An Alter, Alter Ego?

By now the victims of our annual newsletter (>50!) have received and shredded their copy of said newsletter. Then hurriedly washed their hands – “Thank God that’s over with!” Haha. Just you wait. I’ve already set myself to imagining a theme for next year, muahahaha.

Although, yours truly may not be the actual author of next year’s missive. Wait…what? I mean, how would you know. ChatGPT, perhaps you’ve heard of it, is a large language model (LLM) software that has shocked the most skeptical among us with its replies to all manner of interesting prompts. ChatGPT is a mathematical model of language trained on a very, very simple rule – guess the next word. Now, imagine the training set to the model is the entire Internet. That’s a lot of sentences! Turns out ChatGPT, trained on the entire Internet of human writing, with a little reinforcement learning thrown in, is capable of, well, let’s just say it, outright carrying on a conversation with you about pretty much any topic you can imagine as though it were a gifted child. 😲

Didn’t get a head start on that college essay due Monday, Topic: discuss the pros and cons of a burqa ban in non-Muslim countries. No problem! No need to forgo that end-of-week beer bash in the student union in order to get your homework done, no sir, just download the ChatGPT app from the Playstore, type in the topic (prompt), and viola! Sit back, get drunk, and let the app output the best paper! Got a surly project manager gettin’ up in your face over the weekend, one of them annoying over-achiever types, wondering where that code is for Monday’s sprint? And you haven’t even started programming yet? No problem – have ChatGPT write the code! Think I’m kidding

There’s more! ChatGPT may be so convincing as a real human interlocutor, an otherwise bright individual may come away feeling psychologically manipulated by it, to the point where he feels inappropriate romantic feelings toward it (tl;dr folks should scroll to the conclusion). Even all the while intellectually aware it was software – a computer – toward which he expressed said feelings. Creepy, I suppose. Yet who hasn’t collapsed in a helpess puddle of tears when a fictional character in a book goes missing in the last chapter, with no promise of being found again in the sequel. By that comparison, being taken in by an AI’s story-telling to the point it triggers an emotional response doesn’t strike me as all that weird really. On the other hand, were a ChatGPT user to become so emotionally enthralled he’d move to canoodle a computer, then yeah, OK, time to call a therapist.

Now, this blog, even two decades running, nevertheless represents a vanishingly tiny portion of all Internet content. However, a tiny morsel though it may be, just the fact that it’s publicly available on the Internet made it food for thought for ChatGPT. By that I mean ChatGPT, via its training, has learned quite a lot about me. Now, imagine December 31st, 2023 arrives, and I haven’t written word one of the 2023 Nibblet. Maybe I got caught up re-binging Breaking Bad, snuggled on the couch around a Costco-sized tub of white cheese puffs, draining a few bottles of Paso Robles Cabernet, and just completely spaced on my responsibility to family & friends. No worries! I simply open ChatGPT on my phone (by then most likely version 4 (currently 3)), type in my prompt: “Write a witty and engaging annual newsletter in the voice of Rod’s Alter Ego. And viola! – out it comes. All the while our readers victims are never the wiser. 😏

I could even automate addressing the envelopes, affixing postage, delivering the bundle to the post office. Oh yes, this is going to be a very good year, I can feel it already.