Last month, two of the websites I wrote for– and wrote well, I must say, for I’m quite proud of how humble I’m becoming– sent me off into the Freelance Writer Afterlife. I was in no small amount relieved by this, as their requirements increasingly called for me to serve as a linkbot rather than an indispensable cultural commentator on the matter of fictional space pay phones. Article pitches about philosophy, symbolism, evergreen debates, and everything else not involving lists of memes were rejected as having a “low engagement angle.” I spent far more time cramming in keywords and searching authority-boosting links than actually writing.

This week, the double dumping came into sharper focus. Buzzfeed announced that some of its articles are now solely the domain of AI, which, as a writer, actually fails to freak me out. Machines can compile, but they cannot point out that the Jedi Order is a spiritual descendant of medieval monastic communities, which underlines the 21st century’s understanding of the ways in which functional minimalism contributes to aesthetic-spurred clarity– at least unless some other human has pointed this out first and said so to the Internet.

As a writing teacher, I  am rather impressed with Open AI’s ChatBot; ChatBot produces a classic five-paragraph essay on command. The transition words are quite good. Commas are invariably in the right place. Topic sentences actually exist. ChatBot blows the doors right off 95% of my senior college students when it comes to basic academic writing skills.

Its programming to scrape from human creativity is where ChatBot seems to have creativity of its own. Creativity is the simple act of pairing one thing with another thing. The two things might not seem like they have anything to do with one another, but these two things together, from a certain point of view, make a pretty great point about being human. ChatBot cannot do this.

ChatBot cannot do this because ChatBot has never heard that an impactful high school teacher has died or felt a newborn grasp a single finger with a tiny, whole hand. It has never experienced the innate faith provided by a weak beam of sunshine on Opening Day. That, in the end, is the soul-level poverty of ChatBot: It does not know Opening Day beyond its presence on a calendar.

Even so, everyone in every possible industry is putting ChatBot through its shareable paces to see what this precious gift to plagiarism can do, and so of course I was curious to see how close it is to putting me and my colleagues straight out of a sports columnist job. It is here in which it– for now, at least– fails. Where ChatBot reveals itself is its eyebrow-raising sterile corporatism. ChatBot is one beer away from taking a cybernetic seat with Bill Swerski’s Superfans. It touches on various metrics of teamdom, then vaguely flashes a textual thumbs-up emoji.

This is the moment in which we experience an uncanny flash of the metaphysical with ChatBot: ChatBot is relentlessly optimistic about the Cincinnati Reds. This is because ChatBot doesn’t have to actually watch this team. It just digests MLB statistics floating about the Internet, then sticks in Current Year and Probable Current Second Baseman. We are all the Rosie Reds and ChatBot is serving us a synthetic power lunch. But it meets us in the undying hope that if perhaps we hunker down long enough, this storm of underwater season records will eventually pass us by.

I asked ChatBot to write an essay about the Cincinnati Reds. First sentence:

The Cincinnati Reds have been a staple of Major League Baseball since their formation in 1869.

An excellent start. It is also the sole factual sentence in the entire article. For it all starts to fall apart on the next line:

In 2023, the team continues to be a source of pride for the city and its fans.

Oh.

One of the biggest storylines surrounding the Reds in 2023 is the continued emergence of their young talent. In recent years, the team has made a concerted effort to develop its minor league system and bring up promising players through its farm system. This has resulted in a number of exciting young players making their mark on the big league club.

Would you like to know the young Cincinnati Reds player about whom ChatBot is most excited?

…Another player who has made a big impact for the Reds in 2023 is pitcher Tyler Mahle. Mahle, who was drafted by the Reds in 2013, has developed into one of the top starters in the league. With a repertoire that includes a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider, Mahle has been a dominant force on the mound, helping to lead the Reds to a number of key victories.

Tyler Mahle truly has managed to make a big impact for the Reds in 2023 if he 1) manages to do so while pitching for the Twins and 2) has invented reliable time travel.

Also Tyler Mahle is 28 years old. He remembers what it was like to wake up in the morning and immediately sign on to an AOL profile.

What about our older players?

“…the Reds also have a number of established veterans who continue to play at a high level. This includes players like Joey Votto, who remains one of the best hitters in the game, and Raisel Iglesias, who continues to be one of the top closers in the league.”

…for the Angels. And then the Braves. I also hope you didn’t fail to sink into the entire ten words devoted to Joey Votto.

Shall we conclude? We shall.

In conclusion, the Cincinnati Reds continue to be a source of pride and excitement for the city and its fans. With a talented young core and a number of established veterans, the team has the potential to be a contender in the coming years. Whether you are a lifelong fan or a newcomer to the sport, the Cincinnati Reds are a team worth following in 2023 and beyond.

