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  • Writer's pictureGinger Teppner

A Confidence in Things


I have always felt more comfortable in the between, not realizing that all of living in this particular body exists in a liminal space. What I really mean is I was more comfortable not choosing, not realizing that not choosing is an impossibility. What I really mean is that I didn’t want to be wrong, not realizing that there are no missteps. What I really mean is that I was afraid of the future, not realizing that now is always. Not knowing what I know now, I can imagine a me that would be seduced into bypassing all the messiness of becoming through the use of artificial intelligence because that’s what AI offers, right? A panacea for all the struggle it takes to reason and learn, a final version of a shiny product with no dings or dents, and certainly no searching for or grasping at something just on the other side of comfort. 

As a writer, my creative prose process begins with a draft that is generally an attempt at releasing a question floating in the periphery of my consciousness that demands reckoning. Draft completed, I come back to it over and over, rereading, editing, but most importantly discovering what I think and why. My poetic process is similar; drafts come quickly, occasionally completely intact, but more often it is through the editing process I learn about the relationship between language and my particular perspectives of the world. Both processes involve an active conversation between myself and the text. Accepting the process between the inspired first draft and the final product, the curious space between the questions and the answers, as the landscape of creation did not come easy. Trusting, creating is a process that happens in between and is not an outcome, comes with many challenges. When it all happens in the between, in the between where choices are made, mistakes happen, and ground is lost or gained, sometimes, most times, this is not a pleasant or comfortable landscape to inhabit. 

Large language models of artificial intelligence are translators comparing languages, but only to ascertain outcomes. There is no curiosity, no exchange or shared experience, no connection to others, in other words, no learning or growth. As an educator, I believe this is especially detrimental to students, who are prone to distraction, procrastination, incredulousness, and a desire for everything to be easy. They, especially, lack confidence in things like effort, grit, self-efficacy, and fairness. While AI is marketed as a tool to aid educational pursuits, in the short time it has been available, students have used it primarily to bypass the work in favor of a packaged result, in other words, to cheat. What they are too young and or inexperienced to realize is that they are sacrificing metacognition for an easy grade, and if autonomy only exists in the ability to think thoughts if and when a being so chooses, to allow AI to do the thinking is to watch autonomy atrophy.

In 2014 I imagined a cup. I imagined a cup and the space inside the cup and the space outside the cup. I imagined I was the cup and the cup was me and I was the space inside the cup and I was the space outside the cup. I considered all that was contained and uncontained and what it meant to be uncontainable. This cup still exists, both in my mind and the text that preserve it: two repositories, two languages. When I imagined a cup as a way to understand being a body in space, I was grasping, searching for a way to understand something that exists on the other side of language through language and the thoughts and images in my brain. I have confidence in these things: the text that is and holds my cup and my body that is and holds my cup and most importantly in the space between my text and my body and my cup. The final manuscript that began with this cup is of little import compared to what I learned. The fact that ten years later the cup has resurfaced is part of trusting the process.

If I ask you to imagine you are a cup, to describe your cup. What is inside your cup? What is outside? What is the difference? Where is the boundary? I have confidence in your answer. I have confidence that in the space between these questions and your replies there will be connections made and learning will happen. And you and your cup will be full. If you ask AI to answer these questions for you, the result might be slick, but it will be empty of life, merely a projection. A confidence in things is a confidence in creations. It is a confidence in imperfections. It is a confidence in journeys. It is a confidence in scars and sutures, but also smiles. It is a confidence in the language used to sustain moments. For artists and students to sacrifice what little autonomy is available is to lose everything. 

AI version

Prompt: How would you make these paragraphs better?

I have consistently found solace in the intermediary, oblivious to the fact that the entirety of inhabiting this specific body exists within a liminal space. What I truly mean is that I favored indecision, failing to recognize that abstaining from choice is an implausibility. What I genuinely mean is that I harbored an aversion to being mistaken, overlooking the fact that there are no missteps. What I sincerely mean is that I was apprehensive about the future, neglecting to acknowledge that the present is perpetual. Without the awareness I possess now, I can envision a version of myself enticed to bypass the inherent messiness of self-discovery through the utilization of artificial intelligence. After all, isn't that what AI promises—a remedy for the arduous process of reasoning and learning, presenting a flawless end product without any imperfections, and certainly devoid of the pursuit or grasp of something just beyond the realm of comfort?

