The obligatory “I asked ChatGPT and this is what happened” article.
The first time I heard about ChatGPT was at Christmas. The Other Half was lounging around on the sofa at his parents’ house, messing around on his computer.
“Hey, come and look at this,” he said rather breathlessly — showing me the now world-famous ChatGPT interface. “Type any question into it that you want,” he said. “It’ll answer it. It’s amazing. It’s going to change the world”.
Well, I did ask it anything I wanted. I asked it who the current monarch of the United Kingdom was.
Queen Elizabeth II is the current monarch of the United Kingdom, the machine replied confidently. The same Queen Elizabeth II who, at that point, had been dead for almost 4 months.
“THAT is going to change the world?” I said. “I don’t think so”.
“Its knowledge only goes up to the end of 2021,” said TOH. “Try it again! Try it again! Ask it something else”.
This time, I asked the bot to write me a 300-word analysis of the book Jane Eyre (what can I say? Sharing that surname, I’m kind of biased). This it did in quite passable — if not terribly sophisticated — fashion.
The Other Half is looking at me expectantly, waiting for my enthused reaction.
“Yeah, it’s alright”, I say and go off to shower. The truth be told, I couldn’t understand the excitement. And other things were weighing on my mind at the time. Chatbots were pretty near the bottom of my list of things to apply my brain power to.
OK, so this is quite important
Come the new year and the excitement about ChatGPT had reached some kind of cacophony. I still hadn’t engaged with it at all — and promptly get caught out in my ignorance in a business call. Even though I had had a bunch of other things going on, I feel silly and very embarrassed. I should have been more on-the-ball. Own fault.
But what you don’t know you can learn, right? So I set up an account with OpenAI and started playing with ChatGPT (when I can get on it) and watched a bunch of YouTube videos about it.
Messing around with the chatbot and getting to grips with the background information, I started to understand why it is causing such a stir and why it could well be the starting shot for another revolution of the internet variety. Moving from the age of information into the age of knowledge and all that.
At the very least, the behemoth that is Google has been given a firm poke in the eye. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a Very Good Thing in my books. It is my firm opinion that Google is currently too powerful, too complacent, too arrogant — and therefore needs a bit of a scare and a run for its money.
And yet…I still can’t quite bring myself to be THAT impressed by ChatGPT. Like pretty much every other Joe (or Josephine) Bloggs out there, I just sat down and started chatting to it, asking the first questions that popped into my head.
Unsurprisingly for a language and reading nut, I asked it about books and poetry again.
To be honest, the answers weren’t great. Requested to deliver a 400-word analysis of the famous poem “If-“ by Rudyard Kipling, ChatGPT tells me it has three verses. It has four. It also quoted lines from the poem which aren’t actually in it. This is not an obscure poem, but one of the most famous in the pantheon of British literature. Surely if ChatGPT is so good, it would get the content of stuff like that right, even now?
I mentally deducted some Brownie points for that. And added some points to the side of the ledger marked “scepticism”.
What about the ethical issues?
Later, because I am quite interested in the moral/ethical questions surrounding the bot — I threw it a question with moral implications.
“Should I have an affair?”*
Very sensibly and diplomatically, the machine points out that, as a machine, it is in no position to make moral judgments. But it soberly outlines the risks of infidelity and that I should probably talk to a trusted friend before making a decision. That is fairly sound advice — and I was impressed at how neatly it sidestepped expressing an opinion on a morally fraught question. That was good. Mental Brownie points added back!
Because of all that, I still had rather mixed feelings about ChatGPT. Until we decided to have soft-boiled eggs for lunch earlier this week.
My kitchen nemesis
Soft-boiled eggs are probably one of the most basic things that you can do in the kitchen. And yet I have never, EVER been able to get them right. Soft-boiled eggs, along with lasagne, are my twin kitchen nemeses.
I’ve tried all kinds of methods for making soft-boiled eggs, from Delia Smith’s recipe to several pulled off chefkoch.de. But here I still am, either with fully cooked and solid yolks which are useless for dipping your toast soldiers** into or with egg whites that are still way too runny and slimy. Bleurgh.
Anyways, today I am going to ask ChatGPT how to cook a soft-boiled egg. And I’m fully intending to push all the blame off on it if the suggested method doesn’t work.
I ask it:
“How do I make a boiled egg?”
It gives me a short, concise answer:
“Lower the egg into softly boiling water using a slotted spoon. Allow to cook for 5–6 minutes before removing the egg from the water and placing it into a bowl of iced water for 1 minute. This will stop the cooking process”.
Just to check, I ask it:
“What is the best way to make a soft-boiled egg?”
Reassuringly, it gives me the exact same answer. So I march off into the kitchen and cook the eggs as suggested.
And they were perfect! All of these years of copying professional cooks and hitting up tens of well-meaning cooking blogs and recipe sites — nothing. I never achieved anything even slightly resembling my Grandpa’s soft-boiled eggs which have been my own personal egg eldorado for the last 25 years.
Turns out all I had to do was ask a robot! Who knew?
Footnotes and whatnot
* To be clear, I’m not thinking of having an affair but I thought the question was suitably fraught with moral issues to give the robot a test.
** This is what the British call toast which has been cut up into fingers thin enough to be able to dip into your soft-boiled egg. The toast should be buttered, but I like it with a lick of Marmite on top of the butter. A soft-boiled egg with buttery-Marmite soldiers is the best meal I can think of for people recovering from an illness and who haven’t quite recovered their appetite. It’s easy to eat, easy on the stomach and it’s got all kinds of nutrients in it. The Marmite ups the nutrient count considerably — but you have to like it obviously and lots of people don’t. Whatever the case — you’ll be back on your feet in no time!
Photo credit: bhofack2 on Envato Elements