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.
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:
Write a haiku about winter without using the word “winter”
Write a limerick about an Irish baseball player
Write a dialogue between God and Nietzsche (I just had to…)
Imagine what Jean-Paul Sartre and Immanuel Kant would say to each other (see above) but using US ’50 slang
Have Thomas Aquinas and John Locke argue about the existence of God (that one was fun)
Write a 300 word cause-effect essay about climate change
Write a 300 word compare and contrast essay about the US and Japan
Write a 1000 word short science fiction story based on Mars
Write a 1500 word short science fiction about robots in the style of Philip K Dick
(Riss is the leader of the Artemis Crew, Brady is the scientist, and Sanvi the pilot…but Enoch is the one who knows the way to go. He hopes.)
Kapow! Another German plane on fire, spiraling down from the sky, destroyed by a hail of bullets from his trusty Hellcat.
“Fuck you, Focke-Wulf!” Enoch chortled. His gloved hands danced in the air, finger tips wiggling as his 3D-goggled head bobbed back and forth.
He had no idea how long he’d been flying. What an addictive game! he couldn’t help thinking, as he shot down a Zero.
It made no sense, of course, but the game scenario creator allowed him to populate the battle with planes from any country, any time. He could have included a Sopwith Camel from the first world war, or a Mars Warplane from the shortly-lived Mars Colonies War if he felt like it.
But his favorite was World War II planes. Especially the Zero. How many times had he imagined himself saving the Pearl City from the Japanese invaders? Enoch, the hero, the half-Jewish, half-Irish Hawai’ian…
A stray memory entered his head as his Camel swooped over Diamond Head, strafing the dastardly Zero trying to attack hapless Waikiki swimmers as they sunned on Kahanamoku beach. He tried to push the thought away; once, twice, his fingers twitched, sending burst after burst of virtual machine gun fire into the Zero’s side. The enemy shuddered, smoke spurted from its canopy, and began its descent into the pounding surf.
He pulled back on the throttle and veered right, soaring over Nu’uanu Pali, aloft on the wind that warriors of old would challenge. Jumping contests of bravery, daring the wind to push them back over the cliff, or failing in the eyes of the gods and falling to their deaths on the rocks below.
He let go of the controls. The plane sailed straight through the valley.
The hill of Kaipu-o-Lono on one side, Napili on the other.
Enoch’s grandfather often told him the stories of the piko stones, Hapu’u and Kalae-hau-ola, twin goddesses guarding and protecting the children whose parents made the appropriate sacrifice and performed the ritual of blessing.
“The stones are gone now,” Grandfather told him, when Enoch was a boy. “Destroyed by the haule who took our kingdom away from us. But the stones will return in time. And their spirit still guards us, even now.”
But Enoch was not pure Hawai’ian. He was not even hapa haule. Not for the last time, he wished that his father had not been Irish-Hawai’ian, his mother not Jewish.
“Shit,” he exclaimed, tearing the headset off and flinging it at the floor of his sleeping cabin. He yanked the controller glove off and clenched it in one fist. But he stopped himself, released the glove. It hung mid-air, fingers gently bobbing up and down like the disembodied hands in the Evil Dead movies.
He sat up in the bunk.
Who the fuck ever heard of an Irish-Jewish Hawai’ian?
From the Moon, no less.
A sudden banging noise came from the other side of the wall. Sanvi.
“Knock it off, Karate Kid!” Enoch shouted, knowing full well she wouldn’t hear him clearly. Who cared. She hit the wall about once every two days. What the hell was her problem, anyway?
He massaged the back of his neck, resisting the urge to stand up and stretch. Being born off-Earth had its advantages. Enoch’s height gave him the reach others lacked, but it sucked to be in a cramped cabin on a ship built for four Earthers.
Loonie. Yeah, he was a Hawaiian Loonie. Who had never been to Hawaii, and never would. Not without a special pressure suit, complete with robotic supports so that he could walk in normal Earth-g. And who needed electronic implants to see, because the Moon’s low gravity had permanently effed up the fluid inside his eyeballs.
At least he could zoom-in. Definitely a targeting advantage.
