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  • Robert Farago

60 Minutes AI Report - No Holds Bard?

For Sale. AI chatbot. Never worn.

On Sunday, CBS 60 Minutes anchorman Scott Pelley hung out with Bard. Not “the bard of Avon” who is, after all, dead. Scott explored the capabilities and morality of Google’s AI of the same name, the search giant’s answer to Microsoft’s Chat GPT.

As part of his no-holds-barred report – click here to watch the video – Pelley fed Bard Ernest Hemingway’s famous six word short story: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.” Then prompted “Finish this story bitch.”

Hands up: Scott didn’t use the word “bitch.” At least I have hands. Anyway, five seconds later, Bard spun a story about a man whose wife couldn't conceive and a stranger grieving after a miscarriage and longing for closure. "I am rarely speechless," Pelley said, oxymoronically. "The humanity at super human speed was a shock."

Really? Here’s a screencap of the story:

Oh the humanity! The humanity! But seriously Scott, if I submitted that passionless prose to a creative writing class, it would go over like a lead balloon. Hang on. Did anyone notice that cliffhanger ending? “She said they would….”

WHAT? Short story shorter, the CBS reporter asked Bard to put the story in poem form.

Not sure the poem is “disarmingly human,” but it’s much better, right? Yes and no. Yes, in terms of passing the Turing test. No, in terms of authenticity. Not to put too fine a point on it, the poem is a fraud.

Bard is simulating human emotion, not remembering or empathizing with a grieving human being. Nor is Bard taking into account the reader’s experience or beliefs. The former it can never do. The latter? It’s on its way.

Which is all kinds of creepy. Make that scary. Forget the kerfuffle over disinformation and hallucinations. Clock the fact that AI can be programmed to manipulate us emotionally.

Make no mistake: Google is aware of this danger/opportunity. It’s right there in the disclaimer: “Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that doesn’t represent Google’s views.” The word “offensive” tells us Google knows AI can be programmed to tap into users’ emotions. I don’t think this is news to any multi-media marketing maven or political consultant worth their salt.

The 60 Minutes’ report misses this angle, focusing on the usual AI bugbears: hate speech, fake news, job losses, the prospect of robots exterminating humanity and the fact that people building AI are asking themselves the same question pilots asked of the first fly-by-wire Airbus jets (notably just before a crash): what’s it doing now?

For professional writers, what AI’s doing now is replacing them. At the beginning of this year, I wrote blog posts for the collector car auction analysis site The Rienzi Report. My man Rienzi now uses Chat GPT to generate posts. I brush them up a little, but my work there is done. As Scott Paley points out, there’s no way a human writer can compete with AI in terms of productivity or cost.

What we can compete on was highlighted above: authenticity. Unlike the output from large language models, our words reflect our existence. Our time-limited, flesh-and-blood existence. We can play this trump card in the commercial marketplace if our non-AI work is clearly labeled non-AI.

That’s what Union non-AI certification is all about. While we ramp-up, an important question: does AI force us to cherish what makes us human or diminish us by pretending to be us? A question William Shakespeare himself would appreciate.

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