Tom Eats! To Be Replaced

Impending redundancy is a nasty, invidious thing. It seeps into you and shakes your sense of self worth. Fear, generally, impacts on your well being and your capacity for logical analysis. This has never happened to me before. Shall I rage against the machine, like Ned Ludd and his fellow 19th century weavers, smashing up the hated power driven things which threatened their jobs? Or simply slip into a dull eyed, resentful torpor. Who knows?

Anyway, that's the immediate reaction on hearing how far ChatGPT has developed. I'd heard a bit about it, but dismissed it from my thoughts. Turns out it's more serious than I had gathered. It's a computer program developed by a company called OpenAI. Formed in 2015 that company has apparently received investment of $10 billion from Microsoft.

Teachers are concerned about its ability to write essays for students. Apparently its grammar is flawless. Regular reader The Flying Scotsman tipped off the editor to an article which Jay Rayner wrote in The Guardian on 26 March. It seems that a reader of Jay's was playing around with it, trying to get it to write a negative review of a Chinese restaurant in Skegness in the style of the master. Let's have some examples.

I haven't seen such a depressing display of Asian-fusion food since I was caught in a monsoon in the Himalayas. Well that's just odd. If that's the best the bot can do, it holds no fear for me. But what about this? The dining room was a low-lit, faux-oriental den of off-pink walls and glittering papier-maché dragons; the air was thick with a miasma of MSG and regret.

Could you have written that? demanded the editor, menacingly, brandishing his copy of Employment Law for Dummies. And that, dear reader, is where the sleepless nights began.

A few days later I got hold of the rest of the article. Jay had been gently reassured by a techy pal that the machine couldn't taste the food. Jay than asked the machine to write a review of another place which he had never visited. Some reassurance is to be had from ChatGPT's praise of the dishes of king crab with smoked avocado, and turbot with brown shrimps. Neither, apparently, is on the menu of that particular establishment. So, perhaps, some relief for now.

For the author of Tom Eats! that is. Whether the team of scribblers who spend days and nights churning out Tom Cooks! and On The Side can rest easy is another matter. Jay canvassed the views of The Observer's technology columnist, John Naughton. In summary, Naughton believes that ChatGPT will, in time, have the same impact as the web itself. The human brain can't remember everything. That's why we rely on search engines. In the same vein he continued, ...this is a prosthesis for something that many people find very difficult to do: writing competent prose.

Nor is it restricted to prose. As I write, a row has broken out about a song entitled Heart on My Sleeve. (Relax, Gallagher and Lyle fans, not that one.) In next to no time it achieved 600,000 Spotify streams and 15 million TikTok views. Purporting to be by popular beat combo Drake and the Weeknd (sic), it was posted by Ghostwriter977. Trouble was, the lyrics had been generated by AI, and the song was removed from social media.

Some of you may be aware of US giant, Buzzfeed. To quote Wikipaedia, BuzzFeed, Inc. is an American Internet media, news and entertainment company with a focus on digital media. Based in New York City, BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti and John S. Johnson III to focus on tracking viral content. It currently differs from Tom's Food! in one or two tiny respects. Firstly, it is stock market listed (on NASDAQ). Secondly, it has apparently announced that in future some of its content will be created using AI. Where Buzzfeed goes, will the editor of Tom's Food! be far behind?

I tried to get into the program to explore for myself. It said that it wasn't accepting logins. I don't know if that's good or bad news. Thanks a bunch, TF Scotsman. 

Image reproduced under licence from Vecteezy


  1. Janet Hood on 19th April 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Scary stuff – wonder if it will start creating faux reviews ( loss of licence threatening ones) of licensed premises

    • Tom Johnston on 19th April 2023 at 6:08 pm

      I intend to try it out when I have time. That commodity is becoming almost as rare as when I used to do the W word. Funerals, T’ai Chi, food research. It’s a tough gig.

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