“Mum, ChatGPT is gaslighting you!”
That was the response from my young associates when I shared conversations I have been having with the famous new Artificial intelligence machine this week, and I think they have a point.
One of my young associates has been making good use of the free tool and he suggested I try it for a project I am working on. On the phone to him one night, I said that I wished I was more aware of diverse literature. You only know what you know and when reading history it is easy to hear only the dominant voice.
He asked ChatGPT, and it poured forth titles where I would find relevant writing. Excited, I ordered some of the books on the list and downloaded ebooks of others. The only trouble was that I couldn’t find the promised references. I challenged ChatGPT to provide chapter and verse. It did – but they still weren’t there. It prevaricated, apologised and then started to admit it had made mistakes. It denied making up quotes but was unable to find the origin. This was frustrating. The quotes were generally ideal, exactly what I was looking for, so I searched a little harder. But after fouterin for literary hours, I realised that it just makes the damn things up. For this piece, I decided to ask it for examples of writing about cats. Here is our conversation.
Did St Augustine ever write about cats?
Yes, St. Augustine did write about cats in his work “Confessions”. In Book 1, Chapter 6, Augustine reflects on his childhood and mentions his fondness for animals, including cats:
“Yet I myself, though small and a boy, had a great delight in the keeping of beasts, especially of birds; but what I loved most was a cat. And this I enjoyed as one would enjoy the companionship of another human being. For the animal had a character and feeling of its own, quite apart from its usefulness; and, strange to say, it seemed to me that I could understand what it said to me when it mewed, as if it were trying to communicate something.”
Augustine’s affection for cats is also reflected in another passage in “Confessions,” where he refers to them as “wonderful creatures” (Book 10, Chapter 43).
I can’t find that quote in my translation
I apologize for the confusion. The quote I provided earlier regarding St. Augustine’s fondness for cats was my own paraphrasing of his description in “Confessions,” rather than a direct quotation. In Book 1, Chapter 6 of “Confessions,” St. Augustine does indeed write about his love for animals, including birds, and he does mention owning a bird and a small, beloved animal that he refers to as “the lesser of my sins.” However, he does not specifically mention a cat in this passage.
I apologize for any confusion my earlier response may have caused.
OK, well when you put something in quotes you imply that it is taken from the text verbatim
You are correct, and I apologize for any confusion my earlier response may have caused. As an AI language model, I strive to provide accurate and helpful responses, and I apologize for any inaccuracies or misunderstandings that may have occurred. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, and please let me know if you have any further questions.
OK, can you give me any examples of Black American writers writing about cats?
Certainly! Here are a few examples of Black American writers who have written about cats:
Langston Hughes: In his poem “Cat” from “Selected Poems of Langston Hughes,” Hughes writes about a black cat that “slips through the grass / Like a shadow in the dark.”
James Baldwin: In his novel “Another Country,” Baldwin writes about a character named Rufus who owns a cat named Othello. The cat serves as a symbol of Rufus’s longing for love and connection.
Zora Neale Hurston: In her essay “What White Publishers Won’t Print,” Hurston writes about the difference between the way Black and white writers depict animals in their writing, and she mentions a cat in particular: “We have a tenderness for pets. The little pig, the cat, the dog, the bird are all often full members of the family.”
Maya Angelou: In her autobiographical book “Gather Together in My Name,” Angelou writes about a cat named Louise who helps her feel less alone in a difficult time in her life.
These are just a few examples, and there are likely many more Black American writers who have written about cats.
Thank you – what did Maya Angelou write about her cat?
In “Gather Together in My Name,” Maya Angelou writes about a cat named Louise who helped her during a difficult time in her life. Louise was a stray cat that Angelou took in, and she describes how the cat would sit on her lap and purr, providing comfort and companionship. Angelou writes, “I could talk to Louise and I could cry with her, and she never judged me. She was patient and kind, and when she licked my fingers I knew she was saying, ‘There, there. Everything will be all right.'” Angelou’s relationship with Louise serves as a symbol of the healing power of companionship and the importance of finding support during challenging times.
Thanks. Where does that occur in the book?
The story about Maya Angelou’s cat Louise appears in Chapter 15 of her book “Gather Together in My Name.”
I can’t find that in Chapter 15
I apologize for the error in my previous response. The story about Maya Angelou’s cat Louise actually appears in Chapter 5 of “Gather Together in My Name.”
I can’t find it in Chapter 5
I apologize for the confusion. It seems that I made a mistake in my earlier response. Upon further research, it appears that Maya Angelou did not write about a cat named Louise in “Gather Together in My Name.” I apologize for any confusion or misinformation I may have caused.
ChatGPT, you’re fired!
The experience reminded of this essay by Harry Frankfurt on the bullshit that our culture is based on. Now we have a bullshit engine.
Logo via Wikimedia Commons
First published by the author in her Substack blog A letter from Scotland
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