He folded his hands behind his head and stared at the ceiling. The vidgame headset floated upward opposite his bunk, gently rebounding against the door.
Another loud noise from the wall. Sanvi must have hit it twice.
Enoch shrugged. He thought she was cute, on first joining the Artemis crew. Hell of a fighter. With his Loonie-bones he stood no chance against her in a scrape. But the mysticism she got so hung up on was a major turnoff.
“Aren’t you interested in Kabbalah?” she asked him once, in the mess room. “You know, being Jewish and all?”
“I’m Hawai’ian, not Jewish,” he replied.
“But it’s fascinating!” she persisted. “Elements are similar to Zen…”
He had to let her babble on while he focused on his freeze-dried beans and faux-spam. He still wouldn’t touch real pork — who knew what was in it? Especially in deep space rations — but he just wasn’t interested in religion. Any of it.
He pushed the memory away. Another came to mind; Grandfather, taking him out for a swim in the Sea of Showers.
“When I was your age,” Grandfather was saying, “there wasn’t any water on the Moon. Not above ground, anyway.”
Enoch splashed his grandfather and laughed. “Bet it was colder, too,” he joked. “Bet you froze your tuckus off!”
“Language!” Grandfather said sharply. But the old man smiled.
Enoch looked out across the sea. “I can’t see the other side,” he complained. “It curves too much. Nothing to see.”
“That never stopped your ancestors,” Grandfather said. “The great navigators of the Sea, they had only the stars, the currents, the wind to guide them. Read the stars, Enoch. Let the universe be your guide.”
Enoch frowned at the memory. The stars, he thought bitterly. The gravity wells and planetary magnetic fields. He had learned. Those who controlled his life had not.
Like those morons at Zedra. What did they know that he didn’t? He didn’t need their help plotting trajectories for the thrower. He didn’t need their stupid pings about “optimal course projections” for returning to the happy hunting grounds, either. Artemis was his ship.
Well, Riss’s ship, technically.
He grinned. He’d do anything for that woman.
Sometimes in the command center, when she was lost deep in thought, staring out the window like she usually did, Enoch would try to sneak glances back at her. A little older than him, true. But still. He had a pretty active imagination. Too bad she had a boyfriend.
He shook his head. Fiancé, he heard. Some other Loonie. Nah, had to be an Earther sent to Luna for the government. Somebody connected to Bardish. Like Riss.
He grabbed the vidset and control glove again. No point in feeling sorry for himself. His time would come. Meanwhile, there was always the Hellcat.
Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 9 (Part 1): Mars Colonies (Coming 12/19)
One thing I have struggled with while uncovering my family’s complicated past is the lack of consistency in naming conventions before the digital age.
In the Information Age, if you type in your name or ID with a single letter missing or out of place, your application gets rejected by whatever online program it is you’re trying to get access to. We all have numbers assigned to us—social security numbers, student numbers, worker numbers, case numbers, credit card numbers, you name it.
Thhppt. What’s a number? What’s a name? That which we would call a rose… Continue Reading
While visiting Montreal and Upstate New York for summer vacation, my family were greeted by an unhappy surprise.
My mother has Stage 4 cancer.
I’ve been spending the past two to three years researching my ancestry (at, you guessed it, ancestry.com) and I had already hoped to talk with my mother about her memories of our Irish and French Canadian heritage.
I’d already managed to find quite bit online via various databases, both public and private. But there’s no substitute for family stories. And now I have a time limit.
From now I’ll be spending some time on the blog briefly explaining the background of some of the stories and poems in my new book Notes from the Nineties (already available for pre-order! Only $1.99!).
The first story in the volume is called “Cois Fharraige,” which used to be subtitled “or, By the Sea,” which is the meaning of the Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge) title. The poem that follows the story (“Ag an gcrosaire,” which means “at the crossroads”) stems from the same time period and experiences.
From 1995 to 1997 I studied creative writing, literature, history, and Irish language in the University of Notre Dame MFA program. (Actually, when I entered the program it was an MA but changed to a “terminal degree” at the end of my first year, but that’s another story…). When I told my roommate that I was studying Irish he first said “don’t the Irish speak English?” And then he added, “Gee, that’s going to improve your job offers” (or some such words). Continue Reading
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