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:

Continue Reading

Smashwords End of the Year Sale from 12/15 to 1/1!

December 15, 2022
MThomas

“Find my ebooks and a wide collection of great indie titles as part of the Smashwords 2022 End of Year Sale! Check out https://smashwords.com/shelves/promos before the end of the month and follow @smashwords for more promos like this! #SmashwordsEOYSale #ebook #sale #books2read #indiebooks”

(I swiped this from the Smashwords promo site as a “generic blurb.” But what else, really, do I need to write?

All my ebooks on Smashwords are “50%” off! That means the books that are listed as $0.99 are actually free, since they don’t do $0.49.

And don’t forget that all proceeds from Destiny in the Future are donated to fight cancer.

Gift an ebook to friends and family!

Chatbots — Still not AI but still dangerous

December 13, 2022
MThomas

[ChatGPT] could teach his daughter math, science and English, not to mention a few other important lessons. Chief among them: Do not believe everything you are told.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/10/technology/ai-chat-bot-chatgpt.html

They’re all the rage online. Type in a request for a description how two historical people who never actually met would respond to each other had they actually met, and the program will oblige.

They’ll cause all sorts of rage online, too, once the peddlers of incessant false news and innuendo realize what a bonanza they’ve stumbled upon.

You want an image of an event that never really happened?

No problem. A program can generate one for you. We can even call it “art,” for what that’s worth.

No, BIG problem, especially when it convinces the gullible that it DID happen.

2023 will tell 2020 and 2022 to hold its coffee.

Just what we all wanted, right?

Still, chatbots are not (repeat, NOT) true AI. Sorry, Google engineer who watched too much Ghost in the Shell. Chatbots repeat our very human bias. Repeatedly.

As in, there are way too many racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, and transphobic comments online. Full stop.

At a minor level, as a writing instructor, a student telling a chatbot to write a 600-word comparison-contrast essay is the least of my worries.

For starters, the damn things are probably scouring the Internet right now and “learning” from text on web pages like…uh…this one…

😱

Think small

December 3, 2022
MThomas

On Tuesday as I was walking back from work, much later than usual, my shoes were bothering me.

They felt stretched, loose, especially irritating on a rainy day.

I had spent too much time polishing them, I thought.

Too much effort making them “waterproof.”

Too much money on these damn useless things.

I resolved to throw them away and get a new pair.

But of course it would take time, and money, and effort to go get them.

Damn shoes. I would have to rearrange my entire week because of you.

The next morning, as I put my shoes on, I realized that the laces were loose.

So I re-tied them, and instantly they felt better.

Sometimes, when a small, insignificant problem arises, there is a simple fix.

Think small.

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.

Onward and upward, Excelsior!

September 19, 2022
MThomas

Just passed 200 followers on WordPress. Thank you, everyone!

I know I should be posting a whole lot more often than I have. There are LOADS of new science articles and events happening recently, so I’ll see if I can get caught up over the next couple of weeks.

Plus a new chapter of Bringer of Light by the end of the week! I promise!

(And it would be VERY helpful if WordPress didn’t “refresh” while I was adding tags and categories to posts, and then hiding those tags and categories afterward so that I couldn’t update them…Sigh…what was wrong with the older version that worked just fine?)

Bringer of Light, Chapter 35: United Mars Colonies (pt 3)

August 13, 2022
MThomas

Previously, in Bringer of Light

The crew of the Artemis have admitted that the water brought from Ceres was contaminated. And yet they deny it was dangerous. Only different. And requiring training…that may stretch the rationality and scientific understanding of the current “United” Mars colonists…


“Delegates,” Martin began. 

No response.

“Delegates, we must accept the help of the Artemis crew. We have little alternative. We must face the facts. The UN, our home countries, our home planet has abandoned us.”

“How can we survive?” another delegate asked, voice quivering. “Captain, how can we feed ourselves? Maintain heat, power?”

“These are legitimate questions,” she replied. “Coop, a small demonstration?”

He nodded and looked back and forth. Spotting a cup on a small table to the side of the console desk, he raised it above his head.

“Empty now. See?”

He stooped and scooped up a handful of regolith from the chamber floor. Dropped it to the cup. In an instant, water appeared.

“Sorcery,” a delegate whispered.

Continue Reading

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.

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.)

Continue Reading
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