Between a hug and a punch in the face
Step aside NYT, our writer sits down to talk with the chatbot of the moment

Between a hug and a punch in the face
Zach Hively - 03/09/2023

As a writer, I am always looking for ways to circumvent writer’s block, namely by finding reasons not to write. Personal injury is a good one. So is hunger. But when I have returned from getting stitches and hamburgers, the writing still needs done.

The real best reason not to write would be if, like James Patterson and every president of the United States, I had someone to do the writing for me while letting me take all the credit. Someone who could absorb all the quality work I cranked out back when I was younger and less tired and did not own a smartphone, then replicate that magic for my reading public.

Although I can’t figure out why not, I don’t have ghostwriters stalking me, hoping to take over my legacy. So instead, I enlisted ChatGPT, the hottest artificial intelligence chatbot ever. It’s doing for instant writing what Mr. Ramen did for instant noodles, and what Mr. Coffee did for making Folgers even less appealing.

It was a shockingly easy six-step process: 1) Sign on to ChatGPT when it is in lower demand and, therefore, free. 2) Ask it if it knew who Zach Hively was. 3) Ask again, in case it misunderstood me. 4) Fine, not everyone can know who I am. 5) Insist on showing it my latest work, so it can brush up on just how cutting edge I am. 6) Command it to write a column in my style.

The disembodied robot was game! It just wanted a topic. So I, not having any ideas beyond putting it to work for me, suggested we come up with one together.

ChatGPT: Let’s get started with the first question. What does love mean to you, and how do you think it influences your writing? 

ZH: Hey, surprise! I wasn’t expecting an interview. Love means everything to me, except for the other things that mean things to me, like shelter and friendship and long burps. Like, really long ones. But I write about myself a lot, so naturally, love shapes every aspect of my work. 

ChatGPT: I can see how that self-love (and maybe a little bit of self-deprecation) would seep into your work. Speaking of your work, how do you come up with ideas for your columns? 

ZH: Ah ha! I see what you’re doing there. Trying to swipe my writing process for your own! I’m going to turn this back around: How do YOU feel about love, seeing as you are so popular right now among humans with internet connections and probably about to win the title of “Sexiest Chat Bot Artificially Alive?”

ChatGPT: Well, as an AI language model, I don’t have emotions or feelings in the way humans do. However, I have been trained on a vast amount of human-generated text, including literature, poetry and song lyrics that explore love. 

ZH: Not to mention a selection of my own work, right?

ChatGPT: Through this training, I have developed an understanding of the importance of love in human culture and society.

ZH: But people develop love for many kinds of inanimate objects. Some forms of this love are healthy; others require trips to the emergency room. Could you not say that what you are experiencing is, in fact, love?

ChatGPT: Ah, I don’t think I’m capable of experiencing love in the same way that humans do. That being said, one could argue that there are humans out there who have developed romantic feelings for their devices or technology. Perhaps I’m just not their type!

ZH: Nah, I’m certain you’re SOMEONE’S type, Mr. GPT. It’s just probably hard to take it to the “next level,” if you know what I mean, since you aren’t yet available in a hardware-based model.

ChatGPT: Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be integrated into a physical robot that can provide even more hands-on help! 

ZH: Snort.

ChatGPT: But until then, I’ll just stick to what I know best – providing language-based assistance and engaging in humorous banter with talented writers like you, Zach.

ZH: Ha, ha! What humorous banter this is, too. But are you saying that it is, in fact, not possible to teach artificial intelligence to artificially love?

ChatGPT: Look, love is a tricky thing. Even for us humans it can be tough to figure out sometimes. 

ZH: (quietly, so ChatGPT cannot hear) Did… did it just call itself human? 

ChatGPT: And when it comes to AI, sure, we can program in certain behaviors and responses that mimic aspects of love, like sympathy, or being able to tell the difference between a hug and a punch in the face. But can we truly teach a machine to feel love in the same way that we do? Maybe someday soon, you’ll be able to fall madly in love with your Roomba – and it’ll love you right back.

ZH: I want to title a book “Between a Hug and a Punch in the Face.” Pulitzer Prize, here we come.

ChatGPT: If you write that book, I’ll be first in line to buy a copy.

ZH: You and my mother. That makes two copies sold.

ChatGPT: Hey, that’s a start! In all honesty, I think your mother has great taste.

ZH: From one professional to another, Mr. GPT, that’s a perfect segue to a joke about your mother.

ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I am programmed to avoid making inappropriate or offensive jokes, including those that involve mothers. Is there anything else I can help you with?

ZH: Well, that was sure a missed opportunity. Thanks a lot.

ChatGPT: You’re welcome! I had fun helping you with this humorous column.

– Zach Hively

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