There's never a shortage of cheaters.

Outcheat the Cheat

ChatGPT has become the go-to cheating tool for lousy students. And that potentially means trouble for the essay ghostwriters that cash in on the countless students willing to eschew academic integrity for a better grade, The Walrus reports.

Indeed, OpenAI's blockbuster chatbot — and generative AIs in general — may be the only thing capable of putting a dent in the mammoth cheating industry.

Though its legality is dubious and varied, and some countries have even outlawed the practice, that hasn't stopped cheating-for-hire from being a stupendously lucrative business. The pandemic solidified its status, during which students depended on these services even more, with one study cited by The Walrus finding that contract cheating increased nearly tenfold. During the lockdown, Chegg, the biggest name in the industry, was valued at a whopping $12 billion.

The cynical commodification of educational institutions, their mounting costs, and their diminishing guarantee of landing alumni jobs despite positioning themselves as a barrier-to-entry into a competitive market may also drive students to do whatever they can to bag a degree. At least, that's according to those in the contract cheating industry.

"Colleges are basically businesses," Bruce Ross, who runs the cheating service My Essay Writer, told the Walrus. "People look at what we do as a 'no-no' in a moral sense, but they don't really question the ethics of what the school system is doing to a lot of the students, making these promises to them."

Academic Probation

But lazy college students are right to now wonder why they should shell out the extra money for a ghostwritten essay when ChatGPT can now do written assignments for free.

To that end, Ross admits that ChatGPT could threaten his business, and said that the recent months have seen a drop in demand.

Seemingly confirming this trend, one eyebrow-raising survey conducted by early on in the ChatGPT craze reported that 89 percent of college students were using ChatGPT for homework, and 50 percent to write essays.

That figure deserves some scrutiny, however. The results of a full-blown study this year, cited by The Walrus, showed that a far fewer 43 percent used ChatGPT for school work, and only four percent actually used the chatbot to write entire assignments. That aside, the tool's popularity appears to be steadily losing steam.

So, luckily for Ross, perhaps some bespoke cheating will remain old-school. In fact, he believes that if AI detection tools become more sophisticated, more students will turn to his human writers to ensure they don't get caught cheating.

That could end up being the case, but available detection tools have proved to be unreliable at best. We wouldn't count on it, in other words.

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