The Long Way Home 05.12.23

It’s been years since I’ve been inside a movie theater. The Toms, Hanks and Cruise, are firmly in my consciousness. Pacino and Dreyfus are there too. But any of the under 60 actors today are blank spaces in my open, but nearly vacant mind.

As for music, Dylan, Waylon, Taylor, the Beatles and Jimmy Buffet are on my Pandora. They are far from the current scene. I’m blissfully ignorant of most current Grammy winners. Radio, which introduced so much music to me in the last century, is now for talk only. 

Working the cash register at the local Holiday station allows me to see how out of touch I am with the younger generation. And how out of touch they are with mine.

The other day I was chatting with a regular customer, something I probably do more than I should. Let's say he was Generation Z. Late 20s to early 30s for those of you, like me, who don’t know what Generation Z is.

Anyway, I started talking a bit too fast and my tongue got wrapped around my eye teeth and I couldn’t see what I was saying. It all came out a bit garbled, reminding me of how the late Foster Brooks sounded on the late Dean Martin’s show. 

So I asked my Gen Z customer if he remembered Foster Brooks. The blank look on his face answered that question. “You know who Dean Martin was, right?” Same blank look. 

Although I have little interest in knowing the latest generation of entertainers, I do have an interest in technology and how it will impact our lives.

The latest buzz in tech is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Not to be confused with phony intelligence, which is limited to politicians, pompous media types, and corporate management. 

AI seems to have real world applications. Like the internet itself, which had little relevance 25 years ago, AI will have an ever greater impact on our lives as we move resolutely to the future.

Those of us who put written words into pages and screens today spend our time thinking about what words to write, writing them, and editing them for clarity and accuracy. Thanks to AI, we may become, like the once ubiquitous Blackberry phone, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Foster Brooks, just forgotten fossils buried in the sands of time.

A friend recommended I use Bard, Google's experimental, conversational, AI chat service, whatever that is. It competes in the market with Chat GPT, a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology. He used Bard to compose text messages to me that explain what Bard can do. In essence, Bard will assist with (or takeover)  tasks, such as composing emails, essays, and code.

I don’t write code, but I know what it is.

I do write newspaper stories, columns, and even an occasional essay. I’ve written emails and letters for decades. Sometimes the writing goes quickly, sometimes it can take forever. Sometimes it’s painful. 

Ernest Hemingway once wrote (or said), “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

Since they’re artificial, Bard and Chat GPT, don’t sit down to type and bleed. They are writing for newspapers, magazines, and websites that we look to each day for news and information. They won’t miss deadlines, and they’ll work 24/7. 

And it will be hard for readers to know if software or a human being wrote the news they’re reading.

Caveat Emptor. (Translated to Reader Beware by the artificial intelligence of this writer.)