Tuesday, October 3, 2023

I've Got Nothing. No, Really.

began his post today with "This morning I was struggling to find something to write about". I feel exactly the same way. The big difference is he managed to come up with something. I didn't.

It's not exactly that I have no ideas. Actually, I have plenty. And that reminds me of one.

It's about how the English translations of anime or games from south-east Asia, particularly Japan and Korea, constantly use "actually" or another adverbial phrase for qualification or emphasis. It's a conversational trope that, once noticed, cannot be ignored. I believe it has significant implications and I'd like to examine them in some detail. Just not today.

As well as starring in a standalone post, it's a topic that's sure to have a walk-on part in my much-hyped Carole and Tuesday review, whenever the hell I get around to writing it. I'm cetainly not up to tackling it right now. It's a lot more complicated than just banging out a few hundred words about how much I liked the show. I could do that but I've already done it. Not that that would stop me normally but somehow I'm just not feeling it.

That post, if we ever get to see it, something that's looking increasingly less likely with every day that passes, will also have to deal with the potential risks and benefits of AI for popular music, a running theme of the show. Now there's a topic good for a series if ever there I saw one. Shame I don't have the patience for it. I can't even get started on the research.

Then there's this opinion piece on the "Scream-along Singalong" phenomenon, here masquerading as a concert review. I just read that at  Stereogum and thought it was worth poking into. I bookmark stuff like that several times a week, mostly with the intention of spinning up a post. Sometimes I do something about it, sometimes I don't. This time it's don't.

Or how about the ongoing discussion and reverberations surrounding Ji Ham's EG7 address? I still have plenty to say about that. It would be easy enough, too, only if I want to avoid just repeating what I've already said, or someone else has, it'd need the kind of care and attention I just can't seem to find the time for right now. 

It's amazing how doing nothing seems to fill up my day. I think it's something to do with getting old. Today, for example, I didn't do anything of any significance and yet it was still evening before I sat down to write this - and even then I really need to stop typing now and take Beryl for a walk before it gets dark...

...which I now have done, so it's even later in the evening...

Lack of ideas is hardly the problem then. Poor time management, maybe. I've complained many times, that I find it harder to write short, pithy posts than long, rambling ones but at the moment I don't seem to be able to do either.

It would be lovely to imagine AI could solve these problems for me. If there's one thing generative text ought to be useful for it's a knocking out a couple of hundred words on anything you care to mention. That, as Janelle Shane repeatedly points out, is what the damn things are supposed to be good at, after all, not playing the half-assed search engine/personal assistant role they're being inadequately groomed for by the likes of Microsoft and Google.

The trouble is, they're not really all that good at writing entertaining or amusing prose either. I mean, you can nurdle them into doing it if you put in the effort but that's hardly the idea, is it? Might as well just write the whole thing yourself.

I asked ChatGPT to write me a couple of hundred words on the New World expansion Rise of the Angry Earth that launched today and what it came back with was so teeth-grindingly dull I'm not even willing to quote a couple of lines for comic effect. As Janelle's finding, it's getting harder and harder to get anything funny out of the things at all. 

I'm tempted to link back to my Smiths post of a couple of days ago and make some allusion to That Joke Isn't Funny Any More, which is how I'm starting to think about AI. If Tom Hanks is worried I guess maybe we all should be. I mean, Tom is the Everyman God, right? 

That said, most of his arguments sound more like endorsements to me so now I'm just even more confused. Is he for it or against it? Does he even know? I'm not sure I do any more.

And with that I think I'll take my leave. Clearly this isn't going anywhere. Maybe I'll have something tomorrow.

We can but hope. 

All images generated at NightCafe from prompts in the linked AI Weirdness post, using Stable Diffusion 1.4 at either zero or one hundred per cent weighting. Not that it seemed to make any difference...

Header image modified using Uncrop. Why it thinks it's Christmas I have no idea. The prompts were all for Halloween.


  1. Instead of getting AI to write posts, just write a post full of AI PROMPTS and let your users go off and feed them to their preferred AI agent-thingie. I guess that would only be really interesting if the users came back to share what their AIs came up with.

    I've actually started using Bard as my search engine at times. Like if I just want a concrete answer to something. But I don't think that has as much to do with Bard being an AI as it has to do with how cluttered search results have become with Sponsored results, ads, and results from sites that have really strong SEO and really crappy content.

    Like did you ever search for help with an MMO and you get a Wiki in the results and you click through and it is a 'stump' page or whatever they're called? Like there is a message saying "This page hasn't been written" or something to that effect.

    I do wonder how long it'll be before Bard just prefers Sponsored results though.

    1. That prompt idea sounds great. The only trouble, as you suggest, is that take-up might not be great. I might still try it anyway, so thanks for that.

      Bard is an odd duck in the AI stakes. In some ways, as Wilhelm has found, it's even less accurate than the others (I think Bing is the most factual but also by far the most boring.) but because it's from Google, whose search engine is literally the generic for "search", expectations are that asking Bard will produce comparably accurate results to just googling. But it really, really doesn't. As Janelle Shane keeps trying to remind us, these things are specifically designed to make stuff up. They're fiction engines. Relying on them for accurate information is like trying to get your daily news from a professional storyteller. They'll always come up with something but it won't have anything to do with reality.

      It's very interesting that Google have now added a link to Google Search as part of the process. I also just asked Bard how accurate it was and it told me it had an accuracy score of 63%, which was worse than both ChatGPT and Bing. I'd say at least it's honest but of course it may just have made those figures up!

  2. That was awesome and a wonderful brain dump. It felt like how my brain wanders on a constant basis. Doesn't matter if it was edited over time, I love it.

    Also, since I never comment, I've followed you for many years, and really enjoy your posts, thank you for many years of good reading. And turning me onto new games. And music. And books.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I really appreciate hearing from long-time lurkers (Horrible term for readers who keep their own counsel but it's the one we have...). Even better to hear I've been able to introduce someone to something they've enjoyed. That's a big part of why I do this even though I don't often get to hear whether I managed to get anyone's attention.


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