We’ve been reading a lot about this new method of generating text using Artificial Intelligence. Apparently, American universities are all of a twitter because students now have a new avenue for not doing the work themselves. An essay generated by ChatGPT is either indistinguishable from good work, or is readily identifiable, according to which account you are reading. We wondered how it would do at generating a blog post for us, so that instead of devoting our time to research, photography, and writing, we can lounge about drinking coffee and playing Wordle.
So – we set ChatGPT this task:
Write an 800 word blog post, illustrated, about the history of West Cork, in Ireland
Here’s what it came up with. What do you think? How accurate is it? Could we pass it off as one of our blog posts? What grade would you give us if it was an assignment for a history course?
West Cork is a region located in the southwestern part of Ireland, known for its rugged coastal landscapes, picturesque villages, and rich cultural heritage. The history of West Cork is a story of resilience, tradition, and change.
The earliest human settlements in West Cork date back to the Mesolithic period, around 8,000 BC. These early inhabitants were hunter-gatherers who left behind evidence of their presence in the form of flint tools and other artifacts. The Neolithic period, around 4,000 BC, saw the arrival of farmers who cleared the land for agriculture and built megalithic tombs and standing stones, such as the famous Drombeg stone circle.
The Bronze Age, around 2,000 BC, saw the arrival of metalworking and the construction of ring forts, such as the one at Cahergal, near Skibbereen. The Iron Age, around 600 BC, saw the arrival of the Celts, who brought with them their own language, culture, and traditions. The Celts established settlements and farms throughout West Cork, and their descendants continue to live in the region to this day.
The arrival of the Vikings in the 9th century AD brought about significant changes to the region. The Vikings established settlements along the coast, such as the one at Baltimore, and they also established trading routes that brought goods and ideas from Europe and beyond. The Vikings were eventually driven out by the Irish, but their legacy can still be seen in the place names and architecture of West Cork.
The Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th century brought further changes to the region. The Normans established castles and towns, such as the one at Skibbereen, and they also established feudal systems of land ownership and governance. The Normans also brought with them new technologies, such as the water mill, which greatly improved agricultural productivity.
The 16th and 17th centuries saw the arrival of the English, who established plantations and brought with them new forms of religion, law, and governance. The English also brought with them new forms of industry, such as the linen and woolen mills, which brought prosperity to the region. However, the English also imposed harsh laws and taxes on the Irish, leading to widespread poverty and suffering.
The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of the Irish nationalist movement, which sought to end English rule and establish an independent Irish nation. The people of West Cork played a key role in this movement, and the region was the site of many important events in Irish history, such as the 1798 rebellion and the 1803 rising.
The 20th century saw the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, and the region of West Cork continued to play an important role in Irish politics and culture. The region also saw significant changes in its economy and society, as new technologies and industries, such as tourism and fishing, brought new forms of prosperity and opportunity.
Today, West Cork is a vibrant and diverse region, known for its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and friendly people. Visitors to the region can explore its many historical sites, such as the Drombeg stone circle and the Baltimore castle, and enjoy its many outdoor activities, such as hiking, fishing, and sailing. They can also sample the local cuisine, which is renowned for its seafood, dairy products, and traditional Irish dishes.
In conclusion, West Cork’s history is a story of resilience, tradition, and change. From the earliest human settlements to the present day, the people of West Cork have faced and overcome many challenges, and have always remained true to their culture and traditions. Today, West Cork is a vibrant and diverse region, rich in natural beauty, history and culture
Note- no illustrations. OpenAI can give you illustrations, but it’s a whole other process and I got too bogged down in the directions to go far with it. Instead, I asked ChatGPT the following question:
Q: where can I get good photographs of West Cork?
It responded by pointing me to stock photo sites, Instagram and other social media sites, travel sites and blogs. It added, helpfully,
You can also consider visiting West Cork yourself and taking your own photographs of the region. This can be a great way to capture unique, personal images that reflect your own experience of the area.
Thanks so much to those who commented. If you don’t know much about the history of West Cork then it might appear that ChatGPT provided some ‘better than expected’ content. But a careful reading will show you that it provided information at a very generic and superficial level.
It was in fact full of errors. A few examples – Drombeg is not Neolithic; ringforts do not date to the Bronze Age; Cahergal is in Kerry, nowhere near Skibbereen; modern historians and archaeologists no longer believe a race called the Celts arrived in Ireland; there is no evidence of a Viking settlement in West Cork, let alone in Baltimore; the Normans did not establish Skibbereen, and we had water mills before they arrived; the idea that the English brought prosperity to the region would be disputed by many historians; the 1798 rebellion was not centred in West Cork; Nothing happened in Cork to support the 1803 rebellion.
Glaring omissions: The Famine does not merit a mention yet was the defining feature of West Cork history in the nineteenth century; Ditto the War of Independence and the Civil War for the 20th century, and the Munster Plantations and the Battle of Kinsale for the 17th.
