AI Thinking Partners: With Or Without You?

My friend, Terry Elliott, shared this poem, coming on the heels of his explorations of AI Thinking Partners in the NowComment annotation space. I haven’t yet ventured into the new features in NowComment (but I intend to when I get more time), but I think the concept of human writers intentionally paired with Generative AI “partners” (like ChatGPT or Bard) for thinking, planning, writing, and more is gaining a foothold in the broader AI communities, particularly in the educational circles that I am part of (like ETMOOC2).

This idea decreases the zero sum game of “write my essay or report for me, AI” for copy/paste/plagiarism that so many of us are concerned about, where the writer does little more than prompt a final response from the platform, and then is done. An AI Thinking Partner potentially engages the writer into conversation about a topic, providing information, possibly outlines for longer pieces and maybe revision suggestions, too.

As we often do, I wrote a poetic response to Terry’s poem, as sort of a push-back to the message that the future may require this kind of AI interaction of writers, and I tried to remind myself of the beauty of drafting a piece of writing on physical paper, with all of the cross-outs and scratch marks that make the act of writing a more tangible experience. There’s something still powerful when the only voice you hear when your writing is your own, and not some secondary whispering emerging from Generative AI.

What’s it like
to write side by
side, only to collide
with something
artificial, when
scratch marks,
pencil shavings
and eraser bits
bring a poem
towards a messy
but beautiful

I then took my poem, and asked Bard to write a poem itself about humans writing with Generative AI (its poem was decent, actually — certainly more interesting than anything I have seen come out of ChatGPT so far).

What Bard Wrote

I then merged my poem and Bard’s poem into a single frame that works to make my point about the disruptive nature of this push into Generative AI partners (but it’s important to note that I am not against these Thinking Partner experiments at all and I can see lots of value for writers, and am glad that friends, like Paul Allison, in places like NowComment are experimenting with it to research the potential. But I would still rather have someone like Terry as my Thinking Partner in most writing explorations, a human spelunker as opposed to algorithmic hand-holding.)

Poetic Collision

Peace (and Poems),

  1. I agree on so many levels. ‘Secondary whispering’ is such a great teen for the GAIT (Gen AI tool) when we are talking about writing.

    Terry is such a great primary whisperer and as always I relate to your poetry as a way of exploring this terrain.

    • Thanks, Wendy. It’s an interesting and curious development, and it will take some new teaching practices to help young writers notice the value and how best to use those whisperers.

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