If we are to believe the chatter on social media, the English-speaking world is about to be undone by AI (artificial intelligence) in the form of machine-generated content that can be produced in a fraction of the time that mere mortals can produce it.
Having been interested in machine learning for a long time, I decided to use automatically generated text in our latest newsletter. I used Open AI and ChatGPT and I'll add a footnote at the end for those who are interested in the difference.
TLDR: PaperRater (another form of AI that helps people become better writers rather that trying to replace them) indicated my AI generated newsletter lacked merit.
PaperRater said: Sorry to deliver bad news, but your writing shows signs of poor quality phrases. You may wish to use a thesaurus to replace or reduce your usage of the following words or phrases in your paper (worst 10 were listed). When it came to variety in sentences, it was Code RED! According to PaperRater, the piece was equal to or better than [that written by] 3% of people of the equivalent education level. And overall, PaperRater indicated that [the content] could certainly use some extra oomph.
The path to lacking oomph
My first instruction (prompt) was
Write a newsletter for Australian readers talking about how O Gosh Shop is a generous shop that donates money to community and cultural organisations.
OpenAI found that pretty easy and came back with
Dear Australian readers,
We are thrilled to announce that O Gosh Shop is now a generous shop that donates money to community and cultural organisations.
followed by three paragraphs about being a company that donates money to charitable causes. Clearly, OpenAI needed more detail, so I added
Emphasise that we donate money to arts organisations because we believe creativity is essention if we want a sustainable world.
And OpenAI's second attempt went like this
Dear Australian readers,
At O Gosh Shop, we believe that creativity is essential if we want a sustainable world. That’s why we’re proud to support a range of community and cultural organisations through our generous donations.
Whether it’s through arts organisations, environmental sustainability initiatives or community development projects, these donations are an investment in our future. We’re passionate about making sure that everyone has access to the tools and resources they need to build a better future for themselves and their communities.
Our commitment to giving back is part of our core values and we take it very seriously. We’re proud to have supported a range of organisations, including the Arts Council of Australia, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, the Indigenous Art Centre, the National Museum of Australia and the National Library of Australia.
My spelling error didn't faze it, but it gave us a grandeur that is undeserved because we definitely haven't donated money to the Arts Council of Australia and the other organisations listed. Time for more fine tuning. In the next prompt, I mentioned that we had donated to Women Illawarra and The Freedom Hub. OpenAI responded with:
We're a company that believes creativity is an essential pillar for a sustainable world. That's why we donate money to community and cultural organisations.
Last year, we donated money to Women Illawarra and gave goods to The Freedom Hub. This year, we're ready to give even more.
We're excited to announce that we're donating money to Arts Queensland! Arts Queensland helps arts organisations and artists create and deliver art programs that make a positive impact on our community.
We believe that creativity is essential for a sustainable world, and we're proud to support Arts Queensland in their work to promote creativity and make a difference in our community.
Thank you, O Gosh Shop, for your generosity and support!
Not sure it that last sentence was Arts Queensland expressing it's gratitude (for the imagined donation) but it was obvious AI needed specific details if it was to write a truthful newsletter. Here's the next prompt:
Write a 1000 word article for Australian readers talking about how O Gosh Shop is a generous company that donates money to small community and cultural organisations. Emphasise that we donate money to arts projects because we believe creativity is one of the essential pillars of a sustainable world. We want to thank our customers for supporting our shop because that has allowed us to make generous donations. We have already donated money to Women Illawarra that will fund their art classes for women. Last year, we also donated goods to The Freedom Hub.
You can guess how it started off, so I won't repeat that here, but AI was still keen to talk up our donations. It took a guess at what The Freedom Hub does, but it was wrong. After reading this, I did a quick search but could not find anything for Project Sunbird.
... Last year, we donated goods to The Freedom Hub, which helps refugees and asylum seekers in Sydney. We also donated money to Women Illawarra, which will fund their classes for women. We are also currently fundraising for Project Sunbird, which helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in northern New South Wales.
We hope that our donations will inspire others to do the same, and help to create a more sustainable world. Thank you for supporting us, and we look forward to continuing to make generous donations in the years to come. ...
