Any other Gen Xers remember, back in the ’80s, when the Gipper was going to push the Button, causing the world to bloom with mushroom clouds? We didn’t know how good we had it. That atomic version of the apocalypse was swift and blessedly scientific. Moreover, it was backed by an “us versus them” dogma that was at least comprehensible.
Fast forward into the aberrant timeline we’ve managed to trip into (anyone read the Berenstein Bears lately?), where the moral calculus of our leaders is even more dubious and the End is Nigher than ever, thanks to the cowboy quartet cantering on the edge of town—war, disease, death and famine. Which is to say, I expected the world to end more like a sci-fi flick than the biblical ballyhoo we’re currently experiencing. A plague? How medieval. It’s embarrassing, really, since a modicum of handwashing and mask-wearing would’ve made it manageable. Extreme weather events? Just pony up the million bucks already so that Bond villain turns off his weather machine. Is it any surprise that the storm system that brought Wagnerian-like thunder and lightning to our coast came from Tropical Storm Fausto—so named, I surmise, for the Faustian bargain we made for a century of fossil fuels. Well, it’s here to collect.
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Meanwhile, it took University of California, Berkeley, computer science student Liam Porr a week to harness the abilities of San Francisco–based research lab OpenAI’s “most powerful language-generating AI tool to date.” According to the MIT Technology Review, Porr made an artificial intelligence-generated blog that convinced thousands of readers its bits and bytes were actually the sturm and drang of a creative soul. Naturally, it went viral—algorithms apparently like reading work of other algorithms. Called GPT-3, the AI engine debuted in mid-July, just in time to hasten the coming media doomsday. Fake news is bad enough—fake news written by fake writers is some next-level shit.
“It was super easy, actually, which was the scary part,” says the student.
Soon, there will be a tsunami of robot-generated content that will drown writers like me in its wake. It’s over—unless they create an AI editor who can ruthlessly hack and slash the overrun. After all, brevity is the soul of bits.