If you thought that the quality of ski journalism – in particular the branch devoted to the world of in-resort, Alpine skiing – was already in a tailspin, you’d better take another Xanax and tighten your seat belt. You’re about to be fed force-fed hogwash by the bucket.
The Era of AI is upon us, and one of its first casualties will be online “journalism.” A free program called ChatGPT – https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/ – can create a ski review on demand that seems indistinguishable from the usual brochure copy that decorates the pages of every supplier’s catalog. Lest you think I’m an alarmist given to over-statement, I have evidence of its abilities to share.
The reason the copy that ChatGPT’s AI engine can generate has the ring of truth to it, is that it’s mimicking what it’s found on the web. It scrounges around to find the copy that fits its brief, then either imitates it or lifts it outright. It doesn’t judge the truth of any claim; its only concern is that it fit the desired narrative.
To test the bot’s ability to create a credible ski review, an associate of mine with serious IT chops posed it two tasks: write a routine, positive review of the Blizzard Bonafide 97 and a separate, negative take on the same ski. It bears pointing out that the AI would find more positive claims about the Bonafide than negative, so it’s mining a richer vein than the negative slant.
Because AI doesn’t draw its wisdom from original sources but depends on previously posted content, it won’t be long before most of the content it’s plundering is of its own creation. All that’s necessary for nonsense to be exalted is that it be ubiquitous. The process is already well underway.
Here’s the first assignment my IT savant tasked ChatGPT’s AI to create:
INSTRUCTION: Write a 100-word article on the Blizzard Bonafide 97 ski.
The Blizzard Bonafide 97 is a high-performance ski designed for advanced skiers who want a versatile and stable ride on the mountain. With a 97mm waist width, the Bonafide is well-suited for a wide range of snow conditions, from groomers to powder. It features Blizzard’s Carbon Flipcore construction, which combines a wood core with carbon fiber reinforcements for a lightweight and responsive feel. The ski also has a medium-stiff flex pattern and a rockered tip and tail for improved float and maneuverability in soft snow. Overall, the Blizzard Bonafide 97 is a reliable choice for skiers who want a versatile and high-performing ski that can handle a variety of terrain and conditions.
I’ll get to the flip-side review in a minute, but first a couple of comments about this capsule review. Given the limitation of 100 words, it’s really quite good. It stays close to the point – that the Bonafide handles all snow conditions with aplomb – and adds some supporting details about construction and snow feel. There are no testimonials, which drains it of personality, but what it says is mostly correct. This ought to concern the brochure-copy writers of the world, who rarely exceed this standard. This shouldn’t surprise, as the AI is drawing on their work. What the sample above shows is the gap between man and machine has already been closed.
Now for the negative note:
INSTRUCTION: Write a 200-word article on why the Blizzard Bonafide 97 ski is not a good choice for advanced skiers.
The Blizzard Bonafide 97 may not be the best choice for advanced skiers for a few reasons. Firstly, the ski has a 97mm waist width, which is relatively narrow for an advanced ski. This may not provide enough stability and support for advanced skiers who are looking for a wider, more aggressive ski. Additionally, the Bonafide has a medium-stiff flex pattern, which may not be stiff enough for advanced skiers who are looking for a more precise and powerful ski.
Another issue with the Bonafide 97 is its rockered tip and tail. While this can be beneficial for improving float in soft snow, it can also make the ski less stable and less precise on hardpack and groomers. This may not be ideal for advanced skiers who are looking for a ski that can hold an edge and maintain a solid, stable feel at high speeds.
Overall, while the Blizzard Bonafide 97 may be a good ski for intermediate skiers or those who prefer a more forgiving and playful ride, it may not be the best choice for advanced skiers who are looking for a more aggressive and powerful ski. There are likely better options on the market for advanced skiers who want a ski that can handle higher speeds and more challenging terrain.
The most important take-away of this negative notice is that, since its premise is rubbish, its conclusions are, in a word, wrong. Note that AI didn’t judge whether the premise bore some relationship to the facts; it just presented unsubstantiated claims in a way that made them sound credible. The review consists of a string of conjectures validated by hazy negatives, as in, “this may not be ideal for advanced skiers,” and “there are likely better options.” No actual proof is provided as no such evidence actually exists.
Once it set off in the wrong direction, the AI had to work hard to rationalize a one-star review, coming up with such tripe as 97mm is relatively narrow for an advanced ski, or its off-base conclusion that the Bonnie is good for intermediate skiers looking for a forgiving and playful ride. But to quibble about the content of a blatantly specious “review” is a ridiculous exercise, not just because there’s no point in debating alternative “facts,” but because precious few negative reviews are likely to be spawned this way.
The only reason to publish any review anywhere on the web is to garner an affiliate fee for directing the poor, benighted reader to somewhere the item under review can be purchased, typically directly from the supplier or from Amazon. A negative review is only going to throw sand into this machinery, defeating the prime objective.
The problem with this particular unfavorable review isn’t that it’s wrong in almost every detail, it’s that it sounds just like most of the reviews you’ll find on the Net today. One of the many dangers of AI is that, as it becomes more and more commonplace, it will mine, mimic and regurgitate the status quo until its swill is indistinguishable from the status quo because it has become the status quo.
The Internet is already a cesspool of misinformation disguised as well-reasoned opinion. Self-anointed experts sans any actual expertise abound. AI’s first efforts may be rinsed of personality, but the prose is very much in line with the current crop of “expert advice” being doled out on the Internet every second of every day.
Henceforward, we won’t be able to tell the human posers from the machines who pickpocket their patois to create a patina of authenticity. Somewhere in this murk, copyright laws may be broken with such routine regularity that pilfering others’ prose will become the norm. Separating well-informed opinion from manufactured twaddle may prove too steep a hill to climb.
Before I bid my Dear Readers adieu, I should mention that my review of the 2023 Bonafide 97 runs to 438 carefully chosen words on Realskiers.com’s free, public site, and expands to over 800 words, plus data on ten scoring criteria, on our members’ subscription site. Memberships are still only $24.95 a year, and $19.95 for returning members.
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