Inside Doug's Head

I am not a number, I am… What's that stuff they make glue out of? I'm that. Forever swirling, forwards and upwards, but always sticky. Sometimes, a little sad.

In the past, I have written about a guy named Greg, and I thought I should revisit the character and flesh out his backstory to give him more depth. Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about trying out ChatGPT from OpenAI.

To be clear, I am not a fan of either Greg or artificial intelligence, whether combined or singularly. Artificial intelligence belongs in the same category as artificial meat: it’s awful in theory, but then you try it, and discover it’s worse than you expected. Nope, I was born a regressionist, and I will die a regressionist. Also, a snake handler.

Greg is the name I have given to a pervasive recurring fictional character that I sometimes include in my mental excursions. Greg is always the answer to the question, What was that guy’s name, the guy who did the thing with the stuff?

ChatGPT is browser-based demonstration application for natural language AI. You can sign in and chat with it, ask it questions, get advice on how to tell your boss he’s a dickhead, or even get it to write a blog post for you.

While ChatGPT does a neat job of understanding your questions and keeping track of the context thread of the conversation, it doesn’t take long to notice that many of its responses are based on fill in the blank templates, with a little bit of random variation thrown in to the mix so as to appear intelligent, or at the very least, nondeterministic.

AI is more artificial than intelligent, but the hypesters of the industry are regularly featured in the media warning the masses of the coming singularity that will put an end to all humanity. The trick, for the unevolved lifeforms out there in the galaxy, is to pull the power cable, and then bang some rocks together.

What follows is an excerpt of my ChatGPT session where I am trying to get it to write an interesting and complex backstory for Greg. My inputs, exactly as I typed them, are italicized.

Tell me a funny story.

Sure, here is a funny story for you:

There was once a chicken who lived on a farm with all of the other animals. The chicken was always very proud of her eggs, and she would strut around the farm boasting about how big and delicious they were.

One day, the chicken’s eggs started disappearing from her nest. She couldn’t figure out who was taking them, and she became very upset. She decided to set a trap to catch the thief.

The next day, the chicken woke up to find that her trap had worked and she had caught the thief red-handed – it was the farmer’s wife! She was taking the eggs to sell at the market.

The chicken was furious and confronted the farmer’s wife, saying, “How dare you steal my eggs! You have no right to take them without my permission!”

The farmer’s wife just laughed and said, “Oh dear, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize they were yours. I thought they were just extra eggs from the farm.”

The chicken was so embarrassed that she ran back to her coop and never boasted about her eggs again.

I hope you found this story amusing! Let me know if you have any other questions.

The story is not funny, it’s weird and off-putting. Why would a chicken brag about how delicious her eggs were? It would be like a dog bragging about their delicious puppies? My babies are so delicious! You should try one! Totally weird. PLUS! Chickens can’t talk! How does a chicken boast?

Your story wasn’t funny.

I apologize if the story I shared with you didn’t bring a smile to your face. Humor is a very subjective matter, and what one person finds funny may not be amusing to someone else. I try my best to generate responses that are helpful and accurate, but I understand that not everyone will find my responses to be humorous. I apologize if my attempt at sharing a funny story was not successful. If you have any other questions or requests, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Write a funny story about a guy named Greg who is sad because he has no friends.

The story it generated was too upbeat and positive for my liking. It ended with a hopeful message about finding people who like and accept you the way you are. No, I didn’t want any stories of hope and optimism, so I thought I could help the AI understand the unpleasant and unlikeable nature of Greg.

Coercing a dark and sad story out of ChatGPT would prove to be more of a challenge than I anticipated, and my progress was impeded by the AI’s concern for offending me.

Greg is a really terrible friend to have.

I apologize if the story about Greg came across as negative or offensive. As a language model, I don’t have personal feelings or experiences, so I rely on the information and text that I was trained on to generate responses. My main goal is to provide helpful and accurate information to assist users with their questions and requests. I’m sorry if the story didn’t meet your expectations. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

No need to apologize, the story was neither rude or offensive. Greg just isn’t a very good person, so he isn’t a very good friend.

I’m glad to hear that the story didn’t offend you. It’s important to note that the story about Greg was meant to be a light-hearted and humorous tale, and it is not meant to reflect on the character or actions of anyone in real life. It’s always a good idea to be considerate of others and strive to be a good friend, but it’s also important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and it’s part of being human. I hope this helps clarify things. If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Write me an origin story about an evil villain named Greg.

The resulting story was OK, but it made Greg out to be a supervillain with deep and socially justifiable motivations. Have you met Greg? He’s not deep, and he’s not fun to hang out with, and you certainly wouldn’t want to go get a beer with him. He’s the type that, after everyone else has bought a round, and it’s come to his turn, he says, “Oh, I’m going home now.”

It took some editing and embellishing, but I combined the two generated stories, one having no friends and the other as an evil villain, into a single tale that I think is pretty OK. I call it:

Greg is an Evil Villain and he has no Friends

Greg was once a kind and generous man, loved by all who knew him, but Greg was a lonely guy who had always struggled to make friends. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t seem to connect with people. He was starting to lose hope that he would ever find someone to be his friend.

One day, while out for a walk in the park, Greg happened upon a group of people playing a game of Frisbee. He watched wistfully as they laughed and chased after the flying disc. Feeling a sudden surge of courage, Greg decided to join in. He ran over and asked if he could play, and to his surprise, the group said yes!

Greg was so excited that he forgot all about his lack of coordination and threw the Frisbee with all his might. Unfortunately, he ended up throwing it so hard that it flew straight over the heads of everyone in the group and into a pond.

The group couldn’t stop laughing at Greg’s mishap, and despite his embarrassment, he couldn’t help but laugh along with them. Greg thought that he had finally found his tribe. He may not be the best Frisbee player, but perhaps he had found a group of friends who accepted him for who he was. Alas, it was not to be.

All of a sudden, the group turned angry at him for losing their Charles in Charge collector edition Frisbee in the pond. They called him names and threw rocks and sticks at him. The future as foretold to him by the old gypsy woman at the post office had come true! Sticks and stones will break bones! The names hurt, too!

Greg ran home and stayed away from people for a long time. As he grew older, he became more and more power hungry. He craved control and would stop at nothing to get it.

While exploring some caves on vacation, Greg discovered a mysterious ancient artifact that granted him immense magical powers. With these powers, he began to plot and scheme, eventually turning to a life of crime. As Greg’s thirst for power grew, he became more and more ruthless. He began to steal and cheat his way to the top, amassing a fortune and building an army of loyal followers.

Before long, Greg had become a feared and reviled figure, known throughout the land as the evil villain known as “The Great Greg.” His name struck fear into the hearts of all who heard it, and he ruled with an iron fist, crushing anyone who dared to defy him.

But despite his great power and wealth, Greg was never truly happy. He was consumed by his greed and ambition, and it eventually consumed him, turning him into a twisted and corrupted version of the man he once was.

And so, Greg’s reign of terror continued, with no end in sight. He had become the very embodiment of evil, feared and loathed by all who knew him.

Greg! We are sick and tired of all your bullshit!

Are we though? Or, are we hoping for more of it?

—DG.

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