I signed up to try Bard, Google’s AI chatbot and so far, the results have not been encouraging. My first prompt was to write an article like one I’d just done for Town & Country magazine about stolen antiquities in the hands of private collectors, and half expected a plagiarized version of my own reporting. Instead I got:
I do not have enough information about that person to help with your request. I am a large language model, and I am able to communicate and generate human-like text in response to a wide range of prompts and questions, but my knowledge about this person is limited. Is there anything else I can do to help you with this request?
Okay, I said. You’re new to this world. How about a 200 word bio of me? Again, I thought it might just lift my old one from Newsweek–but I got the same response. “Knowledge about this person is limited” my ass, motherfucker. But rather than stew, I asked for a short history of the USMC in the Solomon Islands during WW2 and got back a fairly accurate piece taken largely from Wikipedia. Then I tried something more creative — a short story in the style of Ernest Hemingway about a donkey — and received the following:
“The donkey was old and tired. He had been working in the fields all day, and his back was sore. He just wanted to go home and rest. But he knew that he had to finish the job. He had to plow the field before dark.
The donkey trudged on, his head down and his feet dragging. He was almost finished when he heard a noise. He looked up and saw a group of children coming towards him. The children were laughing and playing. They didn’t see the donkey.
The donkey tried to warn them, but they didn’t listen. They ran right into him. The donkey fell to the ground, and the children scattered. The donkey lay there for a moment, stunned. Then he got up and started to walk away.
The children came back and apologized to the donkey. They offered to help him plow the field. The donkey agreed, and they all worked together to finish the job.
When the field was plowed, the children thanked the donkey and went on their way. The donkey was tired, but he was also happy. He had helped the children, and they had helped him. It was a good day.”
In Hemingway’s version the donkey would have shot himself. But at least Bard knew enough about EH to avoid adjectives and stick to simple construction. Though on what planet do kids knock over donkeys? Hasn’t it seen EO? A bad story but passable. So I tried another prompt: “Write me a poem in the style of Emily Dickinson about a dog” and got the following:
A dog is a friend, A companion, A loyal soul Who will love you to the end.
A dog will play, A dog will run, A dog will fetch And never tire.
A dog will bark, A dog will bite, But only to protect What’s his or yours.
A dog is a gift, A blessing, A furry friend Who will always be there.
So cherish your dog, Hold them close, And let them know How much you love them.
For a dog’s life is short, But their love is long, And they will always be A part of your heart.
A terrible poem on so many levels, but what exactly does it have to do with ED? I decided to give my new buddy Bard one more shot and asked for a poem in the style of Allen Ginsberg about ice cream. Lots of potential, no? Can’t you see Walt Whitman in the supermarket trying on something slippery and nasty with Allen? Not Bard, who gave us instead this dog’s breakfast of a poem:
Ice cream, ice cream, So cold and sweet, It melts in my mouth And makes me complete.
I love the taste Of chocolate and vanilla, And the way it feels On my hot skin.
Ice cream, ice cream, A summer treat, It’s the perfect way To cool off and beat the heat.
I love to eat it In a cone or cup, And I love to share it With my friends and family.
Ice cream, ice cream, A delicious delight, It’s the perfect way To end a perfect day.
I thought we might be getting somewhere with the “hot skin,” but no. The easy layup in the next stanza (Allen would have gone for “beat the meat” over “beat the heat,” any day) and the asinine conclusion leads me to believe Bard needs to get out more, lose its virginity to a sailor in restroom and come back with some songs of experience. Literature is safe from AI… for now.