All in all – a miserable failure. I would give this an F if it was handed in to me by a student. Some of you also commented on the stilted and formulaic language – this would tip off any teacher/professor, surely.
So – I don’t think we’ll be turning to ChatGPT to generate our content any time soon!
Thanks for this really useful experiment. Don’t forget, though, that ChatGPT is meant as a tool for dialogue. I think it is InstructGPT that is designed for one-question-one-answer use. I followed up your ChatGPT blog post example with three questions, asked separately:
– How badly was Skibbereeen, Ireland, affected by the famine of 1845-1850?
– Were any measures taken by the government to assist people at this terrible time?
– I have heard that Robert Peel took many effective steps to help the population during the famine. Is this the case?
I got around 200-word replies to each of these, and they made good sense to me.
I can send you the replies, or you can just see for yourself on the ChatGPT site.
All the best.
Hmmm – good point. I tried your first question, and then substituted Greystones for Skibbereen, since I know Greystones was affected quite differently, and nowhere near as badly. It came up with a very similar answer to your question, and referred to the Greystones Workhouse (there wasn’t one). So, once again, it seemed very generic and not very reliable. I agree that on the surface the answers do seem reasonable.
For some reason, your response ended up in the spam folder, hence the late response. Did you read my EDIT to the original post?
Thank you, I saw your important EDIT. Yes, ChatGPT is not very reliable, and reliability is what is wanted.
I asked it the following:
Can you translate “I am late and I must rush or I will miss my plane” into Fingallian, please?
The translation (which to be fair came with some explanatory commentary) was:
“I’m late and I must leggit or I’ll miss me plane.”
Hours of innocent fun to be had. But I promise to leave you now to your more profitable activities on your excellent blog.
It’s really a wonderful tool if you use it well
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It lacks personality – but that is probably only obvious to me because I read your blog. It would pass for a tourist board information leaflet, informative and bland.
Hmmm…worse than that, I think.
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I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. It’s not as kind as yours.
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It would still pass for a Tourist Board publication!!!
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This is scary for some of us teachers in college, at least those of us who assign a lot of writing. Cheating has been much too easy since the growth of the “FreeEssay.com” types of sites. The Library Association of America once did a study that suggested 50% of all college essays involved some plagiarism. But this now crosses to a new stage — not plagiarism but to the “I did not do it, and no human did it so I cannot be caught, and I got a grade yet learned nothing,” stage of education. I know I sound like a grumpy old man, but there you go. Used well, internet can be great (I found this blog, I easily find articles I could hardly find before JSTOR, etc.) so we can hope that the AI will find ways to NOT make us less capable humans.
I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. Take a look – I am not sure you need to worry about assessing a student’s work in your own area of expertise.
Monotonous and repetitive in style, but close enough to natural writing to be frightening. Maybe there’s a hint of the “uncanny valley” effect you get with human-like robots.
Close to natural, maybe, but accurate? I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork.Take a look.
Wow, it is amazing software.
I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. Take a look.
Hi Finola, big fan of your work. I am a full time tour guide and I teach tour guiding also. I recommend initial research with ChatGPT but the personality must come through. At a recent attendance at the Cape Clear Storytelling workshop I learned that stories are ‘transmitted’ – the non-verbal communication element is essential. The ‘dryness’ of AI will eventually be it’s limiting factor. In-person experience is essential; it’s the difference at looking at a picture of a Harry Clarke window and standing in front of one. I have read the creative possibilities that AI offers will herald a new Renaissance of sorts. Nice thought. Jim
Hi Jim. Lovely to hear from you and thanks for these comments. I don’t know that we need to worry about, or be impressed by, ChatGPT just yet – I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. Take a look.
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It’s like reading the 8th grader essays back when I worked as a standardized test grader, only with all the personality sucked out and the accuracy marginally improved.
I agree re 8th grader, but not re accuracy. I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. Take a look.
Oh, I should clarify this would be American 8th graders writing an essay about West Cork, so I’m on a scale of “entirely fantastical” to “simply dreadful”.
Hmm, very good, I thought. Except for one thing–it lacked personality.
I had tried the same experiment in one of my blogs with the variation of adding material from another source and therefore re-writing a few sentences. I had not noticed the monotone character until I just now re-read the piece.
And so we continue on the learning curve of life.
Yes, monotone is a good descriptor.
Hi MIchael, I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. It’s not as kind as yours. Take a look.
Yikes! It didn’t direct you to Roaringwater Journal then??
Not only did it not, it said it was blocked by RWJ! Didn’t know we had that power.
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Better than I’d expected, but yes, has a robot-like quality. Scary.
Alannah – I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. Take a look.
I have now added an EDIT to the end of the post to reflect my own assessment of the job that ChatGPT did on the History of West Cork. It’s pretty awful.
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