The story about plagiarism in academia is an interesting one that delves into the core of several of our past updates. It's unclear how much of the AI angle is being used as a distraction to justify past shortcomings or as a genuine concern about plagiarism. Without examining all the evidence and its full context, we cannot comment on the stories that have dominated the news headlines over the past few days.
Insufficient evidence of plagiarism
The evidence published online regarding each incident in the reports presents very one-sided arguments and is insufficient to determine whether they amount to plagiarism. At a minimum, it points to a lack of citations. Those who have decided one way or another must ask themselves how they arrived at those conclusions.
By most reasonable academic standards, we can say the investment research industry is plagued with plagiarism.
The decline of the print newspaper industry in the 1990s
In the 1990s, many small local newspapers went out of business when the internet undermined an entire business model where ‘journalists' would rewrite stories from mainstream publications, such as the New York Times, in their own words. Don't blame technology for your downfall because you sucked as a writer.
Today, AI poses similar challenges in other industries where so-called experts regurgitate original work produced by others as their own.
Plensa & LVHM replicas
Let's start by acknowledging that we all draw inspiration from one another, with some doing so more consciously than others. Most successful creative individuals anticipate replicas of their work. It's about leveraging these situations to their advantage in order to stand out. Renowned Spanish sculptor Jaume Plensa, for instance, has numerous replicas of his works crafted in China. Similarly, Bernard Arnault successfully sells LVMH handbags to Chinese consumers, despite all the high-quality replicas produced locally. It's worrisome when they seize to copy.
Anne Frank's Diary book review
It reminds me of a conversation I had with my son at the end of a summer holiday where he left a book review that was due till the very last minute. The book being reviewed was Anne Frank's Diary, a popular piece of literature taught to children around the world between the ages of 10 to 16.
To cheat or not to cheat?
First, I had to explain that a book review is not a summary of a Wikipedia bio entry but a personal account of how you found the book. Then, presenting the case on the perils of cheating, citing the example of two of my fellow students who were caught plagiarizing their final year projects. It was around 1999/2000, before Google search became mainstream, Wikipedia did not exist, and Sam Altman was still in high school.
Amazon book reviews
If we're going to cheat, let's at least do it properly by examining a couple of reviews on Amazon for some ideas. Unfortunately, the top 2 rated reviews on Amazon are by a couple of accounts having a vigorous debate over the appropriate amount of hanky-panky the editors should, or should not, include in the children's version of Anne Frank's Diary.
I had a quick flick through my son's copy; evidently, it is the cleaner version. Maybe a less clean version would prolong a teenager's attention span, ideally with the naughty bits sporadically spaced through her diary.
Another popular short review gives a candid assessment of the book: “I found it very depressing at times and frustrating. They were so close to making it out alive only to get caught at the end.” Almost certainly written by a man of few words. Of course, Anne Frank's Diary is grim and depressing. It's set during one of mankind's darkest hours. The sentiments are echoed here, but it won't suffice for a homework book review… let's keep looking.
Anne Frank was both analytical and creative
Finally, we come across a half-decent review written by a lady who describes the work of a child genius with an incredibly analytical and creative mind, cut short, who could have given us much more. Maybe Anne Frank's Diary is better appreciated by adults. In any case, here we have a masterpiece in literature, and the most popular website does not have a review which does it justice.
For your reference, here is the original New York Times review of ‘The Diary of a Young Girl' by Anne Frank published in 1952 and later in 1996 online archives. The webpage is very 90s. It's a little too highbrow to have been written by a 12 year old.
We left it too late for this book review.
Using AI to solve the Anne Frank mystery
A couple of years ago, a retired FBI agent used Microsoft Azure AI tools to identify the most likely suspect that snitched on the Franks based on vast volumes of historical records.
What happened to the cheaters?
My son asks: “So what happened to your two friends who got caught cheating?” Well… I recall lawyers got involved, and eventually, they both barely managed to scrape through with a pass. The last time I checked, one was living the life of a successful DJ in Spain, and the other runs an IT outsourcing company he founded that has offices around the world. I guess they each found their passion. But he does not need to know about that part. As far as he's concerned, they both failed and are now living miserable lives, waking up every day regretting their decision to cheat all those years ago.