Posts Tagged ‘consciousness’

The last blog I published was a sudden, unexpected little poem that occurred to me when I read online that an admired poet had died.

Here it is:


ON THE DEATH OF A POET

I confess I did not know you, or your work,

but Facebook says you have died.

A quiet family funeral, no fuss.

But your passing is noticed anyway.

When out there, in the storm of noise,

a few words that meant something

are now missing.

There is a hole there,

which may one day be filled

with wisdom.

But most likely, will not.


And honestly, I think it’s not too bad. Not great. I’ve written better. But I think it has some sympathy, and empathy. It shows respect, it’s reasonably pithy, and has what the French would call “Un Certain Regard”. Or at least they might. They might just sniff, and glare, because, you know, French.

And that would have been the end of that, until my daughter and her boyfriend (both of whom have a brilliant and active interest in psychology and it’s interface with the world, and, indeed, with philosophy) started insisting that I checkout the new AI bot that is making such headlines around the world called ChatGPT.

The Guardian wrote about the chatbot thusly:

Since its launch in November last year, ChatGPT has become an extraordinary hit. Essentially a souped-up chatbot, the AI program can churn out answers to the biggest and smallest questions in life, and draw up college essays, fictional stories, haikus, and even job application letters. It does this by drawing on what it has gleaned from a staggering amount of text on the internet, with careful guidance from human experts. Ask ChatGPT a question, as millions have in recent weeks, and it will do its best to respond – unless it knows it cannot. The answers are confident and fluently written, even if they are sometimes spectacularly wrong.

Essentially, ChatGPT is at the forefront of the development of linguistic artificial intelligence. A computer program, with some serious grunt behind it, which seeks to expand the boundaries of what artificial intelligence can achieve in answering our queries.

At the very least, Chat GPT is a fascinating diversion. With a simple sign up procedure, anyone in the world can contact the AI and ask it questions, and also provide feedback to the developers on how well you feel the AI answered your query. And it is as fun and as thought provoking as you might imagine it to be.

So I set it a simple task. Write me a poem, within a word limit, in plain verse, talking about the death of a poet. And it duly did, in about 20 seconds. This was its second attempt, after I asked it to make the language a little more modern than its first effort …

Here it is:


DEATH OF A POET

A poet has passed, their voice silenced,

Their pen now laid to rest.

Their words, a lasting legacy,

A treasure we possess.

We grieve their loss, a light now gone,

A mind that once created.

Their poetry, forever etched,

In memories we’ll forever treasure, fate.

Their heart, once filled with feeling,

Now beats no more, in silent sleep.

But in the lines they wrote, so revealing,

Their spirit, forever, we’ll keep.

Though they may be gone, their words remain,

A testament to love and pain.


Well.

What do you think?

Well what I think is that it’s banal and cliched; it’s interesting in that it basically has nailed the brief, but it’s somehow more than a bit disappointing. To my eyes, at least. It feels … clumsy. And it is: it’s hackneyed.

What it lacks, to my eyes, is any real cleverness or insight. It is, in effect, a collection of “expected” phrases trolled out one after another. But then, if one thinks about it deeply, what else could it really be? Because it is, by its very nature, a regurgitation. Of everything the AI can find that might possibly be relevant, and reformed into an answer in a matter of seconds.

But despite that, and very frankly, I think it’s as least as good as some of the doggerel one reads on the many Facebook (and elsewhere) poetry groups. (All the content of which also goes towards the stuff ChatGPT is reading, analysing and … regurgitating … of course.)

And that, it seems to me, is the problem with AI … so far.

It is the ultimate example of that famous IT aphorism, GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. For it to truly transform the world in the way that is being so breathlessly promoted in the media, what is needed is an AI with the wit, and discretion, and passion of the human mind to take everything that is known and then produce an outcome which makes the type of intuitive leap that the human mind can make, and sometimes when it least expects to.

There were hundreds of contemporary Beethoven-like composers writing at the same time as the maestro, but only one – the real deal – came up with Ode to Joy.

Beethoven

AI has no subconscious. And it is not discriminating enough.

It is, instead, utterly conscious: too conscious, if you like. Too well informed. It is blindly, eagerly conscious of everything ever written, but without a human-quality filter.

And despite all those students who are theoretically trying to use it to deliver their essays at college, ironically, that is its core weakness.

It won’t provide true insight, or leaps of perception.

For now, at least, anyway.

And thank heavens for that, or this poet would be out of a job.

Feeling a hint of unease, I then asked ChatGPT if Southampton FC would survive in the English Premier League this year, from our current position of plumb last. Bottom.

It very politely told me (after a rather longer wait, interestingly) that there’s a chance they will, because they’ve got a long history of doing well, and they’re a good club. Hmmm.

But it was very sorry, it really couldn’t predict the future, especially in sports, with so many variables, and so on.

I detected a smirk. It could almost have said “Hang in there, there’s a chance. Where there’s life, there’s hope.” but didn’t.

It’s the hope that kills ya, after all. I wondered if it understands that, and it was just teasing me.

Honestly, it felt like my “I’d like to help you, Dave, but I just can’t do that.” moment. And I shivered slightly.