Some AI woes and bad poetry

I hesitated writing this post as I am in a bit of a funk about AI. Last week I had to do some research into ChatGPT and Large Language Models for work and went to a webinar thing about it and listened to about three podcasts on the topic. Fuelled with all this terrifying, thrilling, depressing information, I went to book club, drank much of the cremant and then three of us had a marvelously spirited slightly shouty book club ‘discussion’ over it and what it means for our jobs, and what it might mean for our kids. By then I was thinking of myself as somewhat of an AI expert because, as I was busy telling everyone,

“I’ve been reading about this for THREE WHOLE DAYS!”

Three whole days probably does not an AI expert make. I see that now.

Anyway, the book club dynamos and I didn’t really come up with much of a solution to the AI problem – more like a kind of resigned despair. The tidal wave is about to hit: what do you do? Prepare, I guess. By being more human? What does that even MEAN? Bleed more? Emote more expressively? Fail and screw up and get things wrong and fall up stairs more frequently? (although I think AI and robots do all those things too except for bleeding).

So in the week since I have been wondering about writing which is what I do for a job, and writing here which is where I play with words and settle my thoughts and reorder my recollections. Writing here is about catharsis and connection. I have been thinking about what it is to tell stories and bring people into a world through words and cadence, through choices of tone, lightness and jokes, and writerly embellishments that segue into not-exactly-true for the betterment of a story, and those more honest little bits that always find themselves woven through the waffle like a bobbly bit of Chanel fantasy tweed. Can AI do that? My funk prevented me from trying, but this morning I gave it a go, asking it to write me a post about a mother who lived in a small flat in London with six sons.

Reader, it was reassuringly total banal shite. Kind of skimming things, no depth, not interesting. Like a wikipedia page but more glossed over. Trite. Absolutely real estate marketing copy in tone. It then wrote me a poem for Mark’s impending 60th birthday and it was delightfully bad – my prompt mentioned him hunting deer and fishing and his sons and it created a rhyming horror. An excerpt for your pleasure:

“He loves to hunt those graceful deer

And fishing too, it’s very clear

He’s spent his life enjoying the great outdoors

With his sons, he’s made many memories and more

Their bond is strong, it’s plain to see

A father and sons, as tight as can be…”

…and on and on into interminable nothing drivel.

But, oh…..if only that were the end of that, and I could shake off my AI-related dread. The AI will only get better. The shite gap will close and that robotic smarmy nothingness that stood for a ChatGPT blog post will learn to mimic more closely human meanderings and silly things and fun things that stand for heart and warmth. Probably. Luckily I am well-skilled in making wonky cakes and churning out lesser Ottolenghi salads. There’s hope for my ability to monetise myself yet.

TV situation

The TV situation is very healthy at the moment, with many shows that we are halfway through – the kind of shows that at 8:30am, just as you are setting up your uncomfortable bedroom work desk with the thinly cushioned chair in the tiny space that your husband kindly lets you have (still causing pressure points where the office cupboard door hook digs into the upper thigh), you think…ONLY 12 HOURS TO GO BEFORE I CAN WATCH TELLY!

Best things right now:

Colin from Accounts (Australian joy, thank you Charlotte)

Big Door Prize (Chris O’Dowd in a slightly silly show about unfulfilled potential – natch)

Succession (obvs)

Blue Lights (Northern Irish police show with excellent reviews)

Beef (a little bit pleased with itself and a bit too mean)

Ted Lasso (for the kids and husband more than me – I think it is a little daft-not-in-a-good-way. I also cannot stop thinking about Harry Styles when I watch it, and that Keeley is becoming too thin).

Reading situation

Unsatisfactory right now. Finished The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty (cold, clever, unmoving, about a block of flats and the people within it, connected and all a bit doomed) and Girl A by Abigail Dean (a faster read, engaging but still a little hollow, all about a family of seven kids whose nutty religious parents starve and chain them up until one of them escapes). Next on the list is The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka. On the to-be-read pile are masses and masses of books that I compulsively buy from charity shops, though I do have the Susannah Constantine memoir at the top of this pile, which my very delightful friend helped to bring to fruition. I shall read it because it’s certainly funny and I know it’s got a poo story in there somewhere which is always a massive plus.

Clothes situation

I’m selling things so I can buy more things. The tax situation shows no sign of becoming any healthier so my former life of willy-nilly sample sale fritterings is but a mere memory (and has resulted in a wardrobe full of silken gowns and many things that don’t go over my arms). The arms thing is a mystery. I look at myself in the mirror and think “You aren’t really that fat as such”, particularly considering all those pregnancies and the undeniable fact that I have Big Bones, and then I go to put on a shirt and by the end of the day it has ripped a bit at the seams or puckered the upper arms where the fabric has been stretched beyond acceptable capacity. Every time I run I stop at a park bench and do at least six pressups. I mostly don’t have breakfast. I have eaten all the Easter eggs, so they are no longer a problem. Why the arms thing?

Does perimenopause give you fat arms? That’s really my question here I suppose.

Anyway I sold a Batsheva dress to someone in Canada (bit tight in the arms) and a Vilshenko paisley column dress because the last time I wore it I had an altercation with a past nemesis and so it felt tainted. Then I went on ebay and bought a Roksanda shirt (terrible colours on me and I suspect I once had the same shirt but no longer so may have sold it on ebay in a strange circular economy kind of way) and a Vilshenko flowery tuille-y skirt which makes me look old rather than like Carrie Bradshaw in a tutu AND IT’S A LITTLE TIGHT IN THE WAISTBAND!

Does perimenopause give you a fat waist? That’s really my question here I suppose.

In other news

Otis got invested at cubs and so the fifth kid enters his Paddington Cub and Scouts years. I was supposed to sew badges on his sweatshirt but even though I am extremely poor I paid someone at the laundromat to do it for £36. That’s because I am bad at sewing and think it is sexist that no one else is expected to do it.

Easter was fun:

And here’s Ned at the Hockney exhibition and on the way home from seeing the Grenfell film at the Serpentine Gallery as proof that we don’t spend all weekend in front of our phones playing Penguin Run (though we do quite a bit of that too):

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5 Responses to Some AI woes and bad poetry

  1. rose says:

    Thank you. really needed the visit. Loved the pictures and your thought re AIwriting. THANK YOU.

  2. Catherine McGregor says:

    I also found The Rabbit Hutch really disappointing- waited weeks to borrow it from the library and was like Meh!


    div>Don’t worry about ChatGPT either you are so much better 😀

    Sent from my iPad


    div dir=”ltr”>


    blockquote type=”cite”>

    • theharridan says:

      Interesting you thought the same about the book – most of us who read it veered from thinking it was ‘meh’ to ‘awful’ but equally there was no denying it’s cleverness. Felt more like a collection of short stories shoved together. Anyway, thank you for saying so about the ChatGPT….I reckon I can do a better job for now. Hope the hype is unwarranted…😬

  3. suzannechoselondon says:

    A fabulous read as always. We binged on Beef following your comments. Great fun, and as you say, a bit mean!

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