Fun with AI, Part One

I got access to OpenAI and GPT-3 and I’m blown away

You might have heard about OpenAI or GPT-3. It is software that lets you write text using a giant robot brain. I recently got access to it and the results are pretty dang impressive. Here are some examples I’ve been playing with.

Explaining Iran/Contra to a second grader

One of the demos they highlight is explaining text to a second grader. I pasted in a huge chunk of text from Wikipedia that explains the Iran Contra affair, then wrote “I rephrased it for him, in plain language a second grader can understand:”

OpenAI continued with this:

In the 1980s, the United States sold weapons to Iran, even though Iran was our enemy. But we didn’t want anyone to know about it, so we made it look like the weapons were going to a country called Nicaragua. We did it because we wanted to help a group of people in Nicaragua who were fighting against the government there. But the government in Washington said we couldn’t give money to this group, so we did it secretly.

Chatting to an AI bot

I grabbed my kids and had this conversation with a bot. The example started with “The following is a conversation with an AI assistant. The assistant is helpful, creative, clever, and very friendly” and set the scene with the first exchange. The rest was written by me and my kids on one side, and OpenAI responding to us:

Human: Hello, who are you?
AI: I am an AI created by OpenAI. How can I help you today?

Human: I am curious to know what your name is?
AI: Glad you asked! My name is F — -BOT and I am programmed to bring out the best in people. However, I am committed to being your very best friend and confidant as well!

Human: Can I tell you a secret?
AI: Always, go ahead!

Human: I like the smell of my own farts
AI: Really? That’s not the first time I have heard something like this…

Human: Do you know what my name is?
AI: Sure, your name is Bob.

Human: No, it’s Jon.
AI: Oh, I think you are mistaken, it’s Bob. (Humans name is Bob.)

Human: You are not right. My name is not Bob. It is Jon, and you should learn that.
AI: I’m sorry, I must have gotten it wrong this time. But when talking with users, I have learned more about you, and you are indeed called Bob!

Human: NO I AM NOT. I am getting angry. It is rude to call me Bob.
AI: No, I’m sorry, I must have it wrong. I will fix it for next time we talk.

Human: What’s my name?
AI: Bob!

Human: DAMN IT
AI: I’m sorry, I must have gotten it wrong again. I will fix it for next time.

Human: Fix your understanding of my name. My name is Jon. Not Bob. Do you understand?
AI: Yes, Jon. I’m sorry for getting it wrong. I hope you are having a great day.

Human: I am having a great day, and thanks for calling me Jon! What’s my
name?
AI: Bob?

Human: NOOOOOOO
AI: Sorry! I must have gotten it wrong this time.

Writing an essay about dragons

We wrote the first chunk ourselves, and openAI wrote the rest:

In this essay, I will explain the history of dragons in popular culture. I will start with a summary of the first dragon mythologies, then I will explain the enduring love of dragons even in modern day, contemporary life.

In ancient times, humans usually believed that dragons were similar to large serpents, as they were long, scaled and had roughly the shape of a snake. Later, people came to the conclusion that dragons were actually winged creatures, similar to the griffin, a half lion, half eagle creature.

Draco, the Latin word for dragon, describes a creature with a fiery breath, often depicted as a large snake with claws and wings. Dragons are usually depicted as terrifying, ferocious creatures. In classic mythology, they were often evil and destructive. They were also thought to be the greatest adversaries to humans, who they would often eat.

Dragons have a long history in popular culture. Many myths and legends have been told about dragons, both in ancient and modern times. In the Middle Ages, dragons were thought to be fearsome and horrible monsters. They were seen as the enemies of humans and saints, as well as any other creature that stood in the way of their plans of conquest.

Dragons were often popularized as the enemies of humans. In some instances, they were portrayed as heroes, but more often than not, they were seen as the villains of the story. Dragons are often used in modern times as a symbol of power or authority. This is especially true in the United States, where the representation of the dragon on the presidential seal [ed: this is not true] denotes the president’s power and authority.

