By Sean McVeigh
I was stuck. I didn’t know what to write about. I had a couple of ideas, but nothing was sounding quite right. So I did something that I truly thought I would never do… I used ChatGPT. For those of you who may be unfamiliar, ChatGPT is a, er, you know what? Why don’t I let ChatGPT introduce itself:
Me: What are you?
ChatGPT: I am ChatGPT, a computer program created by OpenAI … I am designed to understand and generate human-like text based on the input provided to me. My purpose is to assist with answering questions, providing information, generating text, and engaging in natural language conversations with users like you. If you have any questions or need assistance with anything, feel free to ask!
How polite. How spooky. But regardless I was still a doubter. To be honest, I thought ChatGPT was full of it. Skepticism was not my only qualm with this AI program; I also had some job security concerns. If this thing really lives up to the hype, then what’s to stop it from gunning for my job, heck, all our jobs, in the not-so-distant future. But there I was, stuck like a stick in the mud with nothing to write about (I bet ChatGPT never has that issue) and decided that enough was enough—let’s put this poser to the test.
“Let’s start with an easy one,” I thought. If ChatGPT was going to give me the boot at The Rockaway Times, then it would have to be able to perform one simple task…
Me: Tell me about Rockaway Beach, NY.
Now I didn’t think it would be stumped. You have to respect something that has impressed so many people. Rockaway is just not like other places. I can give you a pretty generic summary of most places. And if I had the entire accessible internet instantaneously at my fingertips it would have to be somewhat convincing. I was expecting to get some weak, detail-lacking response. That is not what I got.
This hunk of junk did no such thing. Of course, it started with the big ones: the beach and boardwalk. But it did not stop there. It dove right into some of the biggest pillars of this community! It brought up things like the ferry, surfing culture and the local by name parks. It went into how important the small town and connected culture and community were in Rockaway. It even brought up the peninsula’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy. The more questions you asked the more detail you got. By the end, it was talking to me about some of my personal favorite local watering holes.
The whole idea behind this experiment was to have ChatGPT write something ignorant and uninformed about Rockaway. It was supposed to recite the Wikipedia page and that’s how I would flip this whole thing on its head. Instead, I found myself reading its response with bated breath. It just put it all so nicely. Hey, maybe The Rockaway Times should hire this guy.
I can no longer say I am a wholehearted skeptic, but I can say I still have some doubts. We’ve already seen several headlines about people relying a little too much on ol’ ChatGPT and it coming back to bite them. It certainly has its flaws and may never be totally self-sufficient, but I was certainly impressed. I even invited it down for a day at the beach and a cocktail whenever it gets the chance.