Interview with the Vampire

Getting ChatGPT to write for you is all the rage nowadays, so I asked it to “write a blog post in a conversational style about starting the new year after returning to Edinburgh from Australia, and referring to a photo you took from a window seat on a flight over northeast USA at night”. Here’s what it burped out…

Hey there!

I hope you’re all doing well and that the new year is treating you well so far. I recently returned to Edinburgh from Australia and it’s been quite the transition. But one thing that made it a little easier was the flight back home.

As I was flying over the northeastern United States at night, I managed to snap a photo from my window seat that was just breathtaking. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was one of those moments where you just stop and take it all in. The city lights below looked like stars from up high and it was a reminder of just how small we all are in the grand scheme of things. It was a humbling experience and it made me appreciate the beauty of the world around us even more.

I think sometimes we can get so caught up in our daily lives that we forget to stop and appreciate the little things. And that’s why moments like that are so important. They remind us to take a step back and just be in the moment.

As I start this new year in Edinburgh, I’m reminded of that moment on the flight and I’m making a conscious effort to take a step back and appreciate the beauty around me. Whether it’s a sunset over the city or a simple walk in the park, I’m going to make a point to take it all in.

I challenge you to do the same. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty around you and make the most of the new year ahead.

Thanks for reading!


Despite its cheesy, breezy platitudes, it’s not wrong; my photos of the lights of Manhattan and Boston didn’t do them justice, and I did enjoy that first hour after taking off from Newark: the night was clear, with the full moon reflecting in Massachusetts’ and Maine’s rivers and bays as we passed over them, until the last scattered settlements disappeared into the darkness somewhere north of Newfoundland. But I’m not going to challenge you to “take a moment””: for one thing, missing your connection at LAX and having to catch a later flight to Newark, with your next connection window shrinking from three hours to half an hour, doesn’t really help you appreciate the beauty around you, although I did appreciate being only a few gates away from my next flight and not having to go through security again. When the United app pinged me that boarding had commenced for my Edinburgh flight before I’d had a chance to get out of my seat on the previous one, I braced myself for having to spend an unscheduled day in New Jersey. Instead, I made it back to Edinburgh on time, and to my genuine surprise even my suitcase did.

Anyway, as I was flying over the northeastern United States at night, I managed to snap a photo from my window seat that was just breathtaking. Several, in fact: one is on the sidebar this month, and here are some more (click through for a gallery):

Flying over the northeastern U.S.
I think this must be Biddeford in Maine.


To judge from Twitter, ChatGPT has caused panic in higher education, although as someone who once dealt with academic misconduct cases I’d say its attractiveness to desperate students is only one more step on a road we’re already well along; the plagiarism possibilities of Google and online essay mills are already vast, despite the widespread use by universities of detection tools like TurnItIn. Students already have to ask themselves whether they’re at university to learn, or if all that matters is getting a degree by any means necessary; that’s a question of one’s values, not of whether one has the means to cheat.

It seems likely that ChatGPT-produced prose is already creeping into assignments. Rather than attempting to turn back the tide, some teachers are devising assessments that require the use of AI tools, with students being asked to improve and enhance their outputs. ChatGPT on its own is unlikely to match the kind of writing that does very well, or the kind that doesn’t score well at all: both are more distinctive than it seems to manage. I saw its middling performance in one of my first experiments with it late last year, when I asked it to “write a limerick about artificial intelligence”:

There once was a machine so grand / It could understand any command / With AI so advanced / It seemed quite enhanced / But some thought it was just a sham.

It’s the sort of verse that might satisfy a reader only passingly familiar with limericks, but not one who reads a lot of them. I’m sorry, Dave, I’m afraid I can’t rhyme very well, and my metre is off.

After dallying with DALL-E last summer, I assembled a portfolio of AI-generated images of Edinburgh, prompting it to produce scenes of the city at different times of year with a view to using them as this year’s sidebar images. The results, although full of the usual uncanny valley effects we’ve come to expect, captured the essence of Edinburgh landscape photography, the stuff of printed calendars, tourist snaps, and even some of my own photos over the years. But I decided I didn’t want an entire year of my personal blog represented by the automated artistic equivalent of an online essay mill.

I can still see the fun in playing with DALL-E, or ChatGPT, just as it’s fun to play with the Internet Anagram Server. But presenting their results as art or as writing of my own—as work that shares my creativity with the world—would require more intermediate steps than choosing among generated images and cropping them to size. Without a greater sense of purpose—a creative rationale of one’s own—where’s the art in it? What are we bringing to the transaction, beyond experimenting with different kinds of prompt and a bit of rewriting? Are we all just to be interviewers and copy-editors now?

There was once a computer so grand, / It could figure out any command. / With AI so advanced, / It appeared quite enhanced, / But some reckoned its output was bland.

I’d rather keep using this site to share my own images, and my own words, unless they’re clearly marked as someone or something else’s by a link or a reference to their source. So, while I expect I haven’t used DALL-E and ChatGPT for the last time, I won’t be presenting anything made with them as my own until there’s clearly more of me in it than them.

I’m making a conscious effort to take a step back. I challenge you to do the same, and to make the most of the new year ahead.

Thanks for reading!

An oil painting in the style of Van Gogh of Vincent Van Gogh as a vampire, with a beard and his long canines bared, and bats in the background, by DALL-E
Ceci n’est