The problem isn’t artificial intelligence, it’s natural stupidity

A Texas A&M professor flunked all of his students because ChatGPT told him to.

Dr. Jared Mumm, a campus rodeo instructor who also teaches agricultural classes,

He legitimately wrote a PhD thesis on pig farming, but really — a “rodeo instructor”? I guess that’s like the coaches we have working in athletic programs at non-Ag colleges.

sent an email on Monday to a group of students informing them that he had submitted grades for their last three essay assignments of the semester. Everyone would be receiving an “X” in the course, Mumm explained, because he had used “Chat GTP” (the OpenAI chatbot is actually called “ChatGPT”) to test whether they’d used the software to write the papers — and the bot claimed to have authored every single one.

“I copy and paste your responses in [ChatGPT] and [it] will tell me if the program generated the content,” he wrote, saying he had tested each paper twice. He offered the class a makeup assignment to avoid the failing grade — which could otherwise, in theory, threaten their graduation status.

Wow. He doesn’t know what he’s doing at all. ChatGPT is an artificial expert at confabulation — it will assemble a plausible-sounding mess of words that looks like other collections of words it finds in its database, and that’s about it. It’s not TurnItIn, a service professors have been using for at least a decade that compares submitted text to other texts in it’s database, and reports similarities. ChatGPT will happily make stuff up. You can’t use it the way he thinks.

Mumm was unwarrantedly aggressive in his ignorance.

Students claim they supplied him with proof they hadn’t used ChatGPT — exonerating timestamps on the Google Documents they used to complete the homework — but that he initially ignored this, commenting in the school’s grading software system, “I don’t grade AI bullshit.” (Mumm did not return Rolling Stone‘s request for comment.)

Unfortunately for him, Mumm was cursed with smarter spectators to his AI bullshit. One of them ran Mumm’s PhD thesis through ChatGPT in the same inappropriate, invalid way.

In an amusing wrinkle, Mumm’s claims appear to be undercut by a simple experiment using ChatGPT. On Tuesday, redditor Delicious_Village112 found an abstract of Mumm’s doctoral dissertation on pig farming and submitted a section of that paper to the bot, asking if it might have written the paragraph. “Yes, the passage you shared could indeed have been generated by a language model like ChatGPT, given the right prompt,” the program answered. “The text contains several characteristics that are consistent with AI-generated content.” At the request of other redditors, Delicious_Village112 also submitted Mumm’s email to students about their presumed AI deception, asking the same question. “Yes, I wrote the content you’ve shared,” ChatGPT replied. Yet the bot also clarified: “If someone used my abilities to help draft an email, I wouldn’t have a record of it.”

On the one hand, I am relieved to see that ChatGPT can’t replace me. On the other hand, there is an example of someone who thinks it can, to disastrous effect. Maybe it could at least replace the Jared Mumm’s of the world, except I bet it sucks at bronco bustin’ and lassoing calves.


  1. gijoel says

    Wow, he didn’t even bother to use Turnitin. I wonder if he’ll face any censure over this?

  2. chrislawson says

    “The text contains several characteristics that are consistent with AI-generated content.” To be fair to ChatGPT, it answered this correctly because, absent any other information, any text has characterists consistent with AI generation. As you say, the problem here is with the person who asked the question. PEBCAK as sysadmins like to say.

    He did not know how to use ChatGPT. He did not run any controls to see if ChatGPT was a reliable test of plagiarism. He did not check the literature. He did not check ChatGPT’s instructions. He did not run it by his department. He did not use his university’s approved (and paid for) plagiarism detection system. I wonder if his academic career is about to come to a crashing halt.

    And, yes, Turnitin isn’t perfect, but at least the way its algorithms work is justifiable in principle, and it shows the specific passages that have similarities with links to the possible source. It is, of course, useless at detecting well-paraphrased plagiarism.

  3. wzrd1 says

    I have four words that will explain how any tenure he once had is now to be gone forever.
    Fundamental breach of contract.
    With a material breach of contract, one may or may not end up with a litigation that results in injury. With a fundamental breach, one has fully recoverable, with additional damages and he decidedly did via his malfeasance.
    The students and school did enter into a contract, he breached it in a most spectacular manner. Because, I’d happily wager the entirety of my remnant of funding in the bank on one thing. I’m more than comfortable in doing a copy pasta of War and Peace into ChatGPT and I’m beyond certain that the Artificial Idiocy software would quite happily claim credit for authoring Tolstoy’s work. Just as it did with his work.

    I’m more than certain that the institution’s legal counsel will be wanting to engage in some high decibel antics with him shortly. Hearing protection is strongly suggested for any witnesses within a day’s travel.

