ChatGPT: Perhaps My Lifetime's Most Consequential -- And Not for the Better -- Technological Innovation, Part I
First it was accountants (TurboTax), then travel agents (Expedia), then translators (Google Translate), now, us writers (ChatGPT), which stands for Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer, a creation of OpenAI launched in November 2022.
I concluded my March 13, 2021, column on the subject of Google Translate pondering: "Will I someday receive a Google Alert informing me of the launch of Google Opinion Column Generator?" "I hope not," I added. Well, ChatGPT is here, and it can generate essays, news stories and yes, columns; it can even take exams, passing them with flying colors.
But can it generate opinion columns? As far as I know, only humans are entitled to their opinions. And even if ChatGPT can churn out opinion columns, could they ever approximate the elegant style and erudition of George Will, the sharp wit of the late Arthur Buchwald or the measured wisdom of Peggy Noonan? Can they make readers laugh or cry, as I sometimes attempt to?
Well, this Tuesday, I decided to challenge Chatbot to a duel. I went to openai.com with the intention of instructing it to write a 750-word op-ed on the limitations and shortfalls of computer-generated opinion columns. I clicked on the "Try" tab, but too many people were in line (or is it online?) in front of me and a robot typed a message in the form of a sonnet before my eyes. It asked for my email so I could be notified when I could access it, but it has been three days and no word yet. It's like waiting for a response from the IRS.
I got this sonnet instead, the equivalent of the waiting music one is forced to endure -- I have been told -- when trying to speak with a Southwest Airlines customer representative:
"Amidst the rush of curious minds,
The chatbot ChatGPT stands strong and true,
Withstanding the influx of requests,
Working hard to fulfill each one's due.
But alas, the server cannot cope,
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