Thursday, February 23, 2023

Who Wrote This?

I can hardly read the news lately without hearing ChatGPT mentioned. I've been curious about it for a while, so I decided to give it a try. Except ChatGPT is always at capacity and after being told to check back later for at least a week, I decided to look for some alternatives. I chose sites that let me try it for free without inputting my phone number or credit card information.

I came to Perplexity first and gave it a try. I was trying to compare ai results with something written by an actual human being so I instructed it to "write a blog post about the significance of knots in the book The Shipping New by E. Annie Proulx."

Here are the results from Perplexity:

In E. Annie Proulx's novel The Shipping News, knots are used to represent relationships and the complexities of lifeQuoyle, the protagonist, is born in Brooklyn and raised in a series of dreary upstate towns. Throughout the story, knots are used to illustrate how relationships can be tied and untied, formed, unformed and reformed. Tangible knots also come into play in the habits of Quoyle's cousin Nolan and the aunt's upholstery business. Knots also serve as a reminder that the book is grounded in realityJeff Dean is an engineer at Google who has become legendary amongst employees for his intelligence and prowess at Connect 4. Jokes about him are commonplace amongst employees, such as one suggesting he can win Connect 4 in three moves.

It seems readable and on par with the writing of an average middle school student, until you get to the part about Jeff Dean. Perplexity provides citations that let you know where they got the information, but I couldn't find Jeff in the provided citation.

Next, I tried Writesonic with the same prompt:

The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx is a novel about a man’s journey of self-discovery and healing after a series of life-altering tragedies. Throughout the novel, knots serve as a metaphor for the protagonist’s struggles to come to terms with the past and to reach a new kind of equilibrium in his life.

Knots are first mentioned in the novel when the protagonist, Quoyle, begins taking a class in knot tying. This is a metaphor for Quoyle’s attempts to untangle the knots of his life he has built up through decades of self-loathing and pain. The knot tying class serves as a way for him to unwind, if only temporarily, as he begins to take steps towards self-improvement.

Knots also appear throughout the novel in reference to Quoyle’s relationships, specifically those with his daughter and his newfound love interest, Wavey. In his relationship with his daughter, knots represent the struggle to form a bond, as the two are distant and estranged throughout the novel. Similarly, in his relationship with Wavey, knots serve as a reminder of the challenges of forming a new connection and of the difficult emotions that come with it.

Knots appear in the novel in a variety of other contexts, from Quoyle’s attempts to connect with the locals in his newfound home of Newfoundland to his struggles to come to terms with his past and the trauma he has experienced. The novel is ultimately a story of healing and redemption, and knots serve as a powerful symbol of the challenges and struggles that Quoyle must overcome to find peace.

The Shipping News is a powerful tale of resilience and hope, and the use of knots as a metaphor throughout the novel serves to emphasize this by showing the reader the challenges that Quoyle must face and the strength he has to confront them. It is a reminder of the healing power of overcoming one’s own struggles, and that even in the darkest moments, there is still light to be found.

This felt a little more complete, without any mention of Jeff Dean. I don't recall that Quoyle took a class in knot tying, but I haven't finished my re-reading for Read With Us, so Writesonic may be right (but I have my doubts).

Just for comparison, here is a link to the blog post I wrote on Tuesday about how the author used knots in The Shipping News. The subject isn't quite the same but not surprisingly, I'm still partial to the human writing.

I noticed that Writesonic can also generate images with Photosonic. This sounded promising so I decided to give it a slightly tricky test with "freshly baked loaf of English muffin bread on cutting board".

I was pleasantly surprised that these images were not terrible - sort of loaf-shaped, with nice slices, and even some crumbs. I hadn't even managed to confuse the ai by asking for a loaf of English muffin bread. For comparison, here's the loaf of freshly baked English muffin bread baked and photographed by a human:

A little more loaf-shaped but I am slightly more tempted by the ai bread. I bet the human-baked bread will taste better. 

The next time I am struggling with writing a blog post or a book review for goodreads, I don't think I'll resort to using ai. But it is interesting and does give me pause. For now, keep writing, humans!


  1. I love all of this! I must say that I prefer your well-written book reviews (which make me highly likely to read the book you reviewed!) I am not sure either of those reviews would encourage me to read The Shipping News (good thing I have already read it!)

    I played with ChatGPT just now (with a review of Dani Shapiro's Signal Fires) and got a very wordy (266 words!!) review that does not feel at all how I would review it. Perhaps when AI actually reads the books the review would feel more real and less scholarly.

    Oh... and about Signal Fires... wow!! So good!! I am now in the Read Two Times In A Row group of readers!
    (I started re-reading again yesterday afternoon... it is such a great book! And a slice of two of that amazing looking bread would be perfect!! Yum!)

  2. I think ChatGPT is good for some things, but not everything. My husband is very into it and uses it for work (apparently it's good with coding?). But I had him tell it to write a knitting pattern for a sock, and it forgot the heel!

  3. Gosh, I am so out of touch! I had not heard of ChatGPT previously (or Perplexity). Definitely prefer your writing and your bread looks wonderful (the AI bread looks fake to me).

  4. Thanks for that little experiment, Bonny. Now I will wonder every time I read an online book review. At least the first one provided citations. You're bread looks the best to me and I'm sure you'll enjoy a slice jam? ;)

  5. I live under a rock. I've never heard of ChatGPT. I think on this one I'll just stay under my rock. LOL

  6. I've never heard of ChatGPT or Perplexity. I prefer your excellent book reviews!

    1. Thank you, Debbie and the same is true for me. I know when I read one of your wonderful reviews that I can be sure the book is for me. That's something that I can't imagine artificial intelligence ever taking over!

  7. As a middle school principal, my sister has had ChatGPT-on-the-brain for quite a while, along with what it might mean for educators & students alike.

  8. Oops. That "anonymous" was me!! Forgot to sign in...

  9. I have also not heard of either of these ai things. In this case, ignorance is bliss. And the images of the bread don't compare at all with your home-baked bread. I haven't made English Muffin bread for ages but I have a recipe somewhere. I may have to go find it over the weekend.


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