There’s Human Intelligence, and Artificial kind. I wasn’t taken up by the recent bluster about AI which arrived in 2022 all dressed up, but wearing flipflops. Somehow there was a mismatch between its promise and what it delivers.
I did give it a try, however. Just like I once wandered into ‘Second Life’ slightly skeptical. Is this real, I wondered. Are we there yet?
1. AI ART – THE LOW-HANGING FRUIT WITH WEIRD, FUZZY SKIN
I had checked out the app called Starryai (which I wrote about in a Substack newsletter.) So, for my second attempt, I called up the algorithms on Dall.E to see if this fancy pants tool could design a magazine cover. Like WIRED.
The prompt that I typed, into Dall.E, was: “WIRED magazine cover with Dall.E.”
Could it ‘design’ a cover of tech magazine, using itself (Dall.E) in the title? Was it capable of reflecting on itself?
I was margially impressed. Marginally. In other words, not terribly. Sure, the graphics were overly arty as WIRED occasionally tries to be. Dall.E gets the look right, but the details are so bloody amateurish, even clumsy. It doesn’t seem to handle white space, or understand how to mimic a masthead. The fonts are a joke!
2. AI WRITING – NOTHING TO WRITE HOME ABOUT
I teach creative writing in all my classes. Naturally I’ve been intrigued, and even alarmed by how the talk about how AI could write like a human. Many people are hailing this as the death-knell for flesh-and-bone writers, journalists etc. Some tear their hair out about plagiarism in schools.
The Nieman Lab is a bit more circumspect:
“While ChatGPT won’t win any journalism awards (at least for now), it can certainly automate much of the long tail of content on the internet.” — Nieman Lab, Predictions for Journalism in 2023
I checked out an application on the ChatGPT platform known as OpenAI that some people have told me can write fairly convincing content. I was suspicious. I had read a piece by a marketing writer, Mitch Joel about this. To check how smart this AI could be I typed in this snarky prompt: “Is Mitch Joel right about AI platforms.”
I wanted to see if this ghost in the machine was savvy enough to pick up his argument and reference it. As I guessed, it didn’t live up to my expectations. In fact, the software apologized for its inability to do more than explain what Mitch does for a living, and went on to explain how these are still early days! (Brownie points OpenAI for admitting you don’t know what you don’t know.) While it got the paragraphs and punctuation nicely. The second ‘graph was a doozy. Like a lazy copywriter churning out some garbage just to fill a layout to impress a client.
The website sets our expectations, in fact, saying things like, “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.” Hmm!
Having said that, others are raving about AI content generators like Jasper. It’s supposed to be a boon for copywriters, social media posts and SEO content.
HERE’S MY TAKE ON AI. Content creators of the world —authors, journalists, copywriters, podcasters —shouldn’t feel threatened. For now. Good copywriters don’t sit at a desk stringing clichés to adjectives. They walk the factory floor, sit through plans board meetings, and argue with brand managers before the concept emerges. Translated: They produce content, rather than regurgitate it. Translated again: The fruits of AI are tempting but aren’t ready to pluck. Even for students. Low-hanging fruit – tempting but bland. Sometimes filled with bugs.
ChatGPT says it is addressing this. It’s like saying Samuel Bankman-Fried has declared he is making sure there aren’t any more crypto scams.
Are we concerned? As teachers, yes. Plagiarism is something no school takes lightly, if only because we want students to discover the value of originality, and creativity. It’s what will benefit them in any career. How about you?