I love ChatGPT.
I also fear ChatGPT.
Let me tell you why.
I love it mostly because it’s a friendlier research pal than Google. And it can do so much more.
Here’s how I’ve been playing with it lately.
Comparing Writing Platforms
The other day I wondered if I should start a Substack newsletter instead of writing this blog.
I wasn’t sure I understood exactly what a Substack newsletter was, so I asked ChatGPT to explain Substack to me simply, in about a hundred words.
And it did.
Then I asked it to compare Substack to Medium, another writing platform I use.
And it did.
In less than fifteen seconds
Then I asked it to compare Medium to blogging.
Then I asked it about making money on these platforms and which option was better, Substack or Medium?
Then I asked it if a paid Substack newsletter was better than a free one and to list out the advantages and disadvantages of each.
And it did this in detail and in fifteen seconds. And I appreciated that its tone was pleasant, respectful, and easy to understand.
It was like having a great talk with a really smart friend.
I was/am smitten.
Creating an Itinerary for a Trip
The next day I talked to Emily about her summer trip to Santa Fe.
When I got off the phone, I prompted ChatGPT to build an itinerary for a woman who was going on a five-day trip to Santa Fe,—a woman who likes hiking, good food, and excellent coffee and who wanted to immerse herself in the culture—and to please, estimate the costs.
Badda-bing, bada-boom, five-day itinerary, all spelled out, where to go, why, and how much it would cost.
And once again, in fifteen seconds.
Doing Research for a Blog Post
When I was writing my blog post about G a few weeks ago, I compared my infinite game of yoga to her finite game of softball. I knew what finite and infinite games were, but I needed more examples than just sports. I asked ChatGPT to give me five examples of finite and infinite games, and I used a few of those suggestions in that post.
Explaining a Confusing Technical Term
I listened to Lex Fridman interviewing Max Tegmark the other day about the need to pause AI research.
Amazing podcast, btw. They talked about AGI a lot, and I didn’t know what that was, so I asked ChatGPT to explain it to me in very simple terms.
And it did.
Writing Marketing Copy
I write marketing copy to advertise my yoga classes on Facebook several times a week. Just for fun, I asked ChatGPT to try to convince procrastinating students to come to my Power Yoga class but to do it in the style of Dr. Seuss.
Then in the style of Lao Tse.
Then in the style of Kurt Vonnegut.
Then in the style of Haruki Murakami.
And finally, in the style of Martin Buber.
I positively squealed with delight as each iteration appeared on the screen.
What a gas!
Suggesting a Birthday Present
The next day I asked it to suggest a birthday present for someone I know who is impossible to buy for. I gave it a list of what this person likes, and it gave me about ten fairly good suggestions. I was impressed.
ChatGPT is the most exciting thing to come into my life in a very long time, but it has one big problem.
It could write this blog post for me.
It could also write that thank-you I’ve been procrastinating about and that condolence card.
It could easily write a decent first draft of everything I struggle to write. If I let it, it could solve most of my writing problems.
My main problem as a writer is that I am a lazy thinker.
I must deploy a hideous, excruciatingly stupid, and uneconomical process not to be a lazy thinker and force my brain into turbo gear.
This process involves opening Scrivener, assigning myself a ridiculously large word count, then typing like a demon-possessed thing without getting up to walk, eat, or even pee until I hit my words.
For all its pain and idiocy, this strategy works. It allows me to spelunk into the dark cave of my heart where I inch along blindly, fingering the bumpy contours of my mind, trying to understand and articulate what I feel, think, and who I am.
I often discover I’m still worrying over an off-handed remark, or an idea from a podcast or a book, or wondering what I should say or not say to G when she comes home from a hard loss. Or if spaghetti is a good idea for dinner.
When I first discovered ChatGPT and was in the Christmas morning giddy phase, I breathlessly told Nikki all about it on one of our walks. When I paused, she said, “But what about struggle??”
What about struggle?
There is something about struggle that is essential to every worthy endeavor. Hard-won gains are always the sweetest; we all know that.
So if I just let an AI like ChatGPT do it, let it take away the struggle, I will never again feel the tape rip across my chest as I cross the finish line.
I will never know the joy of finding just the right tone in those hard-won paragraphs.
And how will I ever grow into the light without those dark days in the cave?
The struggle is the whole thing.
That’s what Max Tegmark said to Lex Fridman on that podcast about the future of AI.
He said something like, “I don’t want to push a button and be on the top of the mountain; I want to climb the mountain. It’s the climbing that makes the view from the top so exquisite.
Here’s what I think ChatGPT is good for:
- Junk writing, like that email to your landlord telling him he needs to fix the hot water heater— pronto!
- Boring business correspondence setting up meetings, and building agendas.
- Promotional ad copy
- Idea generation
- Building travel itineraries with packing lists.
- Party planning
- Writing summaries
- Making hard concepts easier to understand. (”Talk to me like I’m twelve and explain attachment theory.”)
- Analyzing the pros and cons of an argument
ChatGPT can free up a lot of your time by doing the pedestrian pissy stuff so you can spend more of your time in the dark cave of your creative struggle— where all the valuable stuff is.
Struggle is required for growth. Think of caterpillars transforming into butterflies, tree limbs getting stronger in the wind, salmon swimming upstream, birds learning to fly, seeds sprouting from the ground.
And me trying to write, all by myself, what my heart needs to say.
I have decided to put guard rails around my use of AI.
I will never use it to write one of these blog posts, for instance, or a birthday card, or a thank you note, or a condolence letter.
I will never use it to escape the struggle of exploring the deep recesses of my heart.
And I promise you this: I will always tell you at the end of any post where I have used ChatGPT and what I’ve used it for.
Because I most certainly will use it.
But not to escape the struggles of the heart.
** For this post, I used ChatGPT to help me find instances where struggle is required for growth: caterpillars, trees, salmon, birds, and seeds.
6 thoughts on “ChatGPT And The Struggle”
The struggle is part of the fun .
I always love reading your blogs! Hey I was wondering which app you use for ChatGPT ? I see there are several. I want to give it a try! Thanks, Laura
Hi Laura! I am so happy you enjoy the blog! I just use openai.com. I have to say, when I first tried to get in, they said it was busy and to check back later. I then tried to log in from Google and got right in, no wait. It is so much fun. It’s all about crafting good questions (prompts). I liked this episode of ReThinking with Adam Grant. Grant is a ChatGPT skeptic and in this podcast he talks to two proponents. They ae the ones who got me interested enough to try. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndQHR3kdEvM
Let me know what you think and how you use it! Love, Kath
Thanks so much Kath! I really appreciate you getting back to me. I’m going to give it a try. I also read your blog this morning about the Livestream yoga classes and one day I’m going to join in with you all!!! I miss you and your studio and the kind people I met there. It was great seeing Fred not to long ago. I felt a little of you in him…
It would be AWESOME to see you on the Livestream! Make it happen! I miss you!