Posted on February 16, 2023


While we have been dealing with the usual array of grotesque political and environmental events, and, while the GOP has started to shoot presidential wannabees out of its maw to challenge the Big Guy, Life in the Boomer Lane has been aware of something brewing that is even more insidious: ChatGPT. For those of you who have been living in the dark recesses of LBL’s attic, flipping through every single back issue of 1980s Sports Illustrated, you may not be aware of what, exactly, ChatGBT is. For those of you, LBL presents the actual definition, as provided by Mr Google:

ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer), is a chatbot launched by OpenAI in Nov. 2022. It uses adaptive human-like text to answer questions, write stories, & engage in dialog. It can even debug computer code, admit mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.

Like LBL, you may have been stopped in your tracks at “Generative Pre-trained Transformer.” “chatbot, and “OpenAI. The easiest way to deal with these items is to ignore them entirely and move on.

ChatGPT has absolutely nothing to do with chatting or GPS or anything developed more than five minutes ago. Imagine, instead, a machine that stores all the known information of the universe. Now imagine that said machine can, whenever it wishes, retrieve whatever bits of such information it needs in order to create a document that sounds completely plausible to humans and is, in most cases, far superior to anything a human could come up with. This means write dissertations and research papers and church sermons, solve mathematical problems, explain anything one doesn’t understand, or write a song about the intersection of space, lasers, and Judaism. It can create even more knock-knock jokes than the world already has. You name it, ChatGPT has it covered.

Let us take your average college student and ask such student to write a paper with the following topic: “Imagine Aristotle, Ghandi and Benjamin Franklin at a dinner party. Describe their conversation.” Said student would most likely write: “They discuss the menu and ask each other for the recipes that each one of them contributed. Dessert is a great success, even though Benjamin Franklin is on a diet.” Now, instead, that same student, with the use of ChatGBT, can hand in a brilliantly worded piece about the principles of empirical-rational thought applied to the humanities, or one titled ” Constructing the Artistic and Cultural Legacy of an Empire between East and West in the Early Modern Period.” Piece o’ cake. Toss that student an A plus.

LBL will now give you time to pick yourself up off the floor and to take a deep breath. There are limits to ChatGPT. It will not predict political contests or sports events. It won’t discuss partisan or political issues. It won’t look up anything on the web. It won’t tell you exactly how to nail Trump for all the shit he has been doing. And, most importantly, it has a built in CYA. It tells you right off the bat that the answers you get aren’t 100% guaranteed. LBL doesn’t know if ChatGBT can tell you how to dress better, get more followers and Likes on Facebook, lose 10 lbs, or get up off the floor without keeling over. But she suspects that, as time goes on, unlike ourselves, ChatGBT will keep getting more powerful, more resilient, and more popular. Stay tuned.

Posted in: commentary