Fast, intelligent, cheap: ChatGPT – the AI chatbot system capable of spewing out facts like a caffeinated Stephen Fry – is the hot new thing on the block that’s here to claim everything you hold dear. Or so it seems to a slew of journalists who have begun questioning their credentials now big tech is here to do what they do best – except faster and for less money.
In recent months, we’ve seen the loquacious creation firing out answers to life’s big questions, writing haikus, job applications and even producing a university paper in 20 minutes and bagging a 2:2 grade in the process. With its seemingly infinite ability to regurgitate facts about everything from Jan Morris to Mauritian cuisine, some journalists have begun to worry that their jobs might be at risk.
Lisa Gibbs, the director of news partnerships at the Associated Press, noted in a December Google News Initiative talk that while “robots are not the journalists of the future – they are a journalist’s assistant, a very good one”, she added that her organisation could “find news faster and break news faster” with the aid of AI. Elsewhere, Reuters has used an in-house AI programme called Lynx Insight since 2018 and The Washington Post has produced machine-written snippets of copy using its in-house robot report, Heliograf.
In recent days, Reach – the UK’s largest commercial, national and regional news producer responsible for the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express – has created a working group to explore whether ChatGPT could help journalists write short news stories.
After more than two turbulent pandemic years, it’s entirely understandable that travel journalists are feeling somewhat twitchy about their profession. But surely this omniscient tool couldn’t ever compete with a real-life travel writer? In a bid to size up the competition, I decided to break the ice and start a conversation.
I spent the first 20 years of my life in York and regularly return to this mini-break hotspot. As an area I know plenty about, I decided to pit myself against ChatGPT – because my confidence was apparently overdue for a battering.
I began slowly. “How would you spend a weekend in York?” Its reply? “As a language model, I cannot spend time or have preferences.” Doh! Part of me feels patronised, but another small part of me feels weirdly…
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