M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

ChatGPT: Is this really the “death of the essay”?

December 17, 2022
MThomas

I’ve been testing ChatGPT over the last couple of days. (If you don’t know what this chatbot is, here’s a good NYT article about ChatGPT and others currently in development.)

The avowed purpose of ChatGPT is to create an AI that can create believable dialogues. It does this by scouring the web for data it uses to respond to simple prompts.

By “simple,” I mean sometimes “horribly complicated,” of course. And sometimes a little ridiculous.

Somehow, I doubt that people in the US said “livin’ the dream” in the ’50s…

As has been pointed out, chatbots only generate texts based on what they have been fed, i.e., “garbage in / garbage out.” So if you push the programs hard enough, they will generate racist, sexist, homophobic etc awful stuff — because unfortunately that kind of sick and twisted garbage is still out there, somewhere online in a troll’s paradise.

So far, I have asked the program to:

  1. Write a haiku about winter without using the word “winter”
  2. Write a limerick about an Irish baseball player
  3. Write a dialogue between God and Nietzsche (I just had to…)
  4. Imagine what Jean-Paul Sartre and Immanuel Kant would say to each other (see above) but using US ’50 slang
  5. Have Thomas Aquinas and John Locke argue about the existence of God (that one was fun)
  6. Write a 300 word cause-effect essay about climate change
  7. Write a 300 word compare and contrast essay about the US and Japan
  8. Write a 1000 word short science fiction story based on Mars
  9. Write a 1500 word short science fiction about robots in the style of Philip K Dick

OK, and the verdict is:

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Bringer of Light, Chapter 37: Transit Ceres to Luna

December 10, 2022
MThomas

In a story long, long ago…

Sorry that it’s been almost three months since posting more fiction. The colonists on Mars are still undergoing training by Riss and Sanvi so that they can understand and control their new abilities. Meanwhile, Bardish has headed out into space, where he met his destiny.

And Gennaji, who had been headed to discover Bardish’s fate on Luna, is now approaching his own.

“Prepare to board that Loonie ship,” Gennaji said tersely, unstrapping his flight harness.

“Aye, Captain.”

Karel’s voice sounded void of emotion. As if the big man had gone numb.

Gennaji glanced over at his new navigator. It looked as if the man hadn’t slept at all since they left Ceres. Since their failure. Since Andrej betrayed him.

He couldn’t help himself. 

“Pining for that backstabbing vybliadok?”

Karel shot him a glare that Gennaji could not back down from. He planted his magboots firmly down on the control room deck and returned the glare. Neither spoke for a moment.

“He made his choice,” Karel finally said. He kept his eyes firmly on his captain.

“Yes,” Gennaji said, crossing his arms. “He did. And you?”

No response.

“You agreed to join this crew. Standard sixteen-month contract.”

“For two more weeks.”

“Yes, two more weeks! A man makes a promise, a man keeps it. You have a problem with being a man?”

Karel turned red, clenched his fists. 

“Captain,” said the pilot. “The Lunar skiff is changing course. Heading…directly at us!”

“What?” Gennaji took a step towards Orynko. He felt a big hand grab the back of his right upper arm, twisted him around to face behind him. The punch came in slightly off target, a glancing blow on the chin that sent him backward a step or two. He staggered, recovered, anticipated the left body blow and blocked with the inner part of his right arm. Karel fell forward, his momentum carrying him into his captain.

Gennaji immediately sidestepped, tripping the bigger man and forcing him into a headlock from behind. Left forearm under the man’s left shoulder and neck, right arm behind and locked with the left bicep. Twisted hips, pushed down to the floor, pinning his opponent down with his body weight.

Karel gasped, grabbed at the forearm, kicking futilely.

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Goodbye, Musk, and good riddance.

November 21, 2022
MThomas

If you’ve been reading this blog, you probably noticed the “has over 1,200 followers” tag suddenly dropped to just over 200.

That’s because I deactivated my Twitter account.

I debated for a couple of weeks.

And then saw how its Chief Twit (seriously, this is how this psychopath called himself) treated his workers.

100+ hour work weeks? Haphazardly firing pregnant single moms? Reinstating Der DrumpfenFührer?

Enough.

Twitter is run by a narcissistic, megalomaniacal bully with delusions of grandeur, and I will have nothing to do with any company that supports him or is run by him.

