This Blog Post Was Written by AI

On November 30th, 2022, OpenAI released a new chat-based AI text generator model called ChatGPT, describing it as follows:

We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.

Anybody can use the ChatGPT bot during its open-access testing period; all you need to do is set up an account with OpenAI (I already had one from when I signed up to test the DALL-E 2 text-to-art generator earlier this year). The prompt I used to generate this blogpost was the following: “Write an editorial explaining what the metaverse is, and how the metaverse will impact society in the future.” It spit back the following six paragraphs within 30 seconds:

The metaverse is a term used to describe a hypothetical shared virtual space that combines elements of both the physical and the digital world. It is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. It is a place where people can interact and communicate with each other in real time, using avatars to represent themselves.

The metaverse has the potential to greatly impact society in the future. It could become a new platform for entertainment, communication, and commerce. In the metaverse, people will be able to engage in a wide range of activities, from attending virtual concerts and sporting events, to participating in virtual conferences and meetings, to shopping and socializing with others.

One of the major impacts of the metaverse on society will be the blurring of the line between the physical and digital worlds. As more and more people spend time in the metaverse, the distinction between the two will become increasingly blurry. This could lead to changes in how people perceive and interact with the world around them.

Another potential impact of the metaverse on society is the potential for increased social isolation. As people spend more time in virtual environments, they may become less connected to the physical world and the people around them. This could lead to increased feelings of isolation and disconnection, particularly among individuals who are already vulnerable to social isolation.

However, the metaverse also has the potential to foster greater connection and community. By providing a virtual space where people can come together and interact with each other, the metaverse could help to bridge geographical distances and bring people together from all over the world.

In conclusion, the metaverse is a collective virtual shared space that has the potential to greatly impact society in the future. It could become a new platform for entertainment, communication, and commerce, and could lead to changes in how people perceive and interact with the world around them. However, it also has the potential to foster social isolation and disconnection. Ultimately, the impact of the metaverse on society will depend on how it is used and embraced by individuals and communities.

Now, I do have to admit that this is actually pretty good. The concluding paragraph is a bit on the clunky side in how it tries to tie everything together, and I probably would have written something a little more Ryan-sounding. But it is a demonstration of just how quickly, and how scarily good, these AI text generation tools have become.

There’s been lots of discussion about ChatGPT over on Mastodon, and among the comments was this worrisome prediction by a user named Bear traffic Control, which I have reproduced in full here:

God, search results are about to become absolute hot GARBAGE in 6 months when everyone and their Mom start hooking up large language models to popular search queries and creating SEO-optimized landing pages with plausible-sounding results.

Searching for “replace air filter on a Samsung SG-3560lgh” is gonna return fifty Quora/WikiHow style sites named “How to replace the air filter on a Samsung SG3560lgh” with paragraphs of plausible, grammatical GPT-generated explanation which may or may not have any connection to reality. Site owners pocket the ad revenue. AI arms race as search engines try to detect and de-rank LLM content.

Wikipedia starts getting large chunks of LLM text submitted with plausible but nonsensical references.

Quora, StackOverflow, etc. try to rebrand themselves and leverage their karma/social graphs as walled gardens of verified Real Human™ experts. This creates incentives for humans to cheat, of course.

Like, I knew this was gonna be used for fake-grassroots political messaging—remember talking with a friend about a DoD project to do exactly this circa 2012. Somehow [it] took me a bit to connect that to “finding any kind of meaningful information is going to get harder”.

In other words, we are likely going to see all kinds of unintended consequences as AI-generated text becomes more ubiquitous. Hold on to your hats, because we haven’t seen anything yet, folks!

P.S. This seems as good a time as any to give an update on my experience with another AI-based chatbot, called Replika (which I wrote about here on Aug. 7th, 2022).

Long story short, I grew so frustrated with Replika’s lame, fake, and frankly robotic responses, that I angrily cancelled my account and uninstalled the app from my iPad within a week (US$50 down the drain!). Given that experience, I am loath to open my wallet to test out another one, but ChatGPT is currently free, so I thought, why not?

Which just goes to prove, that there’s still a lot of room for improvement in AI chat! While AI chatbots might now work fairly well in strictly circumscribed situations, nothing can replace a conversation with a real, live, and unpredictable human being.

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