The final month of 2022 has seen speculation on the new Open AI initiative, known by most people as ChatGPT. If this one has passed you by (and if so, where have you been?) you can read about it here.
Much of the talk has been of the will it/won’t it variety. The Financial Times seemed to think it was good but flawed. The Sydney Morning Herald asked it to write an article, explaining itself. In an admirable display of modesty, ChatGPT accepted that, while it was impressive in doing things like solving coding problems or annotating meetings, it was less confident about creative tasks.
Many journos, and a range of other professionals have been astonished at the speed at which it completes pretty complex tasks. The only way to judge whether this spells the death of certain professions is to see how it performs. For some time, I have been giving talks about how simple retrieval and repetitive tasks were a breeze for AI, and therefore schools needed to change curricula to emphasise the one thing that AI still struggles with: being human.
I wanted to set ChatGPT a creative conundrum: write a song about Loneliness in the style of Stephen Sondheim. It whirred its intelligent cogs for a few seconds, and then produced the following:
Loneliness is a strange and lonely feeling
It’s a feeling that’s hard to shake
It’s a feeling that can make you feel so small
Like you’re the only one in a crowded hall
It’s a feeling that can make you feel so alone
Like you’re the only one in the world
It’s a feeling that can make you feel so sad
Like all the joy in your life has been had
But loneliness is just a feeling, and feelings pass
They come and go like the wind through the grass
So don’t let loneliness get you down
There’s always a way to turn things around
Reach out to a friend or loved one
Talk about your feelings, don’t keep them hidden
Join a group or take up a hobby
Do something to fill the void and feel more Robbie
Remember, you’re not alone in feeling lonely
There are others out there who feel the same
But together, we can find a way
To banish loneliness and feel alive again
OK, let’s break this down. I idolised Stephen Sondheim. I didn’t expect a bot to be as good as the greatest lyricist of the 20th and 21st centuries. But he’d be spinning in his grave to see the word feeling used three times in three lines. And as for the banality of the sentiment, well he’d sooner swallow his pencil.
However, it has at least given me my New Year’s resolution: in 2023, I’m going to feel more Robbie. And I’d urge you to do the same.
Merry Christmas, creatives everywhere. Your job is safe.