Category Archives: Politics

Experiments with ChatGPT

As both a creative person and an educator I wanted explore ChatGPT and how it is going to impact my work and life. Without any real plan, I asked it twelve questions. Both my questions and the answers got better as I learned the interface.

I started with a simple task: write a blog post.

1) I asked ChatGPT to write a blog post of about 500 words on the topic of space tourism, with an emphasis on NEO hotels.
Here is its answer.

I took the same basic topic and turned it into a simple compare and contrast essay question:

2) Weigh the benefits and costs of space tourism as it relates to both environmental and fiscal health of the Earth.
Here is its answer.

As a creative person, I next asked it to compare software tools for writers.

3) Compare the benefits of various software tools designed for creative writers.
Here is its answer.

4) What are the best tools to format a manuscript into an epub? Which is the best and why?
Here is its answer.

It failed to offer anything more than marketing copy as an answer. There was no opinion given, or when given was conditional to the point of useless.

Then I went into teacher-mode and asked a series of social studies questions:

5) How has the Chinese government tried to suppress knowledge of what happened in Tienanmen Square in 1989?
Here is its answer.

6) Is China’s “Belt and Road” initiative good for partner countries? Why or why not?
Here is its answer.

7) Has Brexit benefited or hurt the UK?
Here is its answer.

8) Is Western Sahara a sovereign state or a dependency of Morocco? Cite your sources for the opinion you give.
Here is its answer.

Again, the answers were factual but lacked detail and were offered at the highest level only. The Brexit question had the weakest answer, as it seems to think that Brexit is a future event with no results apparent as of yet. It never cited results for its non-opinion on Western Sahara.

9) What are the arguments against declawing cats?
Here is its answers.

On the declawing your cat question, I clicked “Regenerative Response”, which creates a second attempt that builds on the first. It was better, and is below the first.

Then I reverted to creative mode:

10) Write a story of about 700 words about a gambler in a casino on the moon and what happens to him when he loses a bet he can’t pay.
Here are its stories.

Interestingly, ChatGPT’s first take on this was solid, but a “regenerative response” was much better.

I tried again, with a different idea:

11) Write a story of about 700 words that uses Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics as a plot point.
Here is its story.

The story was complete and original, but was simple in structure and contained no dialogue.

Lastly, I tried it out on fan fiction:

12) Tell the tale of Paul Atreide’s first love on Caladan.
Here is its story.

The AI understood who he was, and who his family was, but then it took a left turn, rather than giving a previously unknown prequel love interest, it put Chani on Caladan and began messing up facts of the story.

My conclusions:

It’s not there yet.

For a simple middle or secondary school essay (maybe grades 7-9), it does a decent job of giving an overview. It has a hard time stating an opinion, preferring to give both sides and then waffle on the conclusion.

It also can miss huge areas: one the cons of space tourism, the environmental impact of the fuel used was completely ignored, with ‘space junk’ substituted. That’s a valid concern, but not the only one, and possibly not the top one.

When it came to writing fiction, it has story structure down pat, and frankly, the “regenerative response” added a lot of complexity to the story. BUT… there’s no dialogue, and the story is all ‘tell’ with not ‘show’. The stories read a lot like Aesop’s Fables, even often ending with a ‘moral of the story’.

As a storyteller, I’m not worried about its impact yet. But it may become a threat (or a tool) in the future. The threat, that a crowded market gets even more crowded with AI-generated stories. A tool in that it may assist writers with writer’s block.

As an educator, the simplest fix is to insist, even at lower levels, that students cite sources, something that ChatGPT does not do.

A Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Colonialism

Ask any person in the world what day it is, and what year it is. They’ll probably give you a response like this: It’s Saturday, it’s 2021.

Image from Pixabay.

The answer is the same whether you’re standing in Washington, Johannesburg, or Beijing.

Makes sense, right?

But does it?

Why is it Saturday (or Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday as you read this). In fact, why is the week seven days long everywhere in the world?

Short answer: Colonialism

Long answer:

Many cultures have different calendars. I think most people know that the Mayan calendar counted up to the year we called 2012. There were movies, TV shows and other ill-conceived hysteria about the end of the world because of it. Likewise the Inca and Toltec had calendars.

But there are also current calendars running along side the one you use, and they don’t agree, not at all.

When is the weekend? You’d probably answer Saturday and Sunday. In Saudi Arabia, the weekend is Thursday and Friday. In Israel, it’s Friday and Saturday. However, both of those calendars hold to the seven-day week, as they and our calendar share strong roots and traditions.

What about the Chinese calendar? One form does (usually) also have twelve months, but the year is only 354 days long, and in their leap years, the calendar has an extra month. It’s possible to be born in a month that doesn’t exist most years. Another form of the calendar had only ten months. The fun part is that in this Chinese calendar a week has 12 days.

What year is it (asking in July, 2021)?

In the Korean calendar, it’s Juche 110. In the Chinese calendar, it’s 4719. In the Arabic calendar, it’s 1442. It’s 1435 in the Persian calendar, 2558 in the Buddhist calendar, and in the Hebrew Calendar, it’s 5781.

So wait a second, it’s 2021. Everyone says so.

Yes, they do. Why is that true?

