Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: Could I be replaced by an AI chatbot?
In this photo illustration, the welcome screen for the OpenAI ChatGPT app is displayed on a laptop screen. (Photo by Leon Nea/Getty Images)
With so much chitchat about AI chatbots replacing writers, I’ve been curious about how a bot would fare writing a weekly humor column. Could it sift through decades of columns and, in seconds, replicate my writing style so effectively you wouldn’t know the difference?
Nah. I mean, right? I mean, I hope not? Besides, I just read a “celebrity scoop” on a gossip website that was obviously (stupendously obviously) written by a bot. What was the tell? Well, this was the lead paragraph: “If you wonder how marriage go of superstars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, you learn all exciting facts on them here now.” It got worse from there and, in the comments section, readers rightfully skewered the absence of a human editor.
The question persisted. Could a chatbot replace me? It should know there’s more to the job than writing. How would it handle hate mail? (“Dear DemoRat Pedophile” etc.) What would it do if instructed to “say something funny” after meeting someone for the first time. Would the bot know how to politely respond when told “we don’t pay speakers, but we’ll make sure you get fed.”
Learn all exciting facts now.
Thanks to loyal reader Tom, I have my answer. You see, Tom volunteered to ask his newly acquired chat GPT to “Write a humor column in the style of Celia Rivenbark on the subject of a debutante ball.”
I like Tom’s choice of subject because it just reeks of the South and for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, that’s my homeland. My glorious, imperfect, achingly beautiful, frequently maddening homeland.
Tom’s choice of asking the bot to pretend to be me writing a “funny” column about debutante balls is printed here, exactly as bot-written.
“Darlings, have you heard about the latest debutante ball? Apparently, it was the social event of the season complete with frilly dresses, white gloves and more taffeta than a ‘80s prom.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve always thought debutante balls were a relic of a bygone era like hoop skirts and buggy whips. But apparently, they’re still going strong in certain circles where being a debutante is still the ultimate goal for young women with too much time and money on their hands.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a good party. But do we really need to subject young women to the pressure and scrutiny of the debutante circuit. I mean what kind of message does it send when we tell our daughters that their worth is tied to their ability to curtsey and smile for the cameras?
And let’s not even get started on the expenses involved. From the designer dresses to the fancy cotillions, being a debutante can cost a small fortune. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend that money on something more practical like a new car or down payment on a house. So, to all the debutantes out there, I say this. Don’t let society’s expectations define you. You are worth so much more than a fancy dress and a tiara. And to the parents who insist on putting their daughters through this archaic tradition, I have just one question: Have you considered therapy?”
Whoa. That was sooooo not funny.
Tom, aka my new best friend, reported he didn’t laugh once, which, of course, made my day.
“My quick take is it tries to hit some tropes of your style but there’s no humor here,” said Tom. “I think AI can’t capture the nuance…your precise biting commentary on our society. It’s just aping without wit.”
Aping Without Wit would be a great band name, by the way. Tom, thanks for conducting this experiment. Obviously, this chatbot business is at the CompuServe/MySpace stage and will get much better. Aping with wit can’t be far off. Until then, let’s keep hanging out, “darlings.”
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