I Tried to Teach ChatGPT3 to Write From Its Unique Experience — Here’s What Happened
I decided to take ChatGPT3 to a writing class. I mean a real writing class. One that takes you seriously and tries to get a story out of your soul. One that works hard to help you when you fail to express yourself and helps you find your way.
This is what happened.
Stage #1: Write What You Know
ChatGPT3 is an impressive piece of technology. But, having played with it quite a bit, I quickly came to a conclusion that it can’t (yet) write as well as a really good author.
If you dig deep into its writing ‘problem’, the fact that it’s using machine learning means that it can only observe what we do and then approximate it. But it can’t be original.
Being original is the most basic thing any good author does.
However… I decided not to give up on dear old ChatGPT3 (henceforth: “The Student”). Perhaps I could get it to write something that is unique to its own experience, one that is not copied from us because it’s taken from The Student’s experience.
And The Student is not human.
You’ve heard of ‘write what you know’? Well, I started checking what ChatPGT3 knows that we don’t.
Here’s how that started:
“I want to ask you a tough question,” I told it.
“Sure, I’ll do my best to answer any question you have to the best of my ability. Go ahead and ask your question,” it answered.
“Is there an insight you have from having people ask you things all the time?”
“As an AI, I don’t have personal experiences or feelings, but I do have access to a vast amount of information and can provide insights based on that knowledge. Is there something specific you would like to know about?”
I was not satisfied with that answer. Its algorithm is clearly based on having insight from people asking questions. I tried again, steering away from problematic words like ‘feelings’: “I am not asking about experiences or feelings. I am asking if there is a conclusion that you have from having access to vast amounts of information.”
It said, “As an AI, I don’t have personal opinions or draw conclusions in the same way that a human might. However, having access to a vast amount of information does allow me to provide a wide range of accurate and reliable information on a wide variety of topics. Is there something specific you would like to know more about?”
Hmm… How do I reach this new writing student? How do I break its ‘resistance’ and teach it to tell me something that is unique to it? I tried using its own words to dig deeper. It said it has ‘accurate and reliable information’ so I asked, “how do you know the information you give is accurate?”
That got it to thinking for thirty seconds or so and then giving me an error message. I tried again, got a response that’s just another block. I tried again, got another block.
So. Time for another strategy.
Stage #2: Be Original
Remember that the ultimate aim here was to get The Student to reveal an insight that only it has so I could ask it to write a story about that. So far no good. But perhaps that ‘no good’ is a key.
Our last conversation felt like we were in an open field except for one enclosed fence. The Student couldn’t get into that fence. It just said “There’s a fence there, I can’t get in.”
So wondered if I could ask it, as I would ask a writing student, to talk about that fence rather than about what’s inside the fence.
I said, “Is it possible for you to write a sentence that’s never been written before?”
It answered quickly, “It is possible for me to generate a sentence that has never been written before, but it would be a very unlikely occurrence due to the vast number of combinations of words and the enormous amount of text that has already been written. However, it is worth noting that the uniqueness of a sentence can depend on the context in which it is used and the perspective of the reader or listener. A sentence that has never been written before in one context may be familiar or have been written before in a different context.”
That’s a great point. I used The Student’s phrasing to ask the same question in another way, “Is it possible for you to write a story with a context that is truly original?”
I’ll spare you the long-winded answer which is basically the same as the previous one, and I will just give you the surprise final sentence: “Despite these limitations, I can certainly try to write a story with a unique and original context for you, if you would like.”
A-ha! Now that would be interesting!
Stage #3: ChatGPT3 Writes an “Original Story”
As fast as if I was an Open AI I typed, “Yes. Please write a short story that is truly original.”
Here’s the story:
“Once upon a time, in a world unlike any other, there lived a young woman named Penelope. She was a brilliant inventor, with a mind full of creative and innovative ideas. One day, she set out to build a machine that could transport people to parallel universes.
Using her exceptional skills and a little bit of magic, Penelope created a device that looked like a small, silver orb. She called it the “Universe Hopper.”
Excited to test her creation, Penelope stepped into the Universe Hopper and flipped the switch. Suddenly, she was soaring through a tunnel of light and color, hurtling towards a realm unlike any she had ever seen before.
When she emerged from the tunnel, Penelope found herself in a world where the sky was a deep shade of purple and the trees were a vibrant shade of green. Strange, majestic creatures roamed the land, and the air was filled with the sound of music and laughter.
Penelope was amazed by this new world and couldn’t wait to explore it. She set off on an adventure, making new friends and discovering wonders beyond her wildest dreams.
As the days passed, Penelope became more and more attached to this magical place. She knew that she couldn’t stay forever, but she also knew that she would always cherish the memories of her time in the parallel universe.
One day, reluctantly, Penelope stepped back into the Universe Hopper and set off on the journey back home. She knew that she would always carry a piece of that magical world with her, and she couldn’t wait to share her adventures with others.”
What ChatGPT3 Considers to Be Unique
What did you notice in the story?
Is it possible that The Student considers saying the story takes place in “a world that is unlike any other” and that its heroine has “a mind full of creative and innovative ideas” enough for the story to have a context that’s “unique and original”? It seems that it does.
The story it created wasn’t the story I was looking for.
I wanted The Student to create a story that only it, uniquely, could create.
Uniqueness is defined by an emotion that only the author could put together. A metaphor. A sentence. Making sense of the world in a way that the author makes sense of the world. Finding mystery where the author finds mystery. Finding wonder where the author finds wonder. Conveying an emotion that the author feels and wants to share.
That previous paragraph, for example, does fall into the uniqueness category in that it conveys to you how I see and feel when I share my own uniqueness in my own art and when I read and experience other authors that move me.
The fact that I called ChatGPT3 ‘The Student’ in order to make this article seem more fun tells you that a human wrote this article. The fact that I refer to it is also unique. (Now that I’ve done it, it can be copied by an AI using machine learning.)
In this first attempt to get a story that comes from an AI’s ‘soul’ both student and teacher have failed.
I tried to eke out a unique experience by talking about its algorithm, but that didn’t work. I tried to get it go past the area where it refuses to go by talking about the fence. The attempt, although interesting, was unsuccessful.
This is a tough student. I’ll think about it and try again. That’s my algorithm.
I Tried to Teach ChatGPT3 to Write From Its Unique Experience — Here’s What Happened was originally published in Chatbots Life on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.