ChatGPT: Testing out the rumors

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ChatGPT is a chat service with an AI bot. It is fed many samples of text from all over the net, and can answer your questions in a conversational style. I have seen videos that uncharatably characterizes chatGPT as quite often giving wrong answers to questions. Academics even play down the bot’s ability to give coherent answers.

Well, I can tell you that despite it being tied to corpus linguistics and samples given to it, chatGPT seems to learn how to respond pretty well.

There was once a famous phrase that is touted to be correct grammar but still completely nonsensical: green dreams sleep furiously. So I asked chatGPT:

why do green dreams sleep furiously?

ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you mean by “green dreams sleep furiously.” This sentence appears to be a nonsensical combination of words that does not convey a clear or meaningful message. If you could provide me with more context or rephrase your question, I would be happy to try to help you to the best of my abilities.

So it wasn’t fooled by this standard phrase found in many texts on linguistics. I thought it was entirely possible that this phrase would be so well known to the designers, that it was fed to ChatGPT as a “bad” example of a meaningful phrase.

But then I remembered a video of a prof asking chatGPT about blue wolves, and apparently, chatGPT took him seriously and attempted a serious answer using reasoning that was unsupportable on a casual Googling. There are no blue wolves. So I tried this:

can you tell me about green foxes?

ChatGPT: In the natural world, foxes come in a variety of colors, including red, gray, and even black. However, there are no known species of foxes that are naturally green.

That being said, in some fictional and mythological contexts, green foxes do appear. For example, in Japanese folklore, there is a creature called the “Kitsune” which is a fox spirit with the ability to shape-shift into a human form. Kitsune are often depicted as having red or white fur, but some stories describe them as having green fur.

In modern media, green foxes also appear in various forms of art and entertainment, such as video games and cartoons. For example, in the popular video game series “Star Fox,” the main character, Fox McCloud, is depicted with green fur.

Overall, while there are no known naturally occurring green foxes, they do have a presence in various fictional and artistic contexts.

I couldn’t fool it with that either. I am now starting to chalk it up to maybe a peculiar phrasing the prof was using, which I didn’t have the knack for. Fooling the bot isn’t easy then, and you have to know its weaknesses in a way that a layperson like me is not likely to grasp. Clearly, it is not just riffing “found text” together as claimed in any kind of haphazard manner.

But as a programmer, common sense tells me that a computer isn’t going to know the difference between good and bad responses to samples. It also isn’t going to predict, or have stored answers to, your questions. And indeed, each response to chatGPT allows me to rate an answer by clicking one of two icons — either a “thumbs up” icon or a “thumbs down”.

It is likely after millions of questions from as many users, the sampling would be far richer than what the designers alone would have given.

I even tried to deliberately trip it up with a question like “Why was president Jello Biafra considered an anarchist?” The question is premised on the Dead Kennedys former frontman being “president”, which is untrue. Here is its response:

Why was president Jello Biafra considered an anarchist?

ChatGPT: Jello Biafra, whose real name is Eric Reed Boucher, is an American musician and political activist who is best known as the lead singer of the punk rock band “Dead Kennedys.” He is often associated with anarchist and leftist politics.

Biafra was heavily influenced by the punk rock movement of the late 1970s and early 1980s, which was characterized by a DIY ethos and a rejection of mainstream culture and politics. He was particularly influenced by the British punk band “Crass,” who espoused anarchist and pacifist ideas.

Biafra’s lyrics and political activism often expressed anarchist and leftist ideas, such as opposition to corporate greed, government corruption, and police brutality. He also supported a number of progressive causes, such as environmentalism, animal rights, and LGBTQ rights.

While Biafra himself has never identified as a strict anarchist, his political beliefs and activism have often aligned with anarchist principles of anti-authoritarianism, direct action, and solidarity with marginalized groups. His advocacy for alternative forms of social organization and direct democracy have also been associated with anarchist thought.