“But…” the plaintiff cry “where will we get our news??”

Um.

Try an actual news organization.

An aggregator works just fine.

Here’s a primer:

https://www.lifewire.com/best-news-aggregators-4584410

(FWIW, Flipboard is my current fav, but my friends often rely on Google News and Apple News (if you have Apple devices, of course. And for the standard no-nonsense and no-frills approach, AP).

Anyway, I’m happy to be followed by 200+ WordPress fans.

Don’t worry. Science is still science. And naturally there is science fiction on the way.

I just need time to write it!

Another lost month…

November 8, 2022
MThomas

Sigh.

A whole month of no posts. Sorry, everyone.

Last weekend was partly fun (Halloween party with our kids, pre-teen and teen) and partly melancholic (4th year anniversary of my mother’s untimely death from cancer).

But even before then, I just wasn’t feeling all that great. Not sick. Just sort of…not with it. On autopilot, kind of.

Now that fall is well and truly here, the pollen is going away and the skies are clearing.

Hoping I’ll find my muse again.

And, no, I’m not going to write anything about Twitter, elections, or crazy beliefs in satanic rituals making a comeback among the bonkers-crazy folk of my home country. Way too easy.

Another month, another missed Bringer of Light post…

July 18, 2022
MThomas

Yeah. So I missed another installment in my series.

Shoot.

Things are just ridiculously spiraling out of control at work. I hope to start posting more regularly again in a week or so.

In the meantime, check out more images from the Webb space telescope compared to Hubble. They’re pretty awe-inspiring.

FB censorship, here we go again…

May 8, 2022
MThomas

Right. So I quit Facebrat a couple years ago after I got fed up with the self-righteous, arrogant attitude of its founder Mark Zuckerberg and its blatant stealing and selling of personal information of its users.

And also because I was wasting hours and hours each week reading meaningless Facebark posts on my smartphone (so I deleted the app, which I strongly recommend you all do to prevent the company from tracking your location, then selling that info to the spam industry…although you’re probably going to be tracked via BlueTooth anyway if you keep it on).

But after my mother passed away, and while I was still away from family, friends, and colleagues and living in Montréal, I couldn’t take the isolation.

And also a teacher’s group based at the McGill University (William Shatner’s alma mater!) named BILD asked me to join a FB Group.

So I rejoined and vowed to avoid posting anything about religion and politics, and to focus on the things that matter – food, family, and occasional humorous events.

Until I foolishly wrote a casual comment on my brother’s post:

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Getting Yourself to Write

December 14, 2021
MThomas

Writing can be a struggle for writers of all levels, from beginning to professional. The struggle has a dreaded name: writer’s block. Writer’s block …

Getting Yourself to Write

I’ve never really experienced the so-called “writer’s block.” Not that I’m bragging…but I often just don’t find I have enough time to write.

By which I mean, writing seriously. It’s easy, however, to find time here and there just to jot down some random thoughts.

(Aside note: if you type really quickly on the WordPress smartphone app, it autocorrect “random” to “radon,” which would put you in an entirely different frame of mind.)

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Procrastinate, work, repeat

November 12, 2021
MThomas

Where’s the Artemis?? What’s up with Mars? And Ceres seriously…?

Sorry I haven’t kept up the story posts, everyone.

I know it’s been almost a month since the last Bringer of Light episode. Work just got dumped on me, and I can barely find time to give my writing students feedback. We switched back to face to face classes…with live streaming on Zoom for students who couldn’t or wouldn’t go back to campus…which is definitely NOT a teaching style I would recommend to anybody, anywhere, ever.

It’s been like laying down tracks in front of an oncoming train. Every day.

There is lots more good stuff for Riss and her crew, I swear. I’ve got drafts up to Chapter 42, and plots to the end after that. Let me see if I can get the next one up for you all in a day or two…

Sigh.Way behind. Again.

September 18, 2021
MThomas

OK, I readily admit that I am once again waaaay behind on my scifi blogging.

At some point last week, I looked up from the mass amounts of work I had left to do and went, “Uh. August 21st? Was that really the last time I posted?”

Uh. Yup.

😣

I’ll do my best to get the rest of Riss’s story online on a biweekly basis, like I promised I would.

But promises…

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