RICHARD ORD: Forget baking beans, it's AI chatbots that will cook your goose

In fiction, the end of the world and similar dystopian nightmares often begin quite quietly.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as a naughty cyborg in Terminator: Dark Fate.Arnold Schwarzenegger as a naughty cyborg in Terminator: Dark Fate.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as a naughty cyborg in Terminator: Dark Fate.

In The Day of the Triffids, for example, it’s a pretty meteorite display that heralds the impending death by vegetables.

In Terminator 2, it’s a naked bodybuilder asking to borrow a jacket. In Village of the Damned, it’s a surprise pregnancy… or 10.

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Some are subtle hints at looming disaster, others not so. In The Stepford Wives, it’s your partner being nice that sets alarm bells ringing… yep, that’s a portent of impending doom for certain!

Maybe the real life End of Days portent of doom is you reading what you thought was local hack Richard Ord moaning about Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbots taking his job, when in reality you were reading a robot’s musings!

As a columnist at the cutting edge of global issues, I thought I’d get ChatGPT - the AI app that writes what you ask it to write - to cobble together last week’s column. It would, I thought, be a thought-provoking experiment on the potential impact of AI in the newsroom, and absolutely nothing to do with getting a robot to do my work while I slurp tea. Perish the thought.

Question is, would you notice? Well did you? The evidence suggests that you may not have noticed. Then again, do you ever notice anything? I mean, we don’t talk as much as we used to, do we? That said, a lovely reader dropped me a line last week telling me I don’t need to buy baking beans should I decide to rustle up that Coronation Quiche, I can use dry rice instead. It was heartwarming to know you still listened, although discussing blind baking shortcuts for quiche rather puts paid to my claims to be at the cutting edge of journalism.

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As it turns out, getting ChatGPT to write my column wasn’t as easy as I thought. I kept having to give it prompts and ideas. It also kept crashing due to the high volume of users. Students, I assume, getting it to write their ‘original’ degree dissertations (I checked with my eldest ‘yeah dad, we all use it’).

Anyway, you were my guinea pigs and you failed to spot the robot impersonating your favourite newspaper columnist. So if you find yourself being chased by a lazer-eyed chatbot on a Harley-Davidson wielding a shotgun and a battered copy of this newspaper tomorrow morning, well, you only have yourself to blame…