, he writes about some enormously complex scientific discovery and without warning, in the next paragraph, he writes about the eccentricities of the ground-breaking scientist whose theories he has been expounding. Despite the chapter heading on a Bill Bryson book, what you encounter on a page is often something different - the unexpected. I don’t know if he is dyslexic, but I know his writings will be hard for ChatGPT to mimic.

It has started me thinking about abstract art. Non-sensical paintings where a fish is looking like a flower which is growing out of a frying pan etc. Picasso made this kind of painting legitimate - art where objects co-exist without rhyme or reason and yet, nevertheless capture our attention and somehow mean something to us. Although Picasso made this kind of painting legitimate art, small children have been doing it forever.

All children are born creative. What we call ‘abstract art’ comes easily to small children. Give them a sheet of paper and some paints and off they go. As they grow older, they get the message that things/animals etc have particular shapes which should be portrayed in certain ways. Around about this time, the urge to paint in some children is subdued. By the time they reach their teens, young Picassos are quenched. “We can’t paint or draw” is a common response. Do we believe them and leave these creative tasks to ChatTPG?

When I went to school there was no such thing as dyslexia. It was just some kids were smart, brainy and some were dull, slow or weird. Conforming was the order of the day. Left handers suffered as well. “Learn to write with your right hand,” and that was that. What about now? Children with learning difficulties, dyslexia for example, are everywhere, in every class, in many families.

I am thinking that the directness and vision of small children should be taken seriously by all of us. Teens and adults who are ‘different’, may be the hope of our age. Certainly, they should be valued, encouraged and listened to. Their insights and opinions do not come from machine learning, nor can they be mimicked by ChatGPT. And us, all of us, our off-the-wall thoughts and ideas should not be dismissed. When it comes to lists, legal documents and certain kinds of essay writing, ChatGPT is smarter than us. But ChatGPT doesn’t laugh or cry or dream or have hunches. It doesn’t love. What seems inevitable is that Chat GPT will take many jobs and the world of work will change. But the world of love will not. This is the world where real people can flourish or die.

As for me, I have made a decision. I will look and learn from babies and children. I will support teens and young adults. I know they will be suspicious of old Grandpops Stan. However, if I can shut up and listen carefully, I may learn something about the world as they see it. I will value their thoughts and ideas and I will affirm them. And maybe we will communicate, human to human while ChatGPT spins its wheels waiting for us to give it the next task.

Caption: Cubist Bird Painting.


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