ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence language program that analyzes existing text to write stories, descriptions, research, reports, and text messages. It has become popular among teens for writing texts and doing homework. Adults now use it to do their jobs, and its creations have ended up in many important documents.
ChatGPT caught teachers off guard because its work is fantastic, and they cannot tell the difference between an excellent student and a ChatGPT document. Furthermore, because this technology is so new, companies do not know that workers use it. This usage will lead to legal and ethical issues.
I was vaguely aware of ChatGPT until a month ago when South Park lambasted it. After the episode, I wanted to see what ChatGPT offered a fiction author. So, I got an account and asked ChatGPT to write a story.
Here is what ChatGPT generated when I fed it a vague description of my first book, “Write a story about an immortal woman who forces a disgraced author to interview her. She lived an astounding 500-year life and met many famous people. Her immortality source came from harvesting the organs of living people.”
Once a celebrated author, Richard had fallen from grace. His last book had been panned by critics, and his once loyal fans had turned their backs on him. He spent his days drinking and smoking, drowning in self-pity, until one day he received a strange letter.
The letter was from a woman named Cassandra, and it was unlike any letter he had ever received. Cassandra claimed to be over 500 years old, and she offered Richard an exclusive interview. She promised to tell him the story of her incredible life, a life filled with adventure, tragedy, and celebrity encounters. Richard was skeptical, but also curious. He agreed to the interview, and Cassandra provided him with an address and a time to meet.
The address turned out to be an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of town. Richard arrived at the designated time, and he found Cassandra waiting for him inside. She was an imposing figure, tall and regal, with long black hair and piercing green eyes. She wore a flowing red dress that seemed out of place in the dilapidated surroundings.
Cassandra wasted no time in getting to the point. “I need you to tell my story,” she said. “I need the world to know who I am and what I have accomplished. And I need you to do it.”
Richard was taken aback. “Why me?” he asked. “There are plenty of other journalists who would be more than happy to tell your story.”
Cassandra smiled wryly. “Because you are a disgraced author,” she said. “You have nothing left to lose. And because I know you have a way with words. You can make people care about my story, even if they don’t believe it.”
Richard hesitated, but he could see the determination in Cassandra’s eyes. He agreed to the interview, and over the course of the next few hours, Cassandra told him the story of her incredible life.
She had been born in the early 1500s, and she had discovered her immortality by accident. She had been experimenting with medicine, and she had discovered a way to harvest the organs of living people without killing them. She had used this method to keep herself young and vibrant for centuries.
As she told her story, Richard was both fascinated and repulsed. He couldn’t believe that someone could be so callous, so cruel. But he was also mesmerized by Cassandra’s stories of meeting famous people throughout history. She had met Shakespeare, Da Vinci, and Napoleon. She had seen the rise and fall of empires, the birth of new technologies, and the evolution of human society.
Wow! That was super impressive. This thoughtful and creative piece blows me away. And there was a fantastic coincidence. My 500-year-old character, Grace, met Napoleon. I did not know artificial intelligence had come so far.
My original blog plan was to tear apart the ChatGPT mess and proclaim myself superior. Bill rules! Well, that will not work. So, let’s evaluate the writing and ponder what this new technology means to me and society.
First, I would like to point out the excellent dialog integration. Cassandra wasted no time in getting to the point. “I need you to tell my story,” she said. “I need the world to know who I am and what I have accomplished.” Fantastic technique and great flow. The grammar and style are solid. Even the voice, intent, word choice, and confidence are great. Grammarly gave it a C, and ProWritingAid gave it a B. Microsoft Word grammar found no issues. Yet, the phrase “I need” and “she” got used too often, and there was some clunky flow. (It read stiff.) My grade for this generated fiction is a B. Very impressive for five minutes of work.
Now, let’s consider the big picture. When I want to write a story, I begin with an outline. This tool sets up the basic story arc, shows the overall flow, and reveals plot problems. The three sentences I fed into ChatVPT were the outline. I created the entire arc, and AI has difficulty generating (not copying from an existing work) even a basic arc. However, an outline is far from an actual story. The details are what a reader uses to fulfill the picture.
