Jason J. Gulya, Professor, Berkeley College

Jason J. Gulya is a Professor of English at Berkeley College. He teaches onsite, online, hybrid, and accelerated courses on writing and the humanities. In 2020, he received Berkeley’s Faculty of the Year Award for Teaching Excellence. His writing is widely available. He has published articles in Literary Imagination, Pedagogy, Bunyan Studies, and many other journals. He has also written book chapters for The Oxford Handbook of Allegory (Oxford University Press), Allegory Studies (Routledge), and Adapting the Eighteenth Century (University of Rochester Press). He published his first book, Allegory in Enlightenment Britain: Literary Abominations, with Palgrave Macmillan in December 2022. Currently, he is researching the link between the “literary mind” and the future of work.


When OpenAI released ChatGPT on November 30, 2022, it helped start a movement. AI-assisted writing has been around for years. Now, it was in the public imagination.

Everyone started wondering:

  • What can I do with my own virtual assistant?
  • What projects can I finish now that I have been putting off for years?
  • What does this mean for my job?
  • How can I use ChatGPT to help with my college work?
  • Will this replace me?

Behind these and more was a single question: what is humanity’s value proposition? To put this slightly differently, what do humans have to contribute when so many of their professional and personal outputs can be completed by machines? This question will define 2023 and beyond. The boundary between humans and machines is fading. 

That boundary will blur even faster once more companies–new and established–enter the fray. HyperWrite, Word Tune, and Jasper are already worthy competitors. We also know that OpenAI will soon release a new version of its software. (Based on reports, it will be based on much more data than ChatGPT.) We know the small startup Anthropic will release Claude, which may be superior to ChatGPT. We know that Microsoft will likely purchase ChatGPT and retrofit it into its already-expansive software suite. Google will release its own version.

The market is already teeming with options. More will come. As more options emerge, AI is going to improve exponentially. Machines are becoming more human. Science fiction does not feel like science fiction anymore. 

Here is my prediction: the rise of AI will make the humanities indispensable. The defining question of the humanities is, what’s the human condition? Its secondary question is, how do humans deal with uncertainty? I cannot think of two more pressing questions right now.

Today’s college students are attending a time of great innovation. Technological advancements are far outpacing educational institutions. Only now are professors and colleges creating AI policies. By the time many colleges finish writing policies, AI will look different. 

Now is a time of disruption. The uncertainty is invigorating. It’s also stressful. The only certainty is uncertainty. It’s time to put the humanities at the center of career-focused education. Learning how to think philosophically, write stories about human uncertainty, and close read a text with or without AI help equip students for the future. 

College must analyze the past, remain grounded in the present, and prepare for the future. It’s not the time to dismiss Aristotle or Plato. It’s time to dig our heels in, slowing down and digging deep when the world asks us to skim. Why? Because these skills will allow students to stand out. 

Standing out means participating in culture and the workforce while holding onto our authentic selves. We should adapt. But that doesn’t mean we need to confirm. We can say the same for colleges. We cannot ignore ChatGPT and the movement of which it’s a part. We must evolve. But we should not simply follow Coursera, HubSpot, and other companies in our course offerings. We can stand apart by guiding our students as they tread lightly (and consider what treading lightly means) in a world dominated by AI. 

My contention? The humanities prepare students for this world. Show me a philosopher, novelist, or filmmaker, and I’ll show you someone who wanted to contextualize the human condition. I’ll show you someone who used writing to tease out not merely who and what, but how and why.

The humanities teach how uncertain our world is. Our lives are dominated by ambiguity and between-a-hard-rock-and-a-hard-place decisions. Read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and sympathize with Elizabeth’s plight as she chooses between independence and social alienation. Read Toni Morrison’s Beloved and face the haunting nature of slavery. Watch Christopher Nolan’s Inception and revel in a meaningful cliffhanger. 

These stories, and the humanities more generally, ask us to grapple with an uncertain, ambiguous world where no actions are contained, and no details are insignificant. This is what modern society needs. Humans are hardwired to trust those booming with confidence. But here’s the thing. In this uncertain world, the best leaders are those who acknowledge that uncertainty. These are tricky and semi-unprecedented times. Follow those who embrace the humanities’ principles. These are the leaders we want in an uncertain world. 

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