There’s a ton of doomsday hype storming my various article feeds at the moment, detailing the dangers of AI and the likes of ChatGPT, into the future. From the loss of millions of jobs, the dumbing down of human beings, the end of education as we know it, to even the accidental or possibly purposeful mass destruction of the human race. While I’m certain there are stories to tell and important things to worry about and discuss, we’re spending way too much time engaged in too many unhelpful conversations that have us worried about the end, before we’ve even crossed the starting line.

I say this because there are some fantastic and wonderful things happening as well, all because of the likes of ChatGPT.

Do you Speak Se-Sotho?

Recently I sat down with 2 friends (one in Grade 8 and the other a blue collar worker). Neither of them have computers or tablets, and their access to the internet is sketchy and not very often, at best (even less frequent than Eskom supplies electricity to paying customers). Of course they know what Google is, and while they use Google from time to time, it’s not always efficient or easy when all you have is a smartish-phone with limited data and time.

It took a while to explain ChatGPT and AI to them, and why it’s different from Google? When they started to understand, their faces lit up. What sealed it was asking ChatGPT if it could understand Se-Sotho? When it said yes it could, we asked it questions in Se-Sotho and it replied in Se-Sotho. Things really got going after that.

Outside of the warm and fuzzy feelings that often go with showing someone a new cool piece of technology, I realised that ChatGPT et al, represents an incredibly large and gigantic jump for millions of people, who don’t have the luxury of modern tech and always-on connections to the interwebs. Now, for the for-real first time, you can engage in a normal conversation with an interface and get a reply in a normal conversation, that gives you an answer, to almost exactly what you asked. That’s properly massive.

And yes, I appreciate the dangers that go with ‘one answer’ environments and the power that therefore sits with the ‘AI Oracle’, however, for these 2 friends, it’s a revolution by way of access to useful information. The possibilities are enormous and will definitely change their world.

Alaster and the Very Bad Dragon

Skip a few days forward, I was visiting a client (Lanser’s on Main), and during some down time between lunch and dinner services, I sat with some of the team and went through a similar process. Once again, only one of the team has a laptop, and everyone else is on a smart to smart-ish phone, with limited access to data and time on the interwebs.

It wasn’t a language prompt that sealed the deal, it was the request of a story. The exact prompt to ChatGPT was,

Please write a children’s story, 500 words long, about a warrior named Alaster and an evil Dragon called Charles.

(Alaster works in the scullery and Charles is the Barman at Lanser’s on Main)

In a matter of seconds ChatGPT had delivered, and the group sitting with me were in hysterics as we read out the story. I then opened a new browser tab and we headed to Microsoft Bing’s Image Creator (powered by ChatGPT’s sibling DALL·E). DALL·E is a heck of a lot of fun, as you describe in as much detail as you’d like, an image / painting / illustration you want it to create. Keep in mind it’s not searching the internet for the image, it’s creating it, during the 30 seconds you wait for 4 options to appear. As with ChatGPT it’s far from perfect, and it regularly gets extremities horribly wrong. Hands with 6 finger or a thumb in the middle. A leg for a tail, or 5 legs on a horse. I have to keep reminding myself it’s new technology and it’s been released so we can play and it can learn and improve. DALL·E feels like a combination of a world famous artist and a 3 year old.

We asked ChatGPT for some prompts to give DALL·E in order to get images, and away we went. In another 40 minutes we’d created a children’s book, fully illustrated and kind of ready to release into the world (so far we’ve uploaded it onto the Lanser’s on Main website, and we’ll be printing a physical copy to display in the shop).

Another example of the incredible opportunity AI presents….. a Sculler, a Pizza Chef, a Barman, 2 Waitrons, and me, for an hour on a Saturday afternoon, became the authors of a children’s book that has been shared with the world. Not a bad way to spend 60 minutes.

I certainly don’t mean to downplay the potential downsides and dangers that AI brings to table. However, I also don’t want to miss the opportunity to make that gigantic leap forward and explore all the possibilities it brings with it, to create, and learn, and grow, and share, and imagine, and, and, and…..

One small book for ChatGPT, one gigantically enormous and incredible leap for humankind!!