Well, surely it isn’t all roses and Raisel Iglesias. I wondered what ChatBot had to say about Reds ownership, and asked for for information on who holds the keys:

The Cincinnati Reds are owned by a group led by Bob Castellini, who purchased the team in 2006. Since taking over the team, Castellini has made a number of important changes, including the hiring of key personnel and the construction of a new state-of-the-art training facility…

A “state-of-the-art training facility” is the baseline for a Major League baseball team. I do not expect to walk into the weight room at Fenway Park and see a pile of ThighMasters. It’s not a plus. It’s a requirement.

Despite these efforts, the Reds have faced some challenges in recent years, particularly in terms of on-field performance. Despite this, Castellini remains committed to building a winning team and has made a number of key moves in recent years to bring in new talent and improve the team’s overall performance.

Included in these key moves: Passive-aggressiveing the entire fanbase, then pointing out that it was fine to be “out of contention on Opening Day” because a bunch of other teams are too.

I shall leave you with this, Reader:

Overall, Bob Castellini and the ownership group of the Cincinnati Reds are widely seen as a positive force in the city and the sport. With their commitment to player development and technology, as well as their focus on providing the best possible experience for fans, the Reds are well-positioned for continued success in the years to come.

ChatBot is indeed useful, my friends. It exists in a parallel dimension in which former Reds are still Reds, player development is Job One, and Bob Castellini is a civic joy. ChatBot is the gift of our age; it is the Don Quixote of modern life, perceiving situations as they perhaps ought to be rather than the bitter prostitutes, exhausted farmers, and shambling mess we actually know.

In the meantime, I shall watch the insignificant progression of this Votto fellow’s career with great interest.

12 Responses

  1. LDS

    The world is gaga over ChatGPT because most lack the knowledge and talent to recognize it for the parlor trick that it is. It’s not an AGI (artificial general intelligence). Keep writing, I’ll take your columns over all the generated text columns in the world.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Parlor trick is a good name for it! I’m sure it will get better– and quickly. Thanks so much for the boost, too!

  2. Melvin

    Hahaha….pretty funny…and ridiculous.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      Appreciate you reading it!

  3. Jim Walker

    This reminds me of my frustrating morning at the genealogy pursuits which have become my past time to fill the winter void. On a particular line, I am at that point where the family oral history is getting sketchy; and, the website AI bots that have agreed with each other and the oral history previously are now divergent.

    Apparently, in Clermont county in the late 18th to early 19th century, there were 2 guys born very close together and given matching first and last names that 5 years apart married two women of about the same age who shared the same 1st name, Nancy. One bot says to go with Nancy #1 as the mother of my confirmed grandparent in the generation closer to now. This would make everything fall in place for that bot which is based on matching DNA to the family trees on the site. However, if I pick Nancy #2, based on trees alone, a brick wall awaits me in the next generation back. Where is Dr. Henry Louis Gates when I need him?!

    I am reminded of a favorite paradigm of my 93 year old mother in such situations, “We are the ones alive now. Who is around to tell us or anyone in the future we were wrong?” Perhaps some AI bot?

  4. SOQ

    Your article brought a great big smile to my face. The Reds should send Chat Bot out to talk to the fans instead of Phil

  5. Mark Moore

    Absolutely loving “the Don Quixote of modern life” as a summary. It’s a tool. It will “learn” over time, but it’s still a tool. You recognize that; I recognize that. But so many view it as a mystical, magical, silver bullet god-in-the-making.

    The stuff it generated for you is hilarious to this fan and, I truly believe, most on this site. It’s proof positive that we’ll always need you, MBE. You show us why Baseball is Life with every offering.

    Is the camp in Goodyear open yet? 😀

  6. AMDG

    it’s interesting you mention the Jedi’s connection to monasticism, as when I was doing research for a Church history podcast I do, I discovered that George Lucas based the Jedi knights on the Knights Templar, and in early incarnations of his script, he called them the Jedi Templar.

    A few of the similarities copied by Lucas include: both the Jedi Knights & the Knights Templar took the monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Both were devoted to their religion. Both wore a specific habit distinctive of their order. And both met their downfall at the hands of an evil scheming ruler (Philip IV / Emperor Palpatine) via a secret order.

  7. Jimbo44CN

    Great stuff as usual Mary Beth. Keep it up.

  8. Oxfordsport

    I recently watched 1823 and fell in love with Elsa. Her soliloquies contained astute views on the human condition.
    My favorite thought was “cities weaken us as a species.”
    I’ve since adapted that for my own thought – “Technology weakens us as a species .”
    Thanks for your thoughts Mary Beth.

  9. D Ray White

    Chat Bot …..aka Phil Castellini