ChatGPT generated those details and added additional story. “She was an imposing figure, tall and regal, with long black hair and piercing green eyes. She wore a flowing red dress that seemed out of place in the dilapidated surroundings.” Those super-specific details pull the reader in.
While the generated story was impressive, it is not good enough for me to use for two reasons. First, the above results were not what I wanted to create because using an AI tool invalidates the point of writing. The second reason is that the results did not meet the minimum criteria or length to be a book. It should take at least a chapter to describe the main character and another chapter to ease the reader into the other main character into her life. However, it was fun to read what ChatGPT came up with.
I see two uses for ChatGPT to assist my writing process. First, when developing an outline, ChatGPT might flush out the plot. So, I will enter my next outline and see what it comes with. Perhaps ChatGPT will inspire ideas or reveal problems. Stay tuned for an update.
My second use will be for bolder character descriptions. I have difficulty thoroughly describing a character. “Fred walked into the room.” Done! Wait. How tall was he? What was he wearing? Readers expect much more, but those extra details seem unnecessary. (Not a good mental block for a writer.)
ChatGPT created an excellent description in the above writing. “She was an imposing figure, tall and regal, with long black hair and piercing green eyes. She wore a flowing red dress that seemed out of place in the dilapidated surroundings.” With some editing, that would be a perfect description for a female character.
However, I will not copy and paste text from ChatGPT. Not because of my ethics, it is because of my creativity. I do the writing for MY books, not somebody or something else. This is why I do not copy celebrated authors’ text, style, characters, scenes, or plots.
How does ChatGPT affect society? For teachers, it is a worst-case scenario. They will need ChatGPT detection software, and anti-cheat companies are already developing such tools. However, there is a broader problem for teachers and society.
Remember learning arithmetic? 1+1=2. However, when we discovered calculators, it did not seem necessary to learn. “Why learn when there are calculators?” That is a solid argument for students, but as adults, our education allows us to understand the logic behind math. However, many students did not learn because of calculators, and now many adults do not know arithmetic.
Why must a student learn how to write if ChatGPT can write for them? Another valid argument. Some students will take this path in life. But like a student who only knows how to use a calculator, they will not have the foundation to see mistakes, make improvements or go beyond what ChatGPT can create.
Let’s pretend I’m using a calculator and “fat-fingered” the buttons. 1+1=12. The answer is valid because calculators do not make mistakes. But my blog readers instantly see the error because they understand arithmetic. “There is no way that the answer can be that high.”
The same will be true with writing. ChatGPT is not perfect and will make obvious mistakes. Pretend that student grew up and is now using ChatGPT to write a safety instructions for their job. “Always use bare hands to touch the live wires.” Seems logical. Bare hands are clean, and we do not want to use dirty gloves on clean live wires. ZAP!!!
What about writing? I now see that if a person has a good plot outline and can edit segments together, they will be able to “write” a ChatGPT book. The result may not be perfect, the flow odd, and the story incomplete, but it will read well.
Because of my recent experiment, I now understand that a societal change has occurred. ChatGPT upped the game with excellent grammar, exciting descriptions, tasteful random elements, and solid dialog. Hey authors! All books (including the classics) will be judged to this improved standard in five years. For me, that is a scary concept. Of course, some readers will insist on the “old method” of “handmade writing.” However, that market will shrink.
What is the future of books? I see a day when writers will be conductors instead of “hands-on.” Is this bad? I do not know because ChatGPT impressed me. But do I want to “conduct” a book? Hmm. It does not sound like there will be much joy in that process.
Should we ban/limit ChatGPT? That suppression method has never worked in the past. Do we want organized crime to take over this space? Yet, I have seen legislation explicitly drafted to ban/limit ChatGPT. Hey taxpayers! Get ready for another fruitless battle to contain a bomb that has already exploded.
How about a ChatGPT blog? I may try to “write” one as an experiment, but I would inform my blog readers about my decision in advance. So, for now, you get the real deal.
You’re the best -Bill
April 19, 2023
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