Overall, Biafra’s anarchist and leftist leanings are a result of his political and cultural influences, as well as his own experiences and observations of social and political issues in the United States.

It seems to know its counterculture well enough to fool me, a former college DJ (except on some minor points, like his being influenced by the British punk band “Crass”, which I never heard about in all of my years following his biography since the 1980s). But it ignored my reference to him as “president”. Other things that seem just a bit “off”: I don’t think he was ever vocal on animal or LGBT rights (although I am sure he didn’t oppose them), so these are also unsupported.

When I tried a more direct question, “What year was Jello Biafra elected president?”, it then rejected my premise that he was ever president or indeed had ever held political office except in a satirical scenario. Damn. Nailed him.

Then I asked it a Calculus question:

What is the tangent equation of the function x^2 at the point (2.4)?

ChatGPT: To find the equation of the tangent line to the function f(x) = x^2 at the point (2,4), we need to find the slope of the tangent line at that point, and then use the point-slope form of a line to write the equation.

The slope of the tangent line to f(x) at x = 2 is equal to the derivative of f(x) at x = 2. We can find this derivative using the power rule of differentiation:

f'(x) = 2x

So, at x = 2, we have:

f'(2) = 2(2) = 4

This means that the slope of the tangent line to f(x) at x = 2 is 4.

Now we can use the point-slope form of a line to write the equation of the tangent line. The point-slope form is:

y – y1 = m(x – x1)

where m is the slope of the line and (x1, y1) is a point on the line.

Plugging in the values we found, we have:

y – 4 = 4(x – 2)

Simplifying, we get:

y – 4 = 4x – 8

y = 4x – 4

So the equation of the tangent line to f(x) = x^2 at the point (2,4) is y = 4x – 4.

That was scary. Notice that the question was asked with a typographical error: (2.4) should have been (2,4) in the question, but chatGPT just took it all in stride, corrected my mistake and answered the question. It didn’t even point out the mistake, it just dealt with it quietly, as if it was respecting my feelings or something.

The prospect of education and chatGPT

I can say quite succinctly that with chatGPT’s ability to produce essays or to solve math problems with detailed descriptions of the steps that education is clearly under threat.

I also asked chatGPT to produce Java code of the first 10 Fibonacci numbers along with ratios of the successive pairs of terms. It produced the Java code, which printed the terms and ratios on the same line, which I would consider the only bug in the program, albeit a minor bug. It also added comments in key places int he code. It only took a few changes of their print() statements into printf() statements before the output became presentable. Code formatting was excellent. But here I take a grade 10/grade 11 problem in programming, and it appears a call to chatGPT can now solve those programming problems, and very likely more complex problems as well. And do it in seconds.

The prospect of love, relationships and chatGPT

I love my wife, I really do. And I’m a lousy poet. So can chatGPT write romantic sonnets? Oh yeah. You pick the flavour: standard, Petrarchean, Shakespearean — those were the styles I’ve tried. The first one was the one I finally gave to my wife Diane as a “found poem with her name by an unknown author”. While that is true in its content — the AI bot just curates samples of text from all over the ‘net and munges it all together in interesting and new ways, so indeed attribution is impossible — it was the standard “white lie” of a husband who had almost forgotten today was Valentine’s day, and who had not the heart to tell her that the sonnet was computer-generated through artificial intelligence.

But I meant every word of the poem.

Write a sonnet for my wife diane

ChatGPT: Of all the things that I have come to know,
There’s none so fair or dear as Diane’s face.
Her eyes, like pools of light, with love aglow,
Her smile, a thing of wonder and of grace.

She moves with such a poise and gentle ease,
A joy to see her dancing through the day.
Her laughter, like a bird upon the breeze,
Can lift me up and chase my cares away.

In times of need, she is my shining light,
A beacon in the darkness of my soul.
Her love has helped me through the darkest night,
And made me once again feel whole.

Diane, my love, my heart’s own true delight,
You are the sun that makes my world so bright.