“Okay, let’s see if it works.”
Dan Holmes, whose byline is appearing frequently in the Beacon these days, pulled out his smart phone. He tapped away and then looked …
“Okay, let’s see if it works.”
Dan Holmes, whose byline is appearing frequently in the Beacon these days, pulled out his smart phone. He tapped away and then looked up.
“What’s the story?” he asked.
I came up with a scenario: The City Council approved a $450 million budget last night over the protests of a raucous crowd that gives all employees 10 percent raises and hikes taxes. I threw in a few more details like the size of the audience and the meeting didn’t end until midnight.
Dan punched in the information. He showed me the screen. It took up two lines. It was the bare facts, albeit made up information.
I wondered what he planned next. We simply waited less than a minute before text popped up his cellphone screen. It was a 200 word story based on what ChatGPT had been given. The story focused on the tax hike and the protests and then got into the raises and the size of the budget.
Envisioning the next technological leap – computers deciding what facts are worthy of reporting – I said, “You know what this means for us, we don’t need reporters.”
Dan raised the issue of ChatGPT as we talked over story ideas. Dan is a part-time English tutor at New England Institute of Technology. Since the release of the ChatGPT and its temporary free use within the last 10 days the media has buzzed with stories of how the program can be used to churn out term papers on esoteric topics that can’t be detected by professors. Its chink, according to stories in the New York Times an Wall Street Journal, is mathematics although I’m not sure what that means.
At its core is artificial intelligence.
Imagine in addition to telling Siri to call your mother, asking her what to say and how to say you won’t be able to attend your parents’ 60th wedding anniversary party because you just got tickets to the Super Bowl. Maybe that’s impossible now, but the point being so much information about you and the people you associate with is available digitally from photos to what you order for takeout that AI can compose something that fits your profile and your mother’s so she is going to embrace when she learns the Super Bowl is more important than her anniversary. It will be so good that she’ll kiss you.
For full disclosure, I haven’t learned enough about ChatGPT to say it can produce the perfect reason for skipping your parents’ 60th. However, the possibilities of the program and the issues it is bound to raise became more and more evident as Dan spent another 20 minutes with it.
My question was whether the system would automatically research the background to stories it was asked to write. Dan said the advanced versions do but what is offered free at this time can’t. So as to give AI another shot, I took recent ratification of the firefighters’ and key points of discussion. This time I emailed Dan the list rather than giving it to him verbally. He went with what I gave him and then on a second run added the fiscal note prepared by City Finance Director Peder Schaefer. ChatGPT produced a wordy document that had me convinced I’m no good at math and it is.
I can tell you this technology will raise questions far beyond the veracity of term papers. It’s not hard to imagine candidates for office facing off in debate, wearing some form of hidden ear buds as they deflect each others attacks and spell out a platform that fits their character and is geared to appeal to the public. And it’s not had to imagine the news media will use AI to cover the event as well. We’ll be steeped in AI.
One thing you can count on, this column was not written in 30 seconds by ChatGPT and that you’re going to be reading more about ChatGPT and how the academic community plans to cope with the technology.
Meanwhile, tell mom the truth: You love her this weekend; you love the Super Bowl more.
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