My First ChatGPT

I dialed into ChatGPT today for the first time. I was pretty happy with my experience. I didn’t intend to bang on my shiny new toy with a mallet but rather use it as something to enhance my life. Thus, I didn’t intend to expose its political biases or trick it into acting foolish, inappropriate, or to provoke controversy.

However, it’s easy to want to probe the boundaries. One thing I did in that vein was to ask for its favorite tongue twister. It gave me one that was pretty easy. It used phrasing that I took to mean that this was a “classic” tongue twister that might be well known. The tool also mentioned that since it was just a language model, it didn’t have a personal preference. (That’s the gist of its disclaimer, not the exact wording.)

Perhaps, going back to my first experiences with Siri, I could wonder whether there were easter eggs hidden in ChatGPT. Siri was obviously programmed to have clever answers to certain stock questions. Why would I admire this tool if it had the same tricks? I would be disappointed rather than impressed if they were there.

After getting used to it, I decided to use it for something useful. I’ve been writing some JavaScript code lately and I wondered whether it could help me learn more about that.

I directed the conversation to JavaScript generator functions and async functions. It gave useful information. For one question, the code it generated didn’t match the explanation. However, the concept’s description was accurate, and the coding error was obvious. When I continued questioning about other features of JavaScript, I opened a tab and used DuckDuckGo to point me to a article to confirm its description. I also got more thoroughly vetted information there.

I used that additional info to direct the conversation further. I also turned to to see whether one language feature was commonly available in different browsers. I was impressed that ChatGPT was explicit on reporting the different versions of ECMAScript involved. That helped identify when certain syntax was added to the language standard. Some of what it explained went over my head. I need to use those features in real code and read the explanations again. Also, it assumed I understood a related feature better than I actually do.

To me ChatGPT is not a toy. It can be played with, certainly. But so can a can of whipped cream. I don’t learn much playing with either. Eventually I’ll knock off the valve or make a mess to clean up. I’d rather learn how to use it efficiently. The language model is not god-like or without flaws. A word processer’s spell checker is not without flaws either, so I learned how to use it efficiently and moved on from there.

When I was done, I tried to capture the discussion by copying the text and pasting it into Word, but the code that it generated didn’t paste properly. The line breaks in the code were lost. Another problem was that I was pasting white text in a document with a white background. When I went to Acrobat Pro and pasted it using the Edit Text tool, the pasted text came out correctly except that the font changed for the code.

If I represent something that ChatGPT does as if it were my own work, that’s simple plagiarism. It might appear to pass when writing a blog post or two, but a professional writer shouldn’t use it as a substitute for his or her own work. Even using it to improve a paragraph needs more effort. I should use my own words instead of mimicking ChatGPT’s robotic syntax.

I asked it to improve three of paragraphs here. It didn’t understand what I was trying to emphasize. One “improvement” was such a mess that I couldn’t use it at all. The other two were far from my normal style–too formal with a stilted vocabulary–and had to be overhauled. Mostly, I used them as an inspiration for further editing.

My attitude can be to treat it more as a thesaurus than as a copywriter-for-hire. You have to know what you’re doing when you use a thesaurus.

Review: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

Misunderstood by the wider world, Wakanda is a nation set apart in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They hide their super-human technology from the rest of the world. In earlier films, they had offered to help the world. However, this offer that was scoffed at due to their feigned poverty and backwardness. Despite their monopoly on technology derived from the precious mineral, Vibranium, this film finds their technological supremacy threatened by a new power.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has a struggle between the Wakandan’s and the powerful new antagonist. The new power is willing and able to kill Wakandans and any other enemy while, simultaneously, demanding that their own existence be kept secret. The Wakandan royalty is torn as more of their people are killed. The conflict forces the Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and the technological genius Shuri (Letitia Wright) to choose either mercy and honor or vengeance and destruction. Riri (Dominique Thorne) adds fuel to the fire with her own technological genius.

In the earlier film, Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman was T’Challa, the Black Panther. Since Boseman died in real life while the film was in development, the producers decided to not recast him and instead honor his memory. The Black Panther’s legacy overshadows this film and his memory animates the Wakandan people.

Wakanda’s superiority has also evolved through the mystical influence of the ancestral rulers of Wakanda. They provide guidance to the succession of Black Panthers via visions at crucial moments. When T’Challa’s daughter, Shuri, is faced with the reality of his death, she reacts with anger and regret that she couldn’t save him. She is not willing to participate in the rituals surrounding his passing and her disbelief leads her to deny the ancestor’s influence.

The film has more explicit violence than many other MCU films. The number of people that died in the film set aside some of the conventions in earlier films that limited on-screen violence. Perhaps the violence seems justified because of the depth of conflict in the film. From the beginning where a military research vessel was attacked by an unknown force until the extended battle at sea, death runs through the whole film. Rather than eliding the actual deaths, more fatalities were depicted so that the Wakandan’s might signal virtue by saving some enemies.

I missed several opportunities to see the film in a theatre but finally watched it on Disney+. The story was tense with the civilizations wrangling with each other. It seemed that the antagonist Namor (Tenoch Huerta) had his powers evolve as the film needed additional tricks to keep the story moving forward. The Wakandans also exhibit new technologies as needed. The film posits a dichotomy between honor and vengeance. When given choices, the film offers the question as to whether the Wakandan people or their enemies are more powerful and which are more worthy.