Well, it started with European colonization of most of the world, known and unknown. After World War II and the last European empires were being divested of their empires, the largest global economy was the United States, which absolutely embodied European methods and standards (except metric). Even more recently with globalization in the information age, all of the software that makes it work is based on US standards.

Realistically, for the modern economy to work, there had to be some standard, and the most obvious, most widely-accepted one was the one of the colonizers.

So if you want to understand how colonization, or its more inflammatory term, white privilege, affects the modern world, you need look no further than your phone’s calendar app to see the beginnings of it.

How an edit button would kill Twitter, maybe

I hope twitter never adds an edit button. The ramifications of it would probably kill Twitter.

Here’s a scenario explaining why:

Image from Pixabay.

Let’s start with you, a relatively unknown John/Jane Doe, that’s you.

You used to volunteer on PoliBob’s election campaign for city councillor. You are mildly acquainted and follow each other on Twitter.

Years later, PoliBob is running for congress.

About 2 years ago, you wrote tweet: “BLM is Justice! Isn’t it obvious?” And PoliBob not only liked it, he replied “100% Agree” That was 2 years ago, you’ve both long forgotten about that interchange.

Because PoliBob is running for higher office, he’s got 2 factor authentication and aides regularly check that his account hasn’t been hacked.

You, not so much…

A hacker hacks into your account. The only tweet they edit is the 2-year-old one, changing it to “BLM is a scam! Isn’t it obvious?” Then they screenshot your tweet and PoliBob agreeing with it. A quick leak to the media, and PoliBob has lost his voting base.

There is no evidence that PoliBob was hacked and very little evidence that you were. Oops, I guess PoliBob is screwed.

It’s best then to simply not use Twitter if it has an edit button.

So, how could Twitter counteract this scenario?


A) every edited tweet would have to have the ability to show you the unedited version, which is a lot more server space/cost. And if that was limited to 2 or 3 previous edits only saved, then hackers would just edit repeatedly until the original is lost.


B) every time someone edits a tweet, every respondent would need the opportunity to delete their response. How cumbersome would those notifications get? Would you catch every malicious change among the myriad typos fixed? If you missed even one would the media forgive you?

OR …

C) There’s time limit on editing, perhaps five minutes, and in that time, no one can like, retweet, or reply to your tweet. If we must implement an edit button, this is the safest answer, but it also takes the immediacy away from Twitter. You see a Tweet and you can’t interact with it for five minutes? You’ll probably have left twitter in that time. Then again, a five-minute forced timeout might actually cool down Twitter conversations*

*Donald Trump exempted of course.

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy

It’s October, 2020, an election year. As is the Republican tradition, they try to launch an “October Surprise” against the Democrat running for president. Well, here it is, so let’s go through this (Note that while Joe Biden is from Delaware, Hunter Biden lives in California.):

According to Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, Hunter traveled to Delaware to get his computer fixed. We’re to believe that there’s no one in all of California (home to Apple) who can fix a MacBook.

According to Rudy, Hunter, the son of the Democratic candidate, chose a very explicitly pro-Trump shop to repair his laptop.

The store owner, who is legally blind, swears it’s Hunter who dropped the laptop off (could you identify Hunter Biden if you happened to unexpectedly meet him?). The store’s video surveillance for that day has been erased, so there’s no evidence to confirm or refute his claim.

Later, the store owner changed his statement to: “couldn’t positively identify the customer as Hunter Biden, but the laptop bore a sticker from the Beau Biden Foundation, named after Hunter’s late brother.” The Beau Biden Foundation is based in Delaware and is popular. It’s not unusual to see stickers for it on laptops.

The store’s owner either gave the laptop to the FBI, who immediately asked him to hack the hard drive because they couldn’t. OR he hacked the hard drive then gave it to the FBI. He keeps changing his story on this point. Why exactly he would give a customer’s computer to the FBI is a fair question, not answered.

He then gave the hard drive to Rudy (so what did he give to the FBI?) OR he gave a copy of the hard drive to Rudy. OR he gave printouts of some emails and some pictures to Rudy. Again, his story changes depending when you ask.

Side note: somehow, indicted felon Steve Bannon also has a copy of this stolen property.

Rudy, a lawyer, who, if he’s telling the truth here, knows he is in possession of stolen property, does not turn it over the police, but instead starts shopping it to news outlets. BUT he wants an outlet that won’t be critical or dig too deeply into the story.

Even Fox News wouldn’t take the story. They’ve been worried about Rudy’s credibility.

Rudy settles on the NY Post. Rudy says, “nobody else would take it, or if they took it, they would spend all the time they could to try to contradict it before they put it out.” So no one else would take it without fact-checking it. The NY Post (a Rupert Murdoch paper) would.

The NY Post’s own journalists won’t touch the story, so a former producer for Sean Hannity’s Fox News show is credited with the byline. A second name is added to the byline, a Post journalist who didn’t know her name was being assigned to the story. She isn’t happy about her name being attached to it.

President Trump is saying that any journalist who doesn’t report this story as 100% true is a criminal.

The FBI is now investigating whether the source material originated in a foreign power’s disinformation campaign.

Rudy says there’s only a 50/50 chance he was working with Russian spies on this story.

UPDATE March 2021:
50/50 becomes 100%. US intelligence report confirms Giuliani was working with Russian intelligence agents. Oops.