Poets Cornered?

Does the rise of the chatbots threaten the nation’s poets?

Not for the first time, Insight has arrived somewhat late to the party, in this instance, the rave that is ChatGPT. Depending on your point of view, this latest bit of artificial intelligence, (full name, Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer) will either debase the art of the written word, steal people’s jobs or save us all.

Google is arguably the most spooked by the emergence of the chatbot, and has put its workforce on alert to defend its highly lucrative search engine function.
As a first time user, it’s easy to see why they are concerned. The “conversational response to users’ questions” is really impressive, and there are numerous examples of people mischievously comparing the answers to the same question to both platforms. ChatGPT wins by a length.

Sympathy and Google are not usually seen in the same sentence, but should any of us be overly concerned about this latest bit of technical wizardry? 

The Daily Mail is usually a good place to start to get a gauge on public opinion, (however dispiriting that concept) and last week, it published an everything-you-need-to-know guide on ChatGPT. It asked if it would threaten your job – to which the answer appears to be a resounding yes. Particularly if you work for Google apparently.

And, look out, if you work in a customer support centre. ChatGPT’s  intuitive and, somewhat ironically, “human” ability to answer queries may see an end to hanging on the end of a phone in the vague hope that by the law of averages, they can’t always be experiencing a higher volume of calls than normal.

Should educationalists be concerned? Possibly. That genie is probably already out of the bottle, and teachers already employ software to identify blatant plagiarism in students’ written work. It would probably be more helpful to work out how to harness the technology rather than try to ban it. 

Insight can, however, suggest with some confidence that one group of people should not be quaking in their boots by the bot’s threat; Poets – at least, if the following experience is anything to go by.

When asked to write a limerick about the NHS, this is what we got:

There was an old health system called NHS,
Whose budget was often in distress,
But despite the shortfall,
It answered every call,
And provided care to all, no less!

Heartening, no? And, see how punctuation is crucial. A mischievous bot might have written the last line, “And provided care to all? No, less”

Still, encouraged by the general positivity of the content if not the accuracy, the same was asked for social care:

There once was a service called social care,
Providing help to those in need everywhere,
From the young to the old,
Its services were gold,
Helping people live their lives with flair!

Notwithstanding any alarm in noting that the bot describes social care in the past tense, it’s good to know that everyone, everywhere is helped to live their lives with flair.

Ian Macmillan and Simon Armitage. Your jobs are safe.

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