On ChatGPT, Loneliness, and some other stuff

Hello friends. My reading has been desultory, at best. All I really do these days is program computers and think about computer programming. On Thursday or Friday, a former high school classmate of mine left a comment saying I should try using Chat-GPT. I have been using it all weekend. IT HAS BEEN INCREDIBLE.

Like every other writer on the internet, I logged into Chat-GPT right after it was announced and told it to write some stories and satisfied myself that I was a better writer than it. But I am definitely not a better coder than it. Look, I learned how to code maybe fifteen days ago, but using Chat GPT I successfully accessed the Google Calendar API, downloaded all my wife’s events and put them into a note in obsidian, formatted properly so I can read them. I finally know when my wife will be out of town.

BUT, I did this using some off-the-shelf scripts that I only had a free trial for. This was enterprise software and I didn’t want to pay enterprise prices. So I was like, Chat GPT can you make me programs that do the same thing, but only using the native cmdlets. And it took a day or two, but we did it! Eighty percent of the credit belongs to the AI, but the other 20 percent was me.

I am genuinely in awe of this technology. It is certainly the greatest technological advance since the iPhone. Possibly greater, since the iPhone was something we understood (a better Blackberry), which this is basically magic. I’ve been using it like mad ever since. It’s still not a great writer, but I’ve been chatting to it in old English, or as we call it, Aenglisc, to try and improve my old english learning. Have also been discussing other scripts and things we can automate. Have subscribed to the service and now can send about a hundred messages a day to Chat-GPT 4, the next model, which is much more powerful. The outputs aren’t necessarily better, but it takes direction much better, so you can produce outputs that are more exactly what you need.

The software has its flaws–it sometimes tells me to do things in ways that simply aren’t possible. It doesn’t know everything. It insisted to me that our script was perfect, and for some reason I just hadn’t authorized the API correctly and that’s why I wasn’t getting all my wife’s events (I was only seeing about half), but looking in the GCal API documentation I realized it’s programmed to only give you about 200 results at a time. To get more, you need to re-run the query using the NextPageToken it gives you the first time you ask. But once I explained all this to ChatGPT it just re-ran everything and produced a fully functioning revision like that.


This technology is going to change the world. I don’t know how. It could put a lot of programmerrs out of work, or it could dramatically expand the number of programmers the world needs. I genuinely don’t know what tasks will be automated and what won’t.

What I realized was that a lot of people try to use AI to help them at what they’re best at: writing, research, teaching–whatever their metier happens to be. And it’s not great at those things. But it’s excellent at improving upon the skills you’re still developing. With ChatGPT I’m probably still no match for a skilled programmer, but I can, in one hour, do things it would’ve taken un-assisted Naomi twenty hours to do.

Moreover, it’s an incredible learning tool, because it’s not really a shortcut. First it explains where you went wrong, and, second, at some point IT goes wrong, and you need to figure out where. But it usually goes wrong in relatively simple things–stuff any dumb-dumb ought to know, like that you can’t use a .Net archive in Powershell 7. It’s pretty cool.

Almost everyone I know in the writing world is an AI skeptic. They think it’s gonna ruin the world. And they’re probably right. But it’s also REALLY fun. It’s just FUN to learn new things and do things you couldn’t do. Like if you could wear flubber shoes that would let you jump twenty feet, then basketball as an institution would be ruined, but when YOU played basketball it would be 10x as fun.

My takeaway is that I don’t know where AI is going, but if you want to enjoy the next twenty or thirty years, and have fun and not just be afraid, then it makes sense to head to chat.openai.com and get to work.

As a sidenote, on the writing front I do think AI has a lot to offer. ChatGPT 4 is incredibly sophisticated–if you give it detailed directions, it can compose fairly detailed scenes. I used it a bit to develop ideas for a novel proposal I’m kicking around. I told it to write a scene based on the following plot:

Anju tells Raj to come into the dressing room at the thrift store, to opine on whether the shorts she’s gotten look good. They actually don’t, they’re way too short and have this odd fringe embroidered on them and don’t fit her butt quite right, but Raj doesn’t know how to put it because Anju is also in a bralette and her their proximity is making Raj really uncomfortable because of how attracted he is to her. Anju keeps asking him to be honest, but when Raj is finally honest, Anju gets angry and puts on her clothes and storms out. During the talk, Raj gets sweaty and uncomfortable: create an extended metaphor to describe his body reactions, maybe comparing him to being transformed slowly into stone. The dressing rooms also aren’t that private–the doors don’t lock–and the thrift store is full of loud people, including kids from their school, whose voices interrupt their conversation.

