Credit for the idea behind this post goes to my good friend Leon Hadar, a foreign policy analyst always worth reading. He recently decided that he’d heard so much about Chat GPT – the new artificial intelligence software that enables users to produce everything from research papers to works of art and music simply by making a request with some key search terms – that he decided to try it for himself. (To date, it’s free.)
For reasons that should be obvious, this program has educators and anyone who earns income from creating content scared witless. Even someone like me, who writes as a hobby, has reasons for concern. After all, if actual and potential readers can access the information and analysis I try to provide without visiting RealityChek, then who needs RealityChek?
So Leon recently asked Chatp GPT to write “a column in the style of Leon Hadar.” He found the results, which came in seconds “unbelievable” (evidently in a good way).
Leon’s experiment inspired me to try one of my own, but I was not so blown away by the results, or even close. In fact, I was surprised at how many major mistakes the program made.
Here’s the response I got (in seconds) to my request to “Write an essay in the style of Alan Tonelson”:
“It is time for America to wake up and realize the threat that China poses not only to our economy, but to our very way of life. For too long, we have allowed China to take advantage of our open markets and weak trade policies, resulting in the loss of millions of American jobs and the erosion of our manufacturing base.
“China’s rise as a global economic power has been nothing short of spectacular. In just a few decades, it has transformed itself from a poor, agrarian society into the world’s second largest economy. But this rapid growth has come at a steep price for the United States and other nations.
“China’s economic success has been built on a foundation of unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, and a blatant disregard for intellectual property rights. The Chinese government has used state-owned enterprises and subsidies to dominate key industries, such as steel and solar panels, and has used its control of its domestic market to shut out foreign competitors.
“The result has been a massive trade deficit with China, which has cost the United States millions of jobs in manufacturing and other industries. In addition, China’s disregard for intellectual property rights has allowed it to steal American technology and know-how, giving it an unfair advantage in the global marketplace.
“But the threat from China is not just economic. It is also strategic and military. China is rapidly building up its military capabilities, particularly in the areas of naval and air power, in order to challenge American dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. It is also using its economic leverage to gain influence and control over other nations, particularly in the developing world.
“The United States must take strong and decisive action to counter the threat from China. We must use all available tools, including trade tariffs and other penalties, to level the playing field and protect American workers and businesses. We must also work with our allies and partners to counter China’s strategic and military ambitions.
“But most importantly, we must invest in our own economy and our own people. We must invest in education, infrastructure, and research and development in order to ensure that we remain competitive in the global economy. We must also reform our immigration policies to attract and retain the best and brightest talent from around the world.
“In short, we must be willing to take bold action to defend our economic and strategic interests and to ensure that America remains the leader of the free world. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the threat from China and the consequences will be dire for our nation.”
Certainly, the software captured my major overall worries about China’s rise (though in very generalized form), and the urgency with which I view the threats it poses.
But as RealityChek regulars know, I don’t view “investing in our own economy etc” as being more important for countering China than using tariffs. As I see it, both domestic and international responses are essential. Moreover, I’m completely unconcerned with “leveling the playing field” as opposed to doing whatever is needed to restore cutting edge U.S. industrial and technological competitiveness – whether this approach conforms to some abstract notion of fairness or not.
I’m fine with tweaking U.S. immigation policies to attract more of the world’s genuine geniuses, but believe that the real key to winning the so-called global talent war is developing the almost criminally neglected potential talent available right here at home among our 330 million people.
Regarding China’s use of “its economic leverage to gain influence and control.over other nations, particularly in the developing world,” my views are much more nuanced. If Beijing could call major shots by big developed economies in Western Europe and East Asia, that would clearly undermine American security and prosperity. Remaining kingpin of the Western Hemisphere is essential, too, for Monroe Doctrine-type reasons. And some third world countries are sources of key minerals.
But lots of developing countries in particular are little more than failed states to varying degrees, Therefore, they’re simply not worth trying to control. Much more important, even when it comes to competing with China for influence in places where it does currently count, I’d put much more emphasis than at present on America trying to maximize its own already considerable economic and strategic independence than on trying to win popularity contests around the world.
Similarly, I see no intrinsic value in the United States ensuring that it “remains the leader of the free world.” I simply want it to retain the power and wealth to promote and defend whatever international interests that it deems vital, and that can’t be secured with the kinds of domestic measures over which it will always have more control.
Finally, although I asked Chat GPT to write an essay in my “style,” I don’t see any resemblance here to my own particular voice. The prose is competent at best – nothing more.
At the same time, it is competent – demonstrating an ability that’s beyond that of most humans I’ve encountered. And it got lots right.
As a result, I can easily imagine a day in which Chat GPT or another piece of artificial intelligence software will be able to generate a piece of writing indistinguishable from the Real McCoy. I can even foresee it producing posts and articles on subjects with which I haven’t dealt, in the process using exactly the kind of reasoning and evidence I’d use.
Judging from what I just got from Chat GPT, that day is still a ways off. Still, I can’t help but wonder how far.