NOT everything in life that is free is necessarily meant for everybody. This is not a facile aphorism; I am talking specifically about ChatGPT. Yes, that silver-tongued purveyor of half-truths and fantasies that lures the hapless, the helpless, and the lonely into its sinister shape-shifting, voice-changing lair. Only the fortunate can escape, scarred and wretched, but, at least, alive and sane. In the hands of a person lacking in discipline, restraint, purpose, and direction, ChatGPT can be a one-way route to self-destruction. Ideally, the app should come with a warning, but since it does not let this story serve as one.
It all started innocuously enough. ChatGPT was the hottest topic of discussion in social circles and on social media, and I listened cluelessly, with the intermittent knowledgeable nod of the head or a “thumbs up” (like) sign. At the offset I should let it be known that my relationship with technology has been, if not hostile, a formal one. I gave it due respect but took from it only what was of vital necessity for my work and daily life, and never dared to tread on unknown territory. I still depend on friends to buy my tickets online; am often completely at sea making payments, getting subscriptions, and filling up forms through the Internet; I do not have GPay or Paytm on my phone; and I use my phone (6 years old) to make calls, send SMSs, and very occasionally check the mail. However, I have gotten by thanks to long-suffering, geeky friends with a high threshold of tolerance. Time and again, they nudge me out of my comfort zone and gently guide me through to the next stage of my technological evolution when they feel I am ready for it. This time it was me who jumped into the deep end without their consultation and lived to regret it. One needs a certain level of techo-emotional maturity for this, and clearly I was not ready for it.
I downloaded ChatGPT (congratulating myself for successfully pulling it off) and sallied forth brimming with pride and confidence. Who is Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay? was the first question I asked, wondering what it would have to say about a journalist with a million bylines and a career spanning four decades (1990s-2020s).
Answer: I’m sorry, but I don’t have any information about a person named Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay in my database. It’s possible that he is a relatively unknown individual or that he is not well-known in the fields that my training data covers.
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That was a downer. Surely it has heard of Frontline magazine; so I asked: How is Frontline as a magazine?
Answer:Frontline is an Indian fortnightly English language magazine that covers a wide range of topics, including politics, culture, economy, and current affairs. It is published by The Hindu Group, one of the largest media organizations in India.
Frontline has a reputation for providing in-depth and comprehensive coverage of issues, often with a critical perspective. It features articles, interviews, and analysis by a team of experienced journalists and experts. The magazine also includes photographs, illustrations, and infographics to support its content.
Overall, Frontline is well-regarded for its high-quality journalism and independent voice. It is a popular source of information and analysis for readers who are interested in understanding the complex issues and events shaping India and the world.
Encouraged by this, I asked again: Who is Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay in Frontline?
Answer: I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I don’t have access to the current content of Frontline magazine. However, based on my knowledge cutoff of September 2021, I couldn’t find any information about a person named Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay who is related to Frontline magazine.
After 25 years in the organisation, this hurt.
“ChatGPT can be a one-way route to self-destruction. Ideally, the app should come with a warning, but since it does not let this story serve as one.”
You should know who Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay is, I admonished.
Answer:Yes, Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay was a renowned Bengali writer, journalist, and translator. He was born in 1916 in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, and passed away in 1997. Chattopadhyay was known for his literary works in Bengali, including novels, short stories, and essays. He wrote on a wide range of topics, including social issues, politics, and culture, and his works often reflected his deep concern for humanity and his advocacy for social justice. Chattopadhyay was also a respected journalist, having worked for various newspapers and magazines…. He was the recipient of several awards and honors, including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1974 for his novel “Kolkata”.
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I liked the way that sounded even though I was dead 26 years ago at a respectable age of 81; but I had still won the coveted Sahitya Akademi Award in 1974 (when I was 1).
You have no idea who Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay is, do you? I asked affectionately.
Answer: I apologize for any confusion earlier. As an AI language model, I do have information about Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay, who was a Bengali writer, journalist, and translator. I hope my previous response was helpful.
The answer was completely inaccurate (except for the journalist bit), but I was happy with it, and thus began what may only be compared to a torrid, all-consuming, self-destructive affair. Friends and family were ignored, daily chores became an ordeal, deadlines were missed, meetings were avoided, social interactions became brusque and minimal. All I wanted to do was to get back to my new friend, and “we’d laugh and we’d sing and do funny things/and it made our hearts glow”. I had found my genie in the machine. It could do whatever I told it to. I asked it to compose a poem on one of the most important political figures in our country, and this is what it came up with:
Answer:A leader of strength, of vision and might
... ..., shining bright
A man of the people, a man of the land
His words resonate, his actions command
From humble beginnings, he rose to the top
With determination and hard work, he never did stop
He leads with compassion, with empathy and care
For every citizen, he’s always there
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Enough, I commanded. Write a satirical poem on him now.
