Has creativity ended…or only just begun?
Today I tried out ChatGPT.
ChatGPT is a ‘chatbot’ developed by OpenAI and launched in November 2022. It can write virtually anything at all—stories, kid’s tales, essays, poems, lyrics—in any style you choose (however crazy you want it) in less than a few seconds. All you have to do is type in your instructions in a little box. Try it out here.
So, I asked ChatGPT to write this:
‘Poem in Edgar Allan Poe style on rat and politician’
The response I got, in about two seconds, was this:
Once upon a midnight dreary,
While I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious
Volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping,
Suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping,
Rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered,
“Tapping at my chamber door –
Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember
It was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember
Wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;
Vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books, surcease of sorrow
Sorrow for the lost Lenore!
For the rare and radiant maiden
Whom the angels named Lenore –
Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken sad uncertain
Rustle of each purple curtain
Thrilled me – filled me with fantastic
Terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating
Of my heart, I stood repeating
“’Tis some visitor entreating
Entrance at my chamber door –
Some late visitor entreating
Entrance at my chamber door;
This is it and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger;
Hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly
Your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping
And so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping,
Tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you” –
Here I opened wide the door;
Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering,
Long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal
Ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken,
And the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken
Was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo
Murmured back the word, “Lenore!”
Merely this, and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning,
All my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping
Something louder than before
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is
Something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is,
And this mystery explore –
Let my heart be still a moment
And this mystery explore;
‘Tis the wind and nothing more!”
Open here I flung the shutter,
When, with many a flirt and flutter
In there stepped a stately Rat of the Capitol
Not the least obeisance made he;
Not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady,
Perched above my chamber door –
Perched upon a bust of Pallas
Just above my chamber door –
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling
My sad soul into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum
Of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven
Thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly, grim and ancient Rat of the Capitol,
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
Quoth the Rat: “Nevermore!”
Oh, and if this wasn’t enough, ChatGPT also offered me a brief, almost apologetic remark that it had created this poem based on Poe’s broad style as in ‘The Raven’ and ‘House of Usher’, and that of course this poem did not in any way reflect or represent Poe’s own work.
Incredible, isn’t it?
But I did something more with ChatGPT, O long-suffering Reader, in the interests of humanity and what remains of my equanimity and sanity.
I asked myself: what would ChatGPT write if I repeated the SAME request? Would it produce the same poem? Would it repeat itself, plagiarize itself?
And so I logged out of ChatGPT; cleared all cookies and logged in afresh after five minutes (just to give ChatGPT enough time to forget me, I chortled cunningly with all my Jurassic wisdom); logged in again, and once more typed in the following:
‘Poem in Edgar Allan Poe style on rat and politician’
The response I got, in less than a second, was this:
In the dim and dreary streets,
Where the rats scuttle and scurry,
Lives a politician, sly and fleet,
With promises smooth as a cherry.
He speaks of change and progress,
But in his heart there is rot,
For he’s a rat in human dress,
And his words are nothing but a lot.
He’ll steal and lie and cheat,
And grin with a toothy smile,
But all his constituents will eat
The scraps of his dishonest guile.
And when the people cry out in pain,
He’ll simply shift the blame,
For in his eyes, they are all the same,
Just pawns in his twisted game.
So beware, my dear friends,
Of the rat in politician’s clothes,
For his deceit never ends,
And his heart is black as those…
These poems are so totally Edgar Allan Poe-ish that ChatGPT could bring a lawsuit against the estate of Poe for having plagiarized its own style – even though he wrote his stuff 200 years ago – and obtain court verdicts in its favour.
ChatGPT is infinitely more creative and original than any human.
It even makes strong and largely accurate value judgments on creatures like rats and politicians!
But it gets better…or worse.
ChatGPT is only textual. Young friends cheerfully tell me that already, there are AI thingies like ChatGPT available for trial that can compose equally original and remarkable audio and visual works based on your typed-in instructions—however wacky, however outlandish the instructions are.
So, we can all look forward to creating, in less than the time it takes to flick a paint-brush or pluck a guitar string, audio-visual compositions with elements like the following:
- Blues song in the style of John Lee Hooker with lyrics on Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, bedbugs and soggy samosas
- Oil painting in a style fusion of Don Martin, Constable and Botticelli with a sleazy Gurgaon mall as backdrop and featuring Vladimir Putin, Roger Waters, Asaddudin Owaisi, three constipated armadillos, the Ross Sea, and Greta Thunberg with her “How dare you!” look.
Our AI creations have become infinitely more creative than us.
I’m now convinced, O gentle Reader, that after 200,000 years of strenuous efforts at self-annihilation, we humans have finally come close to achieving the evolutionary equivalent of shooting our collective creative arses right off the planet with these latest steps forward in our technological progress. and intellectual retrogress.
Perhaps it’s a damned good thing, too. George Carlin would certainly have agreed.
Still…I can pound away at my worn-out old clay pot, missing anything between 3 beats and 7 beats in every 48 beats in utterly chaotic manner. Like so:
I bet no AI thingy can do THIS as horribly as I can.
At least, not yet…?