1. Intelligent Machines (source: ACTstudent.org )
Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.
Perspective One: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.
Perspective Two: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.
Perspective Three: Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the increasing presence of intelligent machines.
2. Public Health and Individual Freedom (source: ACT.org )
Most people want to be healthy, and most people want as much freedom as possible to do the things they want. Unfortunately, these two desires sometimes conflict. For example, smoking is prohibited from most public places, which restricts the freedom of some individuals for the sake of the health of others. Likewise, car emissions are regulated in many areas in order to reduce pollution and its health risks to others, which in turn restricts some people’s freedom to drive the vehicles they want. In a society that values both health and freedom, how do we best balance the two? How should we think about conflicts between public health and individual freedom?
Perspective One: Our society should strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When the freedom of the individual interferes with that principle, freedom must be restricted.
Perspective Two: Nothing in society is more valuable than freedom. Perhaps physical health is sometimes improved by restricting freedom, but the cost to the health of our free society is far too great to justify it.
Perspective Three: The right to avoid health risks is a freedom, too. When we allow individual behavior to endanger others, we’ve damaged both freedom and health.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the conflict between public health and individual freedom.
Here are four other prompts that I have constructed, based on the core question and core perspectives I extracted from the official prompts (if you’re curious about how I constructed these prompts, check out our article on ACT Writing Prompts: Dissected (coming soon)):
Many of the goods and services we depend on daily have global sources. Where once you might speak with a customer service representative from across the country about your computer problems, your call now would most likely be routed across the world. In one grocery store, it can be possible to find a mixture of foods from multiple continents. Various pieces of culture can be instantaneously broadcast around the world via the Internet, enabling shared experiences among people of disparate geographic origins. Globalization is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what happens when we replace local interactions with global ones? Given the accelerating rate of globalization, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of its presence in our lives.
Perspective One: Globalization requires a shift in the way we think about other people, other societies, and the world. This is good, because it will push humanity towards previously unimaginable possibilities and achievements.
Perspective Two: Removing geographic boundaries from commerce means that the right people can be chosen for the right jobs at the right price. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.
Perspective Three: The flourishing of a new, global society comes at the cost of local cultures. Less diversity leads to deficits in empathy and creativity, two of the most defining characteristics of humanity.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the increasing presence of globalization.
4. Information Accessibility
At this moment in time, there is more information more readily available to more people than ever before. Smartphones can instantly provide directions to your destination, when even 10 years ago you had to look up directions before you left and/or bring along a map. Researchers from all over the world are able to pool their knowledge to advance their fields more quickly. Many libraries have broadened their collections to include subscriptions to online/electronic databases as well as printed works. Greater access to information is generally seen as a positive advance, but what are the consequences of making so much knowledge available to so many people? Based upon the ever-increasing amount of information in the world and the ever-broader access to it, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of easy access to information in our lives.
Perspective One: With increased ease of access to information, we lose the incentive to gain knowledge ourselves. By outsourcing our memories of facts and other information, we are becoming less intelligent.
Perspective Two: Greater access to information allows us to avoid memorizing facts and, instead, use our brains for higher-level thinking. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.
Perspective Three: The more people who have access to more information, the greater the chances of collaboration and thus further advances in human knowledge. This is good because it pushes us toward new, unimagined possibilities.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the increasing accessibility of information.
In the world today, newness is highly valued. Social media apps constantly update to make sure you’re shown the newest information or posts from those you follow. Many of the products we purchase today are purposefully created with short lifespans to encourage consumers to continue to get the newest, up-to-date versions. Subscription services for music and video make it possible to continuously listen to and watch new media. Novelty is generally seen as a positive characteristic, but what are we losing by constantly focusing on the new? Given its increasing prevalence, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of the growing emphasis on novelty in our lives.
Perspective One: Change is the only constant in life, and to ignore this is to grow rigid and stagnate. More exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking can only lead to progress for society and for humanity as a whole.
Perspective Two: By exclusively focusing on the new, we lose sight of what we already know. Instead of ignoring the old, we should be focusing more past accomplishments and errors. The only way to move forward is to heed the lessons of the past.
Perspective Three: Information, products, and ways of thinking should only be valued if they are useful and reliable, not just because they are new and exciting. New does not automatically equal improved.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the increasing value assigned to novelty.
6. Job Changes
Fewer and fewer people are staying with the same job their entire lives. In the United States, the average person will switch jobs more than 10 times in over the course of his/her life. Some workers will make lateral, or even downward, moves in order to increase personal fulfillment. Others switch jobs in an effort to obtain the highest possible salary. Increasing personal autonomy is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what happens when length of experience is replaced with variety of experience? As the number of jobs people will hold over the course of their lives continues to climb, it is important to examine the implications and meaning of this trend for our lives.
Perspective One: Because jobs are no longer a lifetime commitment, people will feel freer to accept a greater variety of positions. This increase in breadth of experience will in turn make job applicants more attractive to future employers.
Perspective Two: As the frequency with which people change jobs increases, the loyalty of people to their employers will decrease. This in turn will lead to more fractured company cultures, as employees will only care about what’s best for them.
Perspective Three: The disappearance of the stigma associated with frequent job switching will allow employees more leeway with employment decisions. Increased autonomy will lead to increased happiness and job satisfaction.
Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the increasing frequency with which people switch jobs.