SILICON VALLEY, CA – Ecologists in search of habitat restoration methods that yield consistently successful results have used ChatGPT, the popular online artificial intelligence (AI) tool, to develop foolproof techniques for a greener world. AI tools are poised to revolutionize information synthesis and targeted applications in many fields, from medicine to engineering, and poetry to high school essays. A recent paper published in the new academic journal, Nature AI, documents an innovative but straightforward solution for active environmental conservation produced by the online tool. Professor Hal Odyssey posed the request to Chat GPT as, “provide a detailed, step by step restoration protocol that can be used for plant dominated systems on earth in 15 words or less.”
The resulting instructions, delivered in less than 3 seconds, list a clear and repeatable series of activities, including “spray with herbicide, seed with turf grass, water and fertilize, then mow regularly.” According to Dr. Odyssey, “this is a major breakthrough for ecology and nature conservation across the globe, with fast, inexpensive results that have the potential to drastically simplify the process of environmental rebirth.” When used as directed, this approach will unfailingly mimic an urban lawn, one of the most common landscapes encountered by the AI algorithm, which searches the internet for applicable information.
But not all ecologists are rejoicing. “Although the AI tool delivered a consistent protocol, it appears to be generated from the perspective of an urban white male who may be more interested in golf and backyard barbeques than providing a home for wildlife and pollinators,” said Dr. Susan Calvin, a pioneer in the field of robopsychology. “The fingerprints of the computer scientists who developed the astonishing open access AI tool are all over this recommendation, and provide clear indications of the makers’ perspective on the world.” She added, “when it comes to AI, you are who made you. At least sort of. Kinda.”
“No. Just no,“ said Samantha Leopold , a public information officer from The Nature Conservancy, when asked if this protocol could be used for wildland conservation. “I mean, no!”
In a rebuttal to the paper published in the same issue of Nature-AI, MaVynee Maathi, pointed out that the “recommendations are fatally flawed. The original question fails to define the purpose of restoration, resulting in recommendations that are at best a bad joke.”
Leopold also pointed out that it could be considered a bad joke, and “that seems to be all AI is capable of when it comes to humor.” For example she quoted the following response to the prompt “write a joke that starts ‘two seeds go into a bar.’”
To which the AI replied, “Two seeds go into a bar. One seed says to the other, “I hope we don’t get roasted in here.” The other seed responds, “Don’t worry, we’ll just plant ourselves at the bar and grow on people.” Apparently all joke requests to ChatGPT are actually handled by a middle aged dad sitting at a keyboard just waiting for the chance to embarrass his children.
April Fools! Just in case that wasn’t already obvious. . .