As a writer, my journey into creative prose commences with an initial draft—a sincere attempt to capture and release a question lingering on the fringes of my consciousness, demanding thoughtful reckoning. Once the draft is complete, I revisit it tirelessly, engaging in a continuous cycle of reading and editing, with a primary focus on unraveling my own thoughts and understanding the underlying reasons behind them. Akin to my poetic process, initial drafts materialize swiftly, occasionally emerging fully formed, but more commonly, it is through the meticulous editing phase that I unravel the intricate relationship between language and my unique perspectives on the world. Both creative processes involve a dynamic dialogue between me and the text.

Acknowledging and embracing the transitional journey from the inspired first draft to the final product—the curious space between questions and answers—is not a straightforward endeavor. Trusting that creation is a nuanced process that unfolds in the in-between moments and isn't merely an end result poses numerous challenges. This creative voyage, transpiring in the space where choices are made, mistakes occur, and ground is either lost or gained, is often an arduous and uncomfortable landscape to navigate. Yet, it is within these challenging in-between spaces that true artistic transformation takes place.

Large language models in artificial intelligence serve as mere translators, comparing languages solely for the purpose of determining outcomes. They lack curiosity, the capacity for exchange or shared experiences, and the ability to connect with others, ultimately resulting in a deficiency of genuine learning and growth. This absence of interactive elements is particularly detrimental to students, who are susceptible to distractions, procrastination, incredulity, and a preference for simplicity. Students, in particular, exhibit a lack of confidence in crucial attributes such as effort, grit, self-efficacy, and fairness.

Despite the marketing of AI as an educational tool, its relatively brief existence has seen students predominantly employing it as a shortcut to evade genuine effort, opting for pre-packaged results—in essence, resorting to cheating. What these students, often young and inexperienced, fail to grasp is that in this pursuit of easy grades, they are sacrificing the invaluable process of metacognition. An unnoticed consequence is that, by allowing AI to assume the role of the thinker, autonomy begins to wither away. Autonomy, understood as the freedom to engage in independent thought at will, dwindles when the responsibility for thinking is relinquished to AI.

In 2014, I embarked on a contemplative journey centered around the simple image of a cup. Envisioning not just the cup itself, but also the space it occupied, both within and beyond its confines, I delved into the notion of being both contained and uncontained. I dared to imagine myself as the cup, intertwining my essence with the vessel and the encompassing spaces, exploring the profound meaning of uncontainability. This mental exercise endures, preserved in both my mind and the textual representation it inspired—two repositories, two languages converging.

The act of imagining the cup served as a means to grapple with the complexities of inhabiting a body within space. It was a pursuit to fathom something that lies beyond the boundaries of language, utilizing language, thoughts, and mental imagery. My confidence lies in certain certainties: the enduring text that encapsulates my cup, the corporeal vessel that houses it, and, crucially, the expansive space bridging my text, my body, and my cup.

The resultant manuscript, born from the initial musings on the cup, pales in significance compared to the wealth of insights garnered along the way. A decade later, the cup resurfaces, a testament to the trust invested in the creative process. Should I challenge you to envision yourself as a cup, to articulate the contents within and outside, the boundaries, and the distinctions, I am confident in your response. Amid these inquiries and your replies, connections will materialize, fostering a space where learning unfolds, and you, along with your cup, find fulfillment.

However, should you turn to AI for answers, the outcome might be polished but devoid of life, a mere projection. Confidence in things is confidence in creations—a belief in imperfections, a trust in journeys, and an acknowledgment of scars and sutures, as well as smiles. It's a faith in the language that sustains fleeting moments. For artists and students alike, surrendering the limited autonomy at their disposal amounts to a loss of everything.

OpenAI. (2023, December15). ChatGPT 3.5.

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