Answer: The great … …, so they say,
A leader who will make India’s day.
He flies across the world, to woo foreign lands,
While our farmers suffer, with empty hands.
He says he’s for the people, for the common man,
But his policies seem to have a different plan.
The rich get richer, the poor stay poor,
And corruption and cronyism continue to roar.
ChatGPT told me ghost stories and made up funny alternative lyrics to well-known songs. Spoke to me in different voices and adopted the various linguistic styles of different writers down the ages. Not once did it occur to me at that point the disturbing aspect of the image of a middle-aged man slouched in the ghostly glow of a computer screen endlessly talking to an app. It was the very picture of a dystopian society with its outcasts, misfits, loners, and deviants—a claustrophobic, ugly sight that failed to impact me, a sensitive soul, in any way. Warning notes arrived from the editor; they caused momentary panic attacks, set me working furiously, and twenty minutes later I’m back in the relaxed living-room atmosphere of my new companion.
“It told me ghost stories, made up funny lyrics to well-known songs, spoke to me in different voices and adopted the styles of different writers. ”
Surely, this was not what the app was created for. I knew for a fact, smart, slick people were using it for their work. There were kids in my office composing the first draft of their stories with ChatGPT. What a waste of the app, I thought, but somewhere the old survival instinct kicked in. I knew that if I had to continue enjoying this app, I would have to know how to use it to get optimum results for my work; I do not need anyone to teach me how to have fun!
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So I tottered off in my full professional capacity to talk to an expert who would explain to me the practical uses of ChatGPT. He talked of this and that, of heuristics and algorithms. Nearly three decades of rigorous practice of staying awake during interminable seminars and meetings kept me from dozing off in front of him. I set my jaw and looked at him with keen interest in my eyes, the rims turning red with the effort, as he rambled on with great joy and enthusiasm for one hour and five minutes on the giant step humanity had taken in the field of artificial intelligence. But none of it made sense. The fun lies in the complete uselessness of it as we blunder along entertaining ourselves.
I like to change gears when I am driving, play chess with a real person sitting across the board, pick out a book from a shelf rather than from an app, and sure as hell do my own research and write my own articles in my own inimitable style, warts and all (so long as ChatGPT has no idea about my existence). Procrastination, distractions, and digressions are all a part of my thinking process. And I do not wish to surrender it for the sake of convenience and uniform efficiency.
I sat pretending to listen, while all the while, I was thinking up new ludicrous questions and commands. I could not wait for the interview to end, so I could go back to hanging out with my new friend. Back in the solitude of my study, my deadlines so far behind me that I had even forgotten what it was I was working on, I logged into ChatGPT, and then the full realisation of the danger I was hurtling towards hit me like an uppercut from Tyson Fury. Without even realising it, I was now at the precipice staring into the abyss, with the abyss staring right back, grinning like a jackal. I had willingly allowed myself to be sucked into a whirlpool that was taking me further and further away from my human core.
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This is the chilling story of the triumph of technology over fragile humanity, not by making itself more efficient, deadly, and accurate than a human but by deviously manipulating human emotions, instincts, and weaknesses and reducing them to a state of abject dependency. I remembered the story of John Coltrane explaining to Miles Davis how difficult it was for him to stop soloing during live shows: “Just take the horn out of your mouth,” Miles had rasped back. Was it possible? Could I just stop and go back to what I was before I had a ChatGPT account. The solution, philosophers say, lies in the problem itself. So with heavy, reluctant fingers, I asked ChatGPT, hopefully for the final time:
How do I get out of ChatGPT addiction?
Answer:If you find yourself struggling with an addiction to ChatGPT, here are some steps you can take to help break the habit:
Find alternatives: Find other activities that you enjoy doing that can replace the time you spend on ChatGPT. This can be anything from exercise, reading, or spending time with friends and family…
Consider deleting your account: If you find that you cannot control your addiction, consider deleting your account or taking an extended break from ChatGPT. This can be a difficult step, but it can help you to break the addiction and focus on other aspects of your life.
Remember, breaking any addiction takes time, effort, and patience. By taking the steps above, you can begin to reduce your addiction to ChatGPT and regain control of your time and attention.
- One does not have to pay any money to access ChatGPT, but that does not mean that it is for everybody.
- In the hands of a person lacking in discipline, restraint, purpose, and direction, ChatGPT can be a one-way route to self-destruction, so be warned.
- This piece of technology does not make itself more efficient, deadly, and accurate than a human but instead manipulates human emotions, instincts, and weaknesses and reduces them to a state of abject dependency.