In the next iteration, AI indicated more understanding "The Freedom Hub is a not-for-profit organisation that works to end human trafficking and modern slavery in Australia.", but again went over the top in saying we had donated "clothes, bedding, and household items" when in fact we had given a donation from our range of pampering products. AI also seemed to have some insight into one aspect of Women Illawarra: "The classes provide a safe and supportive environment for women to learn new skills and make connections." That is spot on!
We went through several more iterations which were essentially variations where the words were moved around and we were given more credit than we deserved. The final version - the one that PaperRater scored so poorly - went like this:
At O Gosh Shop, our purpose goes beyond simply selling products. We believe in supporting small community and cultural organisations through our sales, by donating a portion of our revenue to these causes. Our products, made by local artists, designers, and makers, are not only ethical and sustainable, but also contribute to a better world through our giving program.
We understand that creativity is one of the essential pillars of a sustainable world, and it is this belief that drives us to donate money to support cultural projects. Whether it's through funding classes for women or supporting local non-profit organisations, we are proud to be able to make a difference in our community.
Our product range is diverse and includes handmade toys, natural skincare, sustainable table linen and home furnishings, designer jewellery and more. All of our products are made in Australia and are carefully selected for their ethical and sustainable qualities. From the materials used, to the production processes, we ensure that our products align with our values of creating a better world.
We are grateful to our customers who support our shop and enable us to make generous donations. Recently, we were able to donate money to Women Illawarra, a local organisation that provides classes and workshops for women in the community. With this donation, Women Illawarra will be able to continue offering these important classes and support the growth and development of women in the community.
Last year, we also donated goods to The Freedom Hub, a local non-profit organisation that provides support and resources to those affected by human trafficking and slavery. Our donation allowed The Freedom Hub to continue offering essential services to those in need, and we are proud to have been able to make a positive impact in the lives of those in our community.
At O Gosh Shop, we believe that businesses have a responsibility to give back to the community and support causes that align with their values. Our commitment to donating a portion of our revenue to cultural and community organisations is just one way that we are living out our values and making a positive impact in the world.
We understand that our customers have a choice when it comes to where they shop and what they buy, and we are grateful for their support. By choosing to shop with us, they are not only purchasing quality and sustainable products, but also contributing to a better world through our giving program.
In conclusion, O Gosh Shop is more than just a retail store. Our purpose is to create a better world by supporting small community and cultural organisations through our sales. With our range of ethical and sustainable products, made in Australia by local artists, designers, and makers, we are proud to make a positive impact in the lives of those in our community. We are grateful to our customers for their support, and look forward to continuing our mission to create a more sustainable and creative world.
I removed a couple of paragraphs from this version and sent it out to our customers and supporters, with commentary to let everyone know that the newsletter hadn't been penned by a mere mortal.
If you would like to see some of the new products that were included in our newsletter, take a look at What's New at O Gosh Shop.
And if you're curious about whether AI can do more than generate text, Nikolaus Yee has been experimenting with images. Consider this image which was generated in response to the prompt "an oil painting of a man walking through a wheat field with (eucalyptus trees in the background and a wide blue sky in the background), by Arthur Streeton, a painting, australian tonalism, australian impressionism, textured painting, impasto, en plein air, golden hour, god rays, rule of thirds".
OpenAI and ChatGPT are computer systems that have been built around natural (English) language patterns. According to the OpenAI website, reams and reams (more than we can possibly imagine) of text have been "read" by its computer system and broken down into patterns so that its computer system can generate text that is similar to that written by a person.
For this exercise, I used OpenAI and ChatGPT. ChatGPT is like a chatbot you might encounter when requesting help from a company - you ask a question, and the machine answers you in a way that mimics a person speaking. ChatGPT does the same but it can generate complex answers that demonstrate insight into concepts and mastery of English grammar. OpenAI has a different purpose (it is essentially for developers) but it allows experimentation with the generated content.
If you want to try an experiment like ours, try ChatGPT first. It's easy to use and, after a few iterations, will probably generate some useful text.
PaperRater uses AI to scan submitted content for errors. It offers suggestions for improvement and assigns the pieces an automated score. It is a handy tool best used with an Ad Blocker.