AI and Wonder

Published 2023-12-27 by Seth Larson
Reading time: 1 minute

On Christmas Day, Brandt Bucher, a CPython core developer, created a wonderful thing. Brandt wrote a pull request description for the new copy-and-patch JIT compiler for CPython in the style of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” that describes the changes being made (with references!) and rhymes all the way through. Truly a work of art!

This work undoubtedly took a while to complete and was a source of joy for many people who read the whole thing. This work of art received hundreds of reactions on GitHub, was #1 on HackerNews with 260+ points, and a bunch of love when I shared the URL on Mastodon.

Personal opinions inbound! Vote in this poll before proceeding with the article.

Then I saw a comment that implied being able to have this sort of poem on every pull request might be desirable, or “even more amazing”, and could be done using AI. To experiment with what that might feel like I fired up everyone's favorite GPT and provided the following prompt as input:

Create a rhyming poem in the style of "A Visit from St Nicholas" about adding a Just-in-Time compiler to CPython

Sure enough, in a few moments I received a satisfactory answer including no less than two “jubilant cheers” from Guido. I felt no sense of wonder in reading the generated poem, but with some editing its unclear whether I would know that a single instance wasn't created using a tool instead of by hand. If there were thousands of these works being created within seconds though it would not be hard to figure out that AI was involved.

Wonder or awe is a deeply personal feeling and people experience it differently. It's a feeling that appears to have positive effects on humans, so I am dismayed by the diminished sense of wonder caused by the direction that some digital art is taking. There are knock-on effects too, attempts to blend in AI works amongst human works makes it more difficult than ever to believe or appreciate what you see on the internet at first glance.

This is only my own opinion and there will likely be varied thoughts on this phenomenon. Regardless, I'll continue to support the artists that I enjoy the most and highlighting wondrous works created by humans.

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This work is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0