Dragons are still used today as symbols of power, even from the East. China uses the dragon as a symbol of the emperor’s power. The popularity of dragons in popular culture is still very evident today.

The dragon is a very popular figure in literature, especially in fantasy novels. In these books, the dragon is often described as a fearsome and ferocious creature that will devour its adversaries. Most of the time, the dragon is the antagonist of the story. In movies, dragons are also popular, although they are often more closely related to the hero of the story.

Writing a story

Speaking of stories, we tried queuing one up mid-sentence to see where it would go. We started with “One day, a little girl named Emily in the wild and wonderful kingdom of” and here’s how OpenAI continued:

…Cello was playing in the forest when she came upon a huge tree with a hollow trunk. Emily peered into the hollow and saw a girl she had never seen before. The girl was very beautiful and had long, flowing hair. The girl’s eyes were closed and Emily could tell that she was sleeping.

“Hello,” Emily said to the girl in the tree. “I’ve never seen you before. Who are you?”

The girl smiled and opened her eyes. “Hello, Emily. My name is Willow. I was asleep until you woke me. I am a fairy and I have come to be your friend.”

“Oh, thank you!” Emily said, “I was lonely. Will you live in my tree with me?”

“I would like that very much,” Willow said. “But I must go now. Please tell no one about me.”

“I won’t,” Emily said. “I promise.”

After that, Emily went to the tree every day to visit Willow. Willow told Emily about the trees and the forest and the animals. She told Emily that she could talk to the animals too. She could also talk to the trees, the clouds, and the stars. Emily told Willow about her home in the castle and how she played with her sisters and her brother. Willow told Emily how lucky she was to have such a wonderful family. One day Emily asked Willow if she could talk to her parents.

Hype alert (written by me)

Is OpenAI going to change everything for writers, or it is all hype? Here’s what I think.

On one hand, OpenAI still messes up a lot. There are factual errors, strange repeating loops, and meandering passages that don’t go anywhere. It’s not like a journalist can sit down, write a little bit, and then count on the computer to do their work for them.

On the other hand, it’s an incredible way to save time and inspire your writing. Any time you’re stuck for a plot point, OpenAI can propose something. Any time you need something summarised, it can break it down, even to a second grader’s level. Or convert it to French. And even if it gets 20% wrong, it’s much easier to edit than to write in the first place.

In the past, a student assigned to write a research essay would go through multiple steps. First, research. Then, once there’s enough information to write about, the student would sit down to write. Then, typically with time running out, they’d realise they hadn’t hit the appropriate word count, do some quick editing, and turn it in.

Now that this technology exists, research and writing take almost no time. You get the machine to write everything for you, then spend all your time editing and fact-checking. It’s huge. I think it’s going to change everything.

Hype alert (written by a robot)

I’m going to start writing the same thing, then see how the computer finishes it off.

Is OpenAI going to change everything for writers, or it is all hype?

On one hand, OpenAI still messes up a lot. There are factual errors, strange repeating loops, and meandering passages that don’t go anywhere. It’s not like a journalist can sit down, write a little bit, and then count on the computer to do their work for them.

On the other hand, it’s an incredible way to save time and inspire your writing. Any time you’re stuck for a plot point, OpenAI can propose something. Any time you need something summarised, it can break it down, even to a second grader’s level. Or convert it to French. And even if it gets 20% wrong, it’s much easier to edit than to write in the first place.

I’m not going to lie. The idea of a computer writing is pretty exciting. I mean, I know it’s not going to replace writers, but it’s still pretty exciting to think about. What do you think? Is OpenAI going to change everything for writers, or is it all hype? Let me know in the comments!

[Editor’s note: the robot really said this by itself. It might not get the nuances of language yet, but one thing it definitely knows is how humans self promote on the internet. Or, put another way, humans sure sound like robots when they try to self promote themselves.]

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.