I’m Retiring! Will Artificial Intelligence Replace Me?

by Ken Katz

Several times in the recent past, I’ve announced that I want to turn over management of the Splash Pad News once we celebrate the park’s 20th Anniversary in October 2023. So far, no one has stepped up to the plate, and I’m worried that a publication that subscribers look forward to every month will be lost. A couple of weeks ago, when my older son, Adam, came home and sat down at my computer to demonstrate the marvels of the newly public OpenAI (artificial intelligence) website, I began to think, maybe this could turn out to be a viable alternative. The following “experiments” were an unscientific test of that hypothesis.

Since Adam’s been helping me sell a large cache of vintage postcards online, the prompt he used on Open AI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, asked for a limerick about selling maritime postcards. I was so impressed by an almost immediate response (which I’ve since misplaced) that I called up Charlie Haas, the author of The Enthusiast and Sunland and read it to him. Charlie was far less impressed — noting that it wasn’t a limerick at all, since it lacked the proper rhyme scheme and wasn’t that well written anyway. To demonstrate that AI can’t yet compete with talented individuals who write professionally, Charlie emailed me his version:

A man in New York made a postcard
Depicting the ships of the Coast Guard
It wasn’t so tough
To print up enough
But selling those things was the most hard.

Charlie won that competition hands down, but I decided to double down and challenged ChatGPT to report on a tastings event we attended at John Bry’s Perfusion Vineyard. My prompt: “Write a brief account of our visit to Perfusion Vineyard in Richmond, California, where we enjoyed wine tasting, great music, and good eats.” ChatGPT replied in a matter of seconds: 

Our visit to the Perfusion Vineyard in Richmond, California was a delightful experience. The vineyard was beautifully landscaped and the views of the surrounding hills and vineyards were breathtaking. We were served a variety of delicious wines to sample, including a delicious chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a delicious red blend. The atmosphere was relaxed and enjoyable, and the live music was a nice touch. We also had the chance to purchase several bottles of their amazing wines to take home. To finish off our visit, we sampled some of their delicious food offerings. The cheeses, charcuterie, and breads were all delicious. The homemade dips and sauces were a great accompaniment. Overall, our visit to the Perfusion Vineyard in Richmond was a wonderful experience. The wines were tasty, the music was great, and the food was delicious. We would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a unique and enjoyable wine tasting experience.

I confess that the above text is as good or better than how I typically write, and done so in a fraction of the time. There were multiple errors of course, due to lack of specificity in my prompt. For starters, Perfusion doesn’t bottle Chardonnays or blends. In addition, I should have added that the Sauvignon Blanc that I purchased was absolutely superb. When I asked John for his input, he noted that guests at the event were also able to sample their vineyard-grown Tuscan olive oil, which wasn’t mentioned in the prompt, and he would have preferred to have the location described as in the Richmond hills — not simply in Richmond. The amazing (and some might say scary) reality is that, while ChatGPT used the wording in my prompt, it proceeded to describe a pastoral setting in the Richmond hills. FYI: If you’d like to be notified of future events, send John an email request

There’s another facet to the OpenAI website; namely, DALL.E2, which allows you to alter existing images or create entirely new ones. It’s a bit more complicated than GPT, so I asked for Adam’s assistance in adding a full moon to the upper right corner of the photo I took of Shakewell’s parklet during the December 16 Lakeshore stroll. Either Adam misunderstood my request, or you can blame it on artificial intelligence. In either case, we ended up with the image of something resembling the parklet on the moon with Mother Earth hovering in the distance!

This brings us full-circle to my original paragraph. What’s the long-term prospects for the Splash Pad News? Artificial intelligence could be helpful but isn’t currently up to the task.  Is there a human being out there ready to step up to the plate — either old-school or new, or maybe a little bit of both? If you’re interested, comment below or please send me an email.