AI comes to DI: It’s a floating lantern… it’s a Chinese spy balloon

“Who was the youngest Oscar winner?” I asked.
Without looking up from her perusal of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, my lovely wife, Grace, answered, “Tatum O’Neal.”
“Fits. Thanks,” I replied, followed by a sip of coffee.
Whenever I got stuck on the daily crossword puzzle, Grace was my go-to. 
A short time later I inquired, “Summer on the Seine? Three letters.”
Grace spelled it out, “e-t-e.”
“You know you could look it up,” my Aunt Toogie mused.
Looking up, I queried, “Look what up?”
“Your crossword answers,” Toogie replied. “Right on your phone… or ask Alexa.”
Setting my puzzle down, I responded, “That would be cheating.”
“You asked Grace.”
“That’s different.”
“Well,” I explained, “Grace might not know the answer.”
Now, Grace joined in the conversation, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
“No, I mean,” I stammered, “Grace is a big help, but looking it up on my phone would be like, well, looking the answer up in a book, or something.” 
“It’s called the World Wide Web,” Toogie grinned.
Grace came to my rescue. “I think what Dalton is trying to say is he likes to try to solve the crossword puzzle, maybe with my help, but without going to a source with the official answers.” Then she added, “It’s akin to these recent stories about students using a website to
write essays and term papers.”
“Yeah,” I added, getting up to refill my coffee cup. “That’s cheating.”
“Maybe,” Toogie mused, “but it could just help get someone started in the right direction. And it does it instantly.”
When I didn’t reply, she continued, “You’re still writing your stories for The Daniel Island News, right?”
“Yeah, I did one a week or so ago. You were in it.” When she didn’t respond, I added, “It was a satire on politicians and confidential documents.”
“Oh, yeah,” Toogie smiled, “Funny, although not your best.”
I let the comment sit until she added, “So what is your next story?”
“Since you are such a big fan,” I quickly retorted, “I’ll let you in on it. I’m mulling over one about that Chinese spy balloon.” 
“Mulling? Why not just sit down and type it out?”
“Well, it takes time,” I explained. “You know, to think up the story line, the setting, and characters. And then the dialogue.” When Toogie just grinned, I added, “It’s a writer’s thing.”
“Wait right here, Shakespeare,” Toogie announced, as she rose from the kitchen table and left the room.
A few minutes later she returned with her laptop and powered it up, turning it so I could see the screen.
“This is ChatGPT,” Toogie explained. When I continued to look quizzical, she added, “It’s the AI app you were just talking about that students use to create documents.”
“You have that?” I gasped. “How?”
“Duh. It’s free. And easy,” she answered, scrolling the cursor down to a box on the screen. “Now, let’s put in a few key words for your story.” As I watched, she typed, “humor essay, Chinese spy balloon, Daniel Island, South Carolina” and clicked an icon.
In seconds the page began to fill with text.  “How did it do that?” I inquired, feeling a bit like an observer when Edison first turned on the lights.
“Artificial intelligence,” Toogie answered. When I still looked dumbstruck, she continued, “It’s everywhere today.”
Here is exactly what was produced.
It all started on a warm summer day in Daniel Island, South Carolina. The residents were going about their business as usual when suddenly, they noticed something strange in the sky. It was a strange object that looked like a giant, floating lantern, drifting slowly over their
At first, people were intrigued. They took out their phones and snapped pictures of the strange object, thinking it was some kind of new, high-tech weather balloon. But as the days went by, more and more of these balloons started appearing in the sky, causing quite a stir in
the town.
The local authorities were stumped. They had never seen anything like it before, and they couldn’t figure out what the balloons were doing there. So, they decided to call in the experts. They brought in a team of scientists, who quickly determined that the balloons were made
in China and were equipped with high-tech surveillance equipment.
The town of Daniel Island was in a panic. They couldn’t believe that they were being watched by Chinese spies! The residents were afraid that their every move was being monitored, and they were worried that the information being gathered by the balloons would be used
against them.
But then, something unexpected happened. 
The townspeople of Daniel Island decided to fight back. They organized a group of volunteers and began to launch their own balloons. 
These balloons, however, were filled with cookies, candy, and other treats, which they dropped on the spy balloons in an effort to bribe the Chinese spies into leaving them alone.
To everyone’s surprise, it worked! The Chinese spy balloons started to retreat, one by one, until finally, there were none left in the sky over Daniel Island. The residents cheered, and the town was once again at peace.
In the end, the residents of Daniel Island learned a valuable lesson. They realized that sometimes, the best way to deal with a problem is not with weapons or violence, but with a little bit of humor and a lot of sweets. 
And so, the town of Daniel Island became known as the “cookie capital” of the world, and the spy balloons incident was forever remembered as a testament to the power of treats.
 As I slowly read the computer-generated story, Toogie said, “Pretty neat, huh?”
“Certainly not up to my best,” I scoffed, “but I’ll say it is clever.”
Peering over my shoulder now, Grace inquired, “What would you do differently?”
“Well,” I explained, “with the Air Force shooting down all these flying objects NORAD identifies, I’d work in a gag that Santa is at risk.”
“You can add that,” Grace offered. “Like Toogie said, think of it as getting you started in the right direction.” When I didn’t respond, she added, “And she’s right; it is very fast.”
 “Just think,” Toogie chuckled, “if Dalton used this for his stories, he’d have more time to help with chores around here.”
“Nothing artificial about that!” Grace exclaimed, laughing, which set off an exchange of quips, and hand slaps, between her and Toogie.
 “This thing could even replace Dalton.”
“Doesn’t snore.”
“Or leave the toilet seat up.”
“Maybe could take over the column in The Daniel Island News.”
“Writer’s block, my butt!”
“Get ’er done!”
 “May have to change the byline.”
“How about from Dalton and Grace to ChatGPT and Grace!”

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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