The scene it wrote isn’t perfect, but it does develop the stone statue theme quite well. Then I told it to rewrite the scene as if Jonah Hill was giving a monologue about it. I told Chat GPT to age the scene down a little, and to add an interaction outside the dressing room–some kids from their school whooping it up.

All of this was oddly in sync with how I conceptualize writing. I tend to think that the situations, characters, and motivations create the writing, not the other way around. And sometimes the words get in the way of what’s underneath. By describing scenes in paragraph form like this, I think it’s possible to get a lot closer to the core of the story. The writing itself that ChatGPT produces is a bit stiff and unearthly–I wouldn’t use it directly in my work. But as a conceptual tool, it was really useful. This morning I thought of a different idea and I outlined the whole book in an eight page synopsis, using paragraphs like the above (but much less detailed) to go through scene by scene and chapter by chapter. I like it! Maybe in my next incarnation I’ll be an outliner

Currrently Reading:

  • You Will Find Your People by Lane Moore – Once upon a time I wanted the theme of this journal to be ‘finding friends as an adult’. I even changed the theme and name to TheWarOnLoneliness. But I realized that I didn’t know enough about the topic. I never really mastered the stage where you turn an acquaintance or casual friend into a true intimate. Almost invariably, my closest friendships come through promotion. For instance, I’ve had a casual fan who’s been reading my blog since at least 2016. A few years ago, she reached out on Twitter, and we started talking. Now we text at least every other day! Or, take my book club. They’re relatively close friends, and it has one person I knew in college, but reconnected with in the last five years, another who took a class (taught by a friend of mine) where they read a story of mine and he reached out to me, and two other people who I met at the same random house party four years ago and invited to join the book club. Very, very slow process, becoming friends with me. But I can only do this because I live in San Francisco, and half the town went to college with me, so I have a lot of fallbacks, and I don’t feel too desperate for new friends. I still don’t really know how you land up in a new town and make intimate friends–my instinct is to say it’ll take eight years. But Lane Moore has more idea than I do! Or at least is willing to tell funny stories about it.
  • Crisis of the Negro Intellectual by Harold Cruse – Not exactly out of print, but definitely not the most in-print book I’ve seen either. I’ve only read the first third of the book, but the summary of this 1967 polemic is that most Black intellectuals are integrationists: they want to assimilate into and succeed in white society. But this separates them from the mass of Black people and Black culture. However, on the other side, the Black nationalists believe in something inherently unrealistic: the structural conditions of America make it impossible to truly found a nation inside a nation. Which is to say, you can’t truly have a nation unless you have sovereignty. So the crisis becomes, how can we develop and advance our distinctly Black culture within an overall nation that is dominated by white people? It’s a bit of a conundrum, but I assume there’s a solution somewhere in here.
  • Selected Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley – Haunting. I highlighted this passage from Adonais:

He will awake no more, oh, never more!—
Within the twilight chamber spreads apace
The shadow of white Death, and at the door
Invisible Corruption waits to trace
His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place;
The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe
Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface
So fair a prey, till darkness, and the law
Of change, shall o’er his sleep the mortal curtain draw.

Comments (



  1. William

    Yes, playing basketball with Flubber shoes is a great analogy, for those of us old enough to remember Flubber. For the last month or so I’ve been going around trying to tell people that seriously, ChatGPT is amazing and it’s going to change the world. But if you’re not actually trying to *do* anything with it, you are just like, “okay, write me a poem” and the poem is *alright* but it’s still like “okay, fine, whatever.”

    But, as you write in this post, when you are using it with the mindset of collaborating on something like a programming task, that’s when you understand how incredible it is. So, yeah, glad you liked it!

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