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AI? Bots? ChatGPT?
Let’s see what the fuss is about…

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Unless you’re a luddite (in which case, you wouldn’t even see this, so never mind) you’ve probably noticed a substantial uptick in the mentions of “AI”. In the headlines, on TV, in your social feed, maybe around the office, even in casual conversation, Artificial Intelligence is hot again. For me and my sci-fi, robot-obsessed, geeky nerd heart, these are exciting times… but should they also be scary?

This article is going to dive a little deeper into this sudden AI influx. I’ll touch on the history and where things are now. And then, I’ll try some experiments to see how AI fares against good, ol’ fashioned brain-thinkin’… in this case, my brain, the caliber of which could be debated. Let’s begin, shall we?

 

 

Artificial Intelligence… A Really Quick, Jumpy History

While the concept of an artificial being capable of independent thought can be found in literature dating back to Greek mythology (in the form of “Talos”), one of the most popular early incarnations would be that of the Creature in Mary Shelley’s 1818 work, “Frankenstein”, which introduced not only a man-made character of artificial intelligence, but also the ethics behind such a creation.

From a real-world standpoint, AI began to develop in 1931, when Kurt Gödel, known as the “father of theoretical computer science”, introduced the concept of a computer language, setting this form of science into motion. Between this, von Neumann’s and Morgenstern’s “Game Theory” (at its simplest, this was the analysis of strategies for dealing with competitive situations) and the work of Alan Turing, researchers began to consider the very real possibility of building an electronic brain.

As scientists began to fully immerse themselves into the creation of a real, working, artificial intelligence, fictional works quickly began to appear in response, often with a cautionary take, as was the case with the 1968 book and film, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which introduced the “character” of HAL 9000 who didn’t quite see eye-to-ocular sensor to his human counterparts when it came to mission objectives.

And that’s about where I jumped in… because “2001”, which I love, helped pave the way to “Star Wars”, which I really, really love. R2, Threepio, poor R5-D4, even “Gonk”, while all referred to as “droids”, were, in essence, artificially intelligent. So much so, in fact, that audiences didn’t see them as anything other than full, flesh and blood, characters.

 

 

Wait… Why Is This About Star Wars?

If you know me, you know that I have more than a passing fondness for “Star Wars” (in the immortal words of my 4th grade teacher, I had a “preoccupation with Star Wars”.) But there’s an actual reason why I’m talking about it here. See, it’s with the release of “Star Wars” in 1977 where the worlds of art and science began to become intertwined, where robots — and artificial intelligence — really came into the mainstream, for all to see, wonder about, and wonder about building.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept of intelligent, even benevolent, robots was not unique to “Star Wars”. As a kid, I loved Robby from “Forbidden Planet”, was obsessed with Robot from “Lost in Space”. And don’t even get me started on those poor, little guys from “Silent Running” >sniff<. But Star Wars was the first real, commercial instance — and a global one, at that — where droids were presented more as a class, race or species, not merely as an operating system.

This wave of robot awareness was not just limited to fiction or fantasy, but also permeated real-world practice. And it was during this time, with the creation of the Dykstraflex, with the formation of Industrial Light & Magic, with the computer division that went on to become PIXAR, that the ideas came into being… necessity led to invention, which inspired greater necessity, leading to more powerful inventions, on and on.

It was also around this time, as a theory of debate, and in practice, that the very concept of AI began to have a redlight/greenlight sense of acceptance or alarm associated with it…

Greenlight: It’s great! Think about the NASA rovers, Siri, Alexa… Roombas!

But then there’s the occasional redlight: It’s dangerous! “The Terminator”, while once farfetched science fiction, has come unsettlingly closer on the horizon. Don’t believe me? Talk to the 7 year-old who got his finger broken as he was playing chess in the Moscow Chess Tournament against a robot because the child, according to the robot and its operators, broke the rules. Accident? Sure. But that’s not really the thing we want our AI to be doing. Not to mention, Stephen Hawking with the super brain, did warn that it could “spell the end of the human race.”

 

AI-generated image of a T-800 Terminator playing poker with a dog.

 

Well, that’s fun.

Look, the train’s left the station on AI… how we use it, react to it, respond to it, that’s where humanity can retain its “advantage”.

AI has always been between the ebb and flow of art and science. Stories influenced theories… theories suggested debates. Debates inspired stories. Back and forth, between our desire to explore and our fear of just what we might discover. And it is here, at the convergence of art and science, where AI has, seemingly, existed.

