Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Get your human-generated content here

   Actual photo of a real whale taken by me off the coast of Monterey, California, in 2009.

     Call me Neil. Some years ago — all right, about 40 — having little or no money in my pocket, and nothing particular to interest me in business, I thought I would write for newspapers a little and see the inky part of the world. It is a way I have of driving off the ...
     OK, enough of that. If riffing on “Moby Dick” is an odd way to begin my first column of 2023, stick with me. We’ll circle back.
     No sooner had I polished my blog post for Tuesday when Facebook tossed up an ad for Jasper. “Write blog posts 10x faster using AI, without sacrificing quality,” it promised. “Create high quality articles in seconds.”
     “In seconds”?! And just as good? Well, sign me up! I clicked on the link, and came to the page for “an app that uses AI to create any kind of content you need” according to the explanatory video, where a jumpy woman — older, tired, — despairs at saying something fresh about socks until Jasper, personified into a little robot friend, offers up this line: “The perfect pair of socks is like a hug for your feet.”
     “Hot damn, that’s good!” she marvels.
     Is it? Hold that thought while I make sure those readers who still carry cash are following along.
     “AI” stands for “artificial intelligence.” It’s the same collection of circuits that makes a calculator work, but complicated enough to mimic human thought, supposedly.
     If you assume AI is a long way from affecting daily professional journalism, you weren’t looking closely at Friday’s column, about medical decisions. A full-service columnist, I write my headlines — unaided by tools like Sassbook AI Headline Generator — and try to pick my own art, to save my superiors’ time and perhaps delay the day when I’m ushered out into the pasture of the tragically defunct.
     The find-a-photo process went like this: First I searched Merlin, our Sun-Times photo database, looking for some retro black-and-white 1950s Marcus Welby MD image of a doctor in a white jacket. Finding nothing close, I looked at my own photos of hospitals. Busy and grim. I tried the Library of Congress and the Metropolitan Museum of Art banks of public domain images. Nothing. Twenty minutes of fruitless searching. Then I sighed, jumped onto Dall-E, the graphic AI provider, and created a free, useable image in about 10 seconds.

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  1. Good stuff, Neil. Happy new year!

  2. From what I understand, programs like these make it a lot easier for kids to cheat on their essays and reports at school.
    I don't know this for a fact, but from what I understand, some teachers are so aggravated by it that the threat is. If you're caught, you will fail the semester. I don't know how they prove it that somebody used it

  3. I have no problem with AI suggesting appropriate words in a text message, although on occasion it substitutes its preference for mine without my immediately noticing it. When receiving AI-assisted texts, it can be fun trying to figure out what the writer really meant to say. But creating any kind of creative work out of whole cloth is quite a different thing. As Neil points out, the results quite likely are at least partially plagiarized and certainly not the work of whoever is taking credit for them. Then we have the robo-emails, which right or left seem to emanate from the same factory. No fun whatsoever!


  4. Nor could an AI program rival the interesting nature of many of the comments left here by your motley band of readers. Take that, Jasper!


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