Dean Clough

December 5, 2022

Portico Darwin: Leave The Writing To Us?


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Happy Monday and let's turn our attention to the gee-whiz world of AI - artificial intelligence - and take a look at a tool that uses it in a way that I find quite disturbing.  At least as someone that loves to write the old-fashioned way.  You know, with my own brain and emotions.

The tool is called Lex, and via its cloud-based artificial intelligence engine, it does the writing for you.  

I will demonstrate with a generic example, and then use a couple of my own fave topics to more vividly illustrate its insidious nature.

Lex is easy to use.  Once your account is approved (it's free), you simply go to its site, type a topic about which you'd like to write, and then enter 3 "+" characters.

For example, I typed "Write a blog about concussions in the NFL" and then "+++" and it gave me this - by itself.

Concussions in the NFL are a hot topic right now.  Just this past season, there were several high-profile cases of players sustaining concussions, and the issue has been thrust into the spotlight.

There’s no doubt that concussions are a serious issue in the NFL.  They can lead to long-term health problems, and in some cases, they can even be fatal.  So what can be done to reduce the number of

I hit "+++" again, and it just kept going.

concussions in the NFL?

There are a few different things that can be done.  First, the NFL can continue to work on improving its concussion protocols.  These protocols are designed to protect players from sustaining concussions, and they’ve been slowly but steadily improving over the years.

Second, the NFL can invest in better helmet technology.  The helmets that players wear today are much better than the helmets of even a few years ago, but there

So you get the idea.  The writing created is obviously not brilliant, but that isn't the point.  This thing can create entirely new works by itself.  For good or ill. 

For laughs, here's what Lex's AI generated on a few of my most beloved topics.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and forget to take a moment to appreciate the good things.  That’s why I’m taking a moment today to express my gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life.

I’m grateful for my health, for my family and friends, and for the roof over my head. I’m grateful for my job, for my . . .
The Dolomites are one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world.  They are located in northeastern Italy and are part of the Southern Limestone Alps.  The Dolomites are known for their unique geological features and stunning scenery.
Porcupine Tree is a band that is truly unique. They have a sound that is both heavy and delicate, and they are able to create atmosphere like no other band.  Their albums are all incredibly different, yet all retain the same feeling of melancholy and beauty.
There's no denying that San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  With its rolling hills, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and Mediterranean climate, it's no wonder that so many people are drawn to it.

Unfortunately, San Francisco is also a city with a lot of problems.  Overcrowding, homelessness, and sky-high cost of living are just a few of the issues that make life here difficult.

Again:  a computer wrote every single word of quoted content above.  Mostly bland, but with no egregious errors, and there are some gems in there:  I like the adjectives used for Porcupine Tree especially.

But you, dear reader, can rest assured:  I will keep doing the heavy lifting here at Portico Darwin, and do my own writing, thank you very much.  Because for kicks, I went all of the way, and asked Lex to "write a long magazine article about the Canadian rock band Rush". 

What came back was Bogus.  Here are some fake facts included in what Lex wrote about Rush:

In 1974, they employed Neil Peart as a drummer, and Rush was born.
Rush formed in 1968, and released their first album - in 1974, as stated - but of course with John Rutsey as the drummer.

The band truly gained traction however, with their third album, 2112.
Third album?  2112 was their fourth album.

By the end of the decade, the band had reached their commercial peak and achieved widespread success with their fifth album, Moving Pictures.
Jeez - wrong, wrong, wrong.  Moving Pictures, their ninth album, was released in February 1981 and their commercial peak was certainly just starting at that point.

The tiny, tiny, tiny bit I know about artificial intelligence tells me this is not very good performance?  Lex wrote new material on its own that is demonstrably incorrect.  But it appears real enough - a Rush neophyte would take what Lex wrote as fact.  If you'd like to read the "long magazine article" Lex produced on Rush, it's here.

So, going forward, maybe it's worthwhile to ask yourself:  "Who or what is writing the online content I'm consuming?"


It's no coincidence that this blog goes into AI as well as Rush. 

Because this past Saturday, I had the singular pleasure of surprising one of my oldest and best friends, who also happens to be a pro in both AI and the boys from Toronto.  I flew to Phoenix, and I joined Steven Simon's 60th birthday golf trip to Scottsdale.  I had conspired with his way-better half, Stacey, and his ne'er-do-well brother, the funnyman Joey "Bishop" Simon, to surprise him at their condo. 

It was a real treat seeing Steven's heartfelt reaction to me pouring bubbly in their kitchen as he emerged all fresh-faced (for a 60 YO) from his post-golf shower.  It was big laughs and love all around, with the added bonus of getting to hang for the first time with Joey's dynamic beauty of a wife, Marin. 

We went from there to a Killer Japanese meal, quite a few drinks, and one heck of a memorable evening.  I was honored to be a part of it and it was also just plain fun.

Here's to many more, my friend.
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And Steven, let me nag you about something we discussed Saturday night.

Thank you to any one that is reading this newsletter.


Just because I'm still doing all of the writing around here doesn't mean I won't borrow liberally from quality sources.  And I (of course) will always remain diligent in my quest for new and exciting music for KLUF.  So here's The Economist and their list of the best albums of 2022.  It is as diverse as the evergreen publication itself.  And shocker:  not one Darwin Award nominee among them.
Ezra Collective | Where I'm Meant To Be
Fatoumata Diawara | Maliba
Hot Chip | Freakout/Release*
Marcus Mumford | (self-titled)

I just did a pass through all of these recently, and I've starred what I've added to my own collection; YMMV and there's a lot of worthy stuff across the list (except for Beyoncé, of course). 

But OMFG watch out for Soul Glo and Diaspora Problems!  Paging Kevin Monza:  is this a go-to in the mosh pits you frequent?  Not sure I've heard anything quite this harsh in f'ing decades.  

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