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Home » Why ChatGPT Can’t Write For You: David Savill (Transcript)

Why ChatGPT Can’t Write For You: David Savill (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of novelist David Savill’s talk titled “Why ChatGPT Can’t Write For You” at TEDxUniversityofSalford 2024 conference.

Listen to the audio version here:


I’m a teacher of reading and writing and a novelist, and today I’m going to talk to you about what that means at the dawn of artificial intelligence. I’m going to suggest to you that your ability to thrive as a human depends upon three questions AI will never answer, and it’s about you, your community, your democracy, and your humanity. But first, of course, a story about someone else.

In the late 1950s, in the Brazilian city of Recife, a Portuguese language teacher called Paulo Freire asked the local mayor for his support in rolling out a literacy program to agricultural workers. He showed the mayor how he employed new methods based upon the idea of critical pedagogy to teach writing and reading with great success. Paulo claimed that in just a few months he had taught 300 literate agricultural workers to read and write.

Paulo Freire’s Literacy Program

The mayor was a radical democrat. He supported the teacher’s literacy teaching, and within two years, Freire’s success made him head of a national literacy program with the ambition of teaching reading and writing to the 40 percent of Brazilians then classified as functionally illiterate. Then in 1964, a military junta overthrew the democratically elected government.

Brazil’s military dictatorship ended all free elections and the national literacy program was stopped. Paulo Freire was jailed. Released after 75 days in jail, he fled the country. The military dictatorship had accused him of being a communist, but his real crime was promising to teach 40 percent of Brazilians to read and write.

Literacy and Political Voice

You see, Brazil’s oligarchical power relations depended upon a law that stopped illiterate people from voting. Without reading and writing, they have no political voice. I teach reading and writing at the University of Salford, where I leave a degree we called creative writing multidiscipline. As you would expect, students who come to study here are already literate.

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