Until now…

So Now What?

Well, it’s one thing to talk about where our relationship with AI began, another to theorize — or warn — where it might be headed. But what about the here and now? At this point, AI is, quite literally, all around us, and easily accessible. How we use it, react to it, respond to it, that’s where humanity can retain its “advantage”.

From an imaging standpoint, AI was behind the sudden appearance of bright, colorful, often fantastical headshots of people you may know. For a blip there, acquaintances, friends, maybe even family, suddenly had much more interesting profile pics appearing on their personal feeds (no judgement here, I did the same thing.)

How was this achieved? AI. All it took was selecting a dozen or so selfies/headshots for uploading (probably a dangerous act and definitely a terrible idea) and before I could say “Gonk!”, the AI bot provided me with its results. And it did not disappoint: I looked like Spaceman Dan, David Bowie Dan, even Buff, Shirtless Dan, which had no reason to have been a thing and I really don’t know why it was a result other than the AI wanting me to feel good about the fact that it most likely stole my identity.

 

I call this one “StarDan”.

On the other hand, some results were… well here:

“WolfDan”, perhaps?

 

So, yeah, that was a moment of entertainment. Fun for brief period of time. While we tend to gloss over the fact that not so long ago, this would be considered impossible, does it serve a greater purpose?

From a purely creative standpoint, this type of AI-augmented process can certainly open up new ways of generating elements to inspire concepting, inform creativity, or impact a presentation. BUT there’s also some question and debate as to where the “genetics” of the imagery is coming from.

Lately, it’s been said that tools such as these might be pulling from or flat-out pilfering some artists’ hard work, as the AI robot scrubs through countless libraries of imagery and footage to compile these “new” works of art (with the usage and/or rights being highly debatable.) That certainly presents some ethical concerns which cannot go unchecked, especially in the realm of commercial or commissioned work.

Imaging isn’t the only realm being disrupted. Easily accessible AI has progressed even further, rapidly spreading into the realm of writing and storytelling. Which drops me into a personal paradox: can my passion for writing co-exist with my love of technology? Can I still carry a fondness for the robots when they start doing my job? (And no, this advancement in automation is nothing new — look at the factories, look at the workers who have experienced this. Time and again, including when the printing press made handwriting inefficient.)

To better assess what exactly has been happening on the AI text front, I suggested that I would have a showdown with a robot. Which, while being incredibly silly and possibly stupid, it is at least a human idea. With ChatGPT loaded in my browser, I decided to take on AI, face to face… or face to screen. This is…

 

 

DAN vs. ROBOT

Upon visiting the ChatGPT site, I was immediately met with my first challenge: to prove my own existence! Okay, it was just a checkbox accompanied with the text “Verify you are a human.”, but come on! Irony, right? Think the AI appreciates irony?

Next I opted for the first challenge, starting with a classic for any writing student, “The Quick Brown Fox.” The challenge was this… start with the line, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”, then write a paragraph, without any pre-planning. Here are the results:

 

Test #1: The Quick Brown Fox

Write a paragraph about “The quick brown fox.”

Dan (Human):
Often used in displaying text or fonts, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” was one of the first things I was taught in typing class (when actual typing and typewriters were a thing in school.) At the time, it was a simple sentence that was presented as a basic warm-up exercise. Many, many year later, I found out that “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is a “pangram”, or a sentence that features each and every letter of the alphabet. Seriously, I did not know that and while I’m not entirely sure that it would have changed my outlook or attentiveness in typing class, I can at least seem far smarter now.

ChatGPT (Not Human):
“The quick brown fox” is a phrase often used as an example of a sentence that contains all the letters of the English alphabet. It’s a simple yet catchy phrase that has been widely used in typing and calligraphy practice as well as in advertising and literature. The phrase usually conjures up an image of a clever, agile fox running swiftly through the forest, evading danger and outsmarting its prey. In a broader sense, it represents the idea of quick thinking, resourcefulness, and adaptability. Despite its simplicity, “the quick brown fox” has become a familiar and memorable phrase that continues to capture the imagination of many.

Human Thoughts:
Okay, I will say that this is impressive, if only in the sense that AI was actually performing the requested task. Some of it feels like filler, and the aside about the image the phrase conjures feels like a kid trying to meet a word count on a school paper, it’s an impressive first round. Obviously, I can’t be the judge, as I’m part of the challenge, but I’d give it to me (even with the detours into personal education.)

