Illustration by Ahmed Bilal

Word salad spewing AI makes NYU Abu Dhabi effectively obsolete

Life at our university has always been defined by carefully crafting words to look intelligent while actually having no idea what is going on. Now that an AI chatbot can manage the same thing, we might truly be obsolete.

Dec 12, 2022

As he frantically restated questions from existing literature to meet his Capstone deadline, Sin Yur, Class of 2023, wondered why four years of a globally transformative liberal arts education had come to this. He had been using similar strategies to survive every colloquium, core, writing seminar, and other requirements the university threw at him, but scraping by in this fishbowl of a campus was slowly rendering him insane. As he was procrastinating on Twitter instead of developing his bibliography, he stumbled upon a creation of ChatGPT’s. “Write a poem about mathematical optimization in the style of the Bible,” the user prompted the online chatbot tool. Given the most random information, it could generate works of art far more refined than the average NYU Abu Dhabi student hoping to fulfill their liberal arts requirements.
After spending hours using the chatbot to make NYUAD diss tracks, Yur found himself no longer capable of meeting his Capstone deadline. He then decided to take a leap of faith and ask ChatGPT to write all of his conclusions for him. On the surface, they looked coherent and insightful, but covered absolutely no new ground in the field he was trying to study. He was awestruck by its capabilities, they reminded him of every essay he submitted for his first-year writing seminar and got an A on. “This changes everything, why’d I have to graduate this year?,” he thought. All of the nights sitting in the library fueled by four Double Iced Shakens and copious Deliveroo spending were simply working towards being beaten by a computer program that genuinely knew nothing. Not that he had learned anything in his four years either, but he could have just aimlessly walked around or watched Netflix the entire time.
Yur realized what his entire university career had prepared him to do. “Cover letters? Of course I am not inspired and energized to write spreadsheets. Study away essays? Just an extra hoop of regurgitating the same few buzzwords. FYWS? Just meeting professors’ rigid expectations.” Impostor syndrome had turned him into an actual impostor after years of overloaded scheduling had caused him to dissociate and simply seek to survive the work that plagued him. Turning his brain off helped power him through monthly thoughts of taking a Leave of Absence, several major-related existential crises, and the constant thought that everyone around him was doing better in academia and life.
The constant feeling of busyness, and the need to maintain it, is currently pushing Yur to apply to a host of roles that enable the same work-life balance, or lack thereof. But machines will soon be able to make PowerPoints and briefs all day that restate known solutions to existing problems, and the opportunities to work 80-hour weeks and feel important will dry up. And what can university administrators do either? As little as it knows, the bot is just as capable of generating word stews to communicate recent university events as any well-paid middle manager currently employed.
Today, NYUAD stands at a crossroads. With its whole existence, identity, and operations built around people who do not know what they are doing but act like it, a precocious bot serves as unexpected competition. No longer can an essay come with a guarantee of being written entirely by a caffeine-addled student’s own brain, or any fluent-sounding marketing pitch to have a face behind it.
Perhaps, like many of us, the age of AI will even render all of NYUAD unemployed. Only time can tell where quantum leaps in technology will continue to bring students’ missions within the global network. As it has so many times before, the resilience and community and resilience of the university will prove paramount in ensuring that it gets through these unprecedented times.
Ethan Fulton is Senior Opinion Editor and Satire Columnist. Email him at
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