Alchemy’s “Write Like a Human” Student Contest: Judge’s Notes

This Fall, Alchemy challenged FHASS’s CW&P students to engage with the looming threat of AI. THey were invited either to write stories that engaged with AI, or to go head-to-head against a Large Language Model AI program by proving they could do better.

The goal was not only to showcase excellent student work, but also to highlight the value that writing well and creatively can bring to the questions we all face. Students in CW&P and across FHASS learn the skills that are required to actively produce the work AI cannot. As journalist Brian Christian argues in the text we used to explain the contest, if we are worried we might be replaced by machines, the only option is to become a little more human.

We received many wonderful submissions! The winning story, and two runners up, are published here in Alchemy in separate posts.

The winning story, “Project D” by Filomena DeRose, goes straight at the problem. Filomena crafted a prompt for a science fiction story about a human husband replaced by a robot, and then asked Chat-GPT to write the story. Chat-GPT’s entry is listed first, followed by Filomena’s rival story.

The difference between them is obvious. The Chat-GPT program begins like a lazy Edwardian children’s writer, introducing a town with an obvious name and introducing a family by its surname. Everything about the story is placid, including, somehow, the tragic loss at the centre.

Filomena’s story follows, gripping and immediately powerful. I highly encourage you to read it. It’s only the human writer who started the story with an image of grief that “clogs” the protagonist’s throat, only the human writer who knew that at the end of a first paragraph, the woman who found out her husband had died would have no idea how long it had been since she checked on her kids. Or that her first thought on trying to get through the loss of her husband would be to wish for her husband’s support.

The two runner-up stories are amazing in their own ways. These stories did not produce a prompt to compete with Chat-GPT, but they each probed the question of our relationship to AI from distinctive angles. Kara Woodburn’s “Doctors Vs. AI” describes, almost entirely through dialogue and transcript, a chilling but madcap tale of an AI attempting to weed out medical errors, raising powerful fears only to suggest that incompetence might save us. And Sophie Walsh’s “Webworld“, a tightly constructed story with compelling and efficient world-building, explores the possibility of an AI living on to borrow your digital life forever.

Please read the stories and enjoy what our students’ writing has to offer.

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Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons