Saturday, May 4, 2024

The weirdness of artificial intelligence

As a writer, I've been keeping an eye on AI writing programs such as Chat GTP. So far, I'm not overly worried. Most AI-written pieces are a lot of blah-blah nothing, but of course the technology is still in its infancy.

Interestingly, Older Daughter is in more of a position to observe AI usage than I am. She volunteers in screening applicants for a live-action roleplay game, and per the rules she must refuse any AI-written applications. As a result, she sees TONS of AI stuff, and has learned instantly to identify the fake from the real, even if the fake has been run through a "humanizer."

One of the keys to identifying AI text – aside from its "perfect" grammar that no one seems to know these days – is the usage of two words: "unwavering" and "intricate." For whatever reason, AI-written text loves those two words, despite the fact that comparatively they're seldom used in real (human) writing.

In fact, consider this Twitter post:

Other words favored by AI include: commendable, innovative, meticulous, notable, and versatile.

Still, AI has its worrisome moments. For example, Older Daughter asked ChatGTP to write a bio for ... me. Most of the information was factually accurate, with one screaming exception: It had me as the co-author of a book on preschool psychology I'd never even heard of. (Can't remember the name, sorry.) The book exists, but its two co-authors clearly aren't me. Whee, nothing like misinformation!

AI can also provide laughs. We all sat around and howled with laughter a few nights ago when Older Daughter input the following prompt to ChatGTP: "Write me a few paragraphs about Don, a brilliant woodworker attempting to survive in a grim post apocalyptic world."

Here's what ChatGTP wrote, with those favorite words bolded:

In the aftermath of a catastrophic event that plunged the world into darkness, Don emerged as a beacon of resilience amidst the chaos. Once a humble carpenter, his mastery of woodworking became his greatest asset in this grim post-apocalyptic world. With a keen eye for detail and an unwavering determination, Don sought to carve out a semblance of normalcy amid the ruins.

In a world where resources were scarce and survival was a daily struggle, Don's craftsmanship became invaluable. With nothing but salvaged wood and basic tools, he fashioned shelters, furniture, and tools essential for survival. Each creation bore the mark of his skill and dedication, a testament to the enduring human spirit in the face of adversity.

But Don's talents extended beyond mere utility; they offered a glimmer of hope in a desolate landscape. His intricate carvings and sculptures served as reminders of beauty in a world consumed by darkness. Whether it was a delicately carved figurine or an ornate relief depicting scenes of a lost civilization, Don's artistry breathed life into the desolation, offering solace to those who dared to dream of a better world.

Despite the harsh realities of his existence, Don remained steadfast in his resolve to endure and rebuild. With each stroke of his chisel and every piece of wood shaped by his hands, he defied the despair that threatened to engulf him. For in the heart of this post-apocalyptic wasteland, Don found purpose and meaning through his craft, a testament to the enduring power of human creativity in the face of adversity.

Then Older Daughter gave ChatGPT another prompt: "Write a few paragraphs about Carl, an inspector of intertubes surviving in a post apocalyptic world." (Note she misspelled "inner tubes" as "intertubes." Didn't matter to ChatGTP. It took the words and ran.) This is what she got:

In the aftermath of the cataclysm that reshaped the world, Carl found himself thrust into an unexpected role as an inspector of intertubes, a vital but often overlooked aspect of survival in the post-apocalyptic landscape. Once a mundane occupation in the pre-apocalyptic world, inspecting intertubes became a matter of life and death in the harsh realities of the new world order.

Armed with little more than a flashlight and a keen eye for detail, Carl traversed the barren wastelands in search of intact intertubes, the lifelines of communication and transportation in this fractured world. With every inspection, he meticulously scrutinized each tube for signs of wear, damage, or contamination, knowing that a single flaw could spell disaster for those who relied on them for survival.

Carl's expertise extended beyond mere inspection; he became a guardian of knowledge, teaching others the importance of maintaining and preserving the intertubes that linked scattered communities across the ravaged landscape. Through his tireless efforts, he ensured that these vital arteries of communication remained functional, bridging the gaps between isolated pockets of humanity and fostering a sense of connection in an otherwise disconnected world.

But Carl's mission was not without its challenges. In a world where resources were scarce and dangers lurked at every turn, he faced constant threats from marauders, scavengers, and the elements themselves. Yet, he pressed on, driven by a sense of duty and a belief that the intertubes held the key to rebuilding civilization from the ashes of the old world.

As the days turned into years, Carl's efforts bore fruit, as the network of intertubes he helped maintain became a lifeline for those struggling to survive in the harsh new reality. Through his unwavering dedication and perseverance, Carl emerged as a beacon of hope in a world consumed by darkness, proving that even in the face of devastation, the human spirit could endure.

See what I mean about a lot of blah-blah nothing?

In some ways, this is encouraging. As a writer, methinks I'm not likely to be replaced by a computer any time soon.

Blah blah blah.


  1. What i like about your books is that even though you know where you are going the ride is still enjoyable!

  2. Patrice,
    I learned a lot from this post. The analysis of the words was fascinating.

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  4. A.I. featutes an innovative, meticulous, yet versatile style of writing which, while commendable, is notable for an overall lack of meaning.

  5. Patrice, at my last position I had to review a great many CVs. One quickly becomes attuned to when AI is used and when it is not, especially if one works with words at all. The format is the same, the descriptions are the same (as somewhat indicated in the two examples above).

  6. Everything in artificial intelligence is specifically instructed by a human. Yes AI can be programmed to generate it's own coding but a human instructed that as well. Think of the worst a human can do and multiply that by the power and speed of computers and there is the threat from AI.
    One simple change to the law could at least mitigate some of the damage caused by AI. That would be to require that anything produced in part or whole by AI be clearly labeled that it is AI. True this won't stop someone from using AI and not reveling it but it makes the process of legally charging someone with that crime easier and faster and it will give victims a path to recovering damages.

  7. It also seems to use phrases that begin with "beacon of ." I'd like to ask it to write a paragraph about the superiority of human creativity and communication with respect to AI.

  8. I have read that college professors will select a specific word or phrase (something unusual that might not really apply to the subject) in their essay assignments to help weed out AI generated submissions from the students. If this word shows up in their essays, it's a big red flag.