  4. marcoli says

    The AI builds its written stories out a cloud of commonly used word strings surrounding a subject. So its not surprising that it would have a lot of false positives, especially surrounding derivative writing . So that prof is likely a maroon.
    What it also does is trip itself up, and one can use that to identify ChatGTP products. First, when it quotes someone the quote is likely to be fake. When it cites the published literature, the citations in the bibliography are also fake. They look real, but they aren’t! Finally, its repetitive. If you have students write about the same subject, it will give each of them papers that are largely the same.
    The students need to go, en masse, to the dept chair and follow up with the dean of students.

  5. robro says

    Not only did he not bother, but ChatGPT didn’t bother to check Turnitin or it’s own records…but perhaps ChatGPT has no record of answers it has produced. I would say ChatGPT didn’t understand his question, nor answer it. The answer to the question about Mumm’s thesis is also flawed…and evasive at best. Sure, the passage could have been generated by an LLM like ChatGPT but the question was “did” an LLM do the deed. The best answer for ChatGPT might have been, “Can not determine authorship.”

  6. robro says

    OT: Speaking of artificial intelligence and generative AI, the NY Times is reporting this morning that “Twitter’s U.S. Ad Sales Plunge 59% as Woes Continue”. And it’s unlikely to improve soon, despite the AI (artificial idiocy) known as “Elon Muskrat” saying the advertisers are back.

    This story is based on “an internal presentation obtained by The New York Times.” There’s a cottage industry now in leaking sensitive information to the Times, Washington Post, or Pro Publica. Basically there is no private information.

  7. lotharloo says

    This guy is an idiot but make no mistake, the bigger blame lies on the system and people who deliberately marketed this software as “intelligent”. This is effectively the result of irresponsible marketing and abusing the ignorance of people for gains and profits.

  8. StevoR says

    @ robro : ” And it’s unlikely to improve soon, despite the AI (artificial idiocy) known as “Elon Muskrat” saying the advertisers are back.”

    Hey, that’s unfair – to the AIs since Muskrats stupidity is (almost?) entirely “natural” albiet no doubt boosted by bots.

    As for this rodeo instructor professer perhaps he’s a bit too used to rough bull to be in charge of human students?* Perhaps he should have have talked about this first -and if he did then who else might be facing firing I wonder?

    .* Ok, that arguably is unfair since there’s no reason to really expect Rodeo professionals (an area I know sod all about) to all be this bad but still..

  9. says

    Not only did he neglect to use TurnItIn, but Professor Rodeo Clown also failed or chose not to use critical thinking. Really, all of his students used ChatGPT to cheat?
    If his own brain doesn’t have the critical thinking software, perhaps someone else on campus has access to it.

  10. Artor says

    Does this blithering idiot still have a job? He certainly shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the halls of education with such malignant ignorance.

  11. says

    It sounds like ‘Dr.’ Jared’s idea of education is throwing the bull shit around and that he has landed on his head too many times after being thrown of the bucking broncos! But, @12 is right: it’s TEXASS where any semblance of intelligence is artificial! (with a very few notable exceptions)

  12. says

    Also, using simple logic, if he flunked all the students for allegedly using ChatGPT, shouldn’t he be flunked for using it, too? Just look around, you’ll see that we live in a world where the insane and inane call everyone else insane!

  13. wzrd1 says

    It’s interesting, people of course blame the professor, who frankly does sound like a fine example of a 10 watt bulb in a 100 watt room, there is blame for the bot’s marketing and leadership teams, yet nobody has bothered wondering as to the competence of whoever hired the dimmest bulb in the lampshop in the first place.
    Because, I’ve given interviews before where the door never looked better until the interviewee was on the other side of it for the final time.

  14. rrhain says

    Remember when Bobby Jindal went on national television to mock “volcano monitoring” only to have a volcano actually erupt less than a month later?

    That’s what you risk when you mock “rodeo instructor.” Yes, there is a sporting aspect to it, but rodeo is more than just riding a horse. Horse management is also part of it. There’s a reason it’s part of Agricultral Studies.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with having a degree in sports. We do it for the arts. It’s the difference between getting a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre. The former is more academic with an emphasis on history, analysis, and cultural context while the latter is focused more on practial use of the techniques. To put it crudely, the former is about writing a paper about it while the latter is about doing it.

    So why not a BFA in Sports? Classes in anatomy, sports medicine, theory and practice, history of the game, sports management? If we can use the Film Department as a studio for the next generation of movie directors, costumers, sound designers, etc., why not use the Sports Department for the next generation of players, coaches, and physical trainers?

  15. wzrd1 says

    I dunno. I had a far right type actually deny that nuclear and thermonuclear weapons actually exist.