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Genetic Linkage

Why I’m Not Worried that ChatGPT Will Replace Me as a Biology Textbook Author

I just used ChatGPT for the first time. Initially, I was concerned about my future as the chatbot near-instantaneously answered my queries on increasingly obscure terms from my field, genetics. Stumping the AI tool, however, took only about 10 minutes.


ChatGPT was released November 30, 2022, from OpenAI/Microsoft. "Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer" is a little like Google on steroids. But after my brief encounter, I can't help but wonder whether it can handle the nuance, context, humor, and creativity of a human mind. Could it replace me as a textbook author?


My Career


I've been writing life science tomes for a long time. My favorite has always been Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications, the first edition published in 1994, at the dawn of the human genome sequencing era. The 14th edition published this week, from McGraw-Hill. A revision takes two years, one for updating and addressing reviewers' suggestions, another for "production," from copyediting through final pages. Then, a year off.


As genetics morphed into genomics, artificial intelligence stepped in, layering the combinatorial information of comparative genomics onto DNA sequences. Training on data sets and then searching for patterns could be used to deduce evolutionary trees depicting species relationships, in ancestry testing and forensics, and in identifying sequences of mutations that appear as a cancer spreads.


ChatGPT is too recent for me to have used it in revising the new edition, but I'm curious now. I could imagine it spitting out definitions, but a textbook is much more than "content." A human author adds perspective, experience, and perhaps knowledge beyond what ChatGPT can extract from the Internet.


To continue reading, go to DNA Science, where this post first appeared.

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