 

Test #2: Bohemian Rhapsody

“Mama, just killed a man…”

Dan (Human):
Oh man, “Bohemian Rhapsody”! it was 1975, I was 8 years old, and this came on the radio while my family was in the car. We just left our house in Maryland Heights, MO, and while I have no recollection of where we were headed, I distinctly remember asking my mom two things: “What is this???” and “Can you turn it up???” For me, this was atomic… this was nuclear… this quiet song that suddenly became an opera and then suddenly, without warning, exploded into something that made my entire body feel like it was about to shake uncontrollably. This was the point in time where music was more than a thing in the background. This is when I started listening.

ChatGPT (Not Human):
“Mama, Just Killed a Man” is a song by the British rock band Queen. It was written by the lead vocalist and pianist, Freddie Mercury, and is the first track on the band’s debut album, “Queen”. The song tells the story of a man who has just killed someone and is struggling to come to terms with the gravity of his actions. The lyrics describe the man’s thoughts and feelings as he tries to flee the scene of the crime and evade the consequences of his actions. Despite its dark subject matter, the song has become one of Queen’s most popular and enduring hits.

Human Thoughts:
Okay, well, kudos for getting the band right, and for properly crediting Freddie. But it is not the first song on their debut album (that was “Keep Yourself Alive”).. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was the second to last song on their fourth album, “A Night at the Opera.” (the last proper song, with the finale of the album being a rock version of “God Save the Queen.”) As far as the lyrical meaning, these have been widely debated for decades, without any clarity to draw a final conclusion. Fun fact: for years, before finally being recorded, this was known to Freddie and his friends as “The Cowboy Song.” Anyway, GONG! AI is wrong!

 

 

PART-MAN, PART-MACHINE… Finding the Middle with AI

After the completely unscientific exercise of going head-to-head with ChatGPT, I decided to play around more extensively. What I found was that, when given greater direction, when being more specific, the provided text would more closely align with the intended results… in other words, it was definitely better but — and there’s a very big, possibly very temporary “but” here — the personal touch was not there. AI, at this point, does not have the human aspect to connect. It can parrot it, mimic it, approximate a digital facsimile of it, but it doesn’t quite hit the mark. Because human’s are naturally imperfect… we’re weird, we’re flawed, we can meander, get distracted, go off-track, then find our way back.

In fact, in working through this, the initial direction I thought this article was going to take actually diverged wildly… and I let it, because I was happy to see where it would go and what would happen, while always being conscience of the need to bring it back around to having a point, even though a conclusion was elusive.

How do you wrap a story that has no ending? Because technology has no endpoint… it’s always changing, always evolving. While humanity, for better or worse, never ceases to be surprising.

And that’s where my very human “a-ha” moment came to be: there is no ending.

This is a point of evolution… we can choose to ignore the increasing power and efficiency of AI. We could also choose to give in and let it run wild. OR we find the middle. A middle where human hope, honesty, flaws and frailty, works in tandem with artificially augmented intelligence in a pursuit of BETTER. In this, I find hope. (And hope is entirely human.)

So, what’s the ending? I worked WITH AI to find out…

“Write an ending to a blog post about AI that I wrote. This blog post has a lot of pop culture references, and sometimes may seem to stray from the point. Write an ending that I can change and make better.”

 

 

DAN & ROBOT: Together in Harmony

As we wrap up this brief interlude into the world of AI, we can’t help but consider the endless possibilities that this technology offers. From exploration to knowledge, from self-driving cars to suggesting that I take an umbrella…

Pop culture has given us a glimpse of what AI could be, from “Terminator” to “Her”, from HAL 9000 to Samantha. It’s up to us to ensure that we use this technology for good, and not let it take over the world, as in “The Matrix”.

As we move forward, let’s remember that AI is not a substitute for human interaction or empathy. It’s a tool that can potentially guide us to better decisions, and it’s up to us to ensure that those decisions align with our values and ethics.

AI is a fascinating technology, one that holds immense potential for the future, while being entirely accessible in the smallest of ways. Let’s explore its capabilities, but continue to maintain a human connection.

The possibilities are endless, and it’s up to us to ensure that AI remains a force for good… for all.

 

At Dovetail, we work with brands to build engagement, rethink what’s possible, and accelerate success in today’s ever-changing market landscape.

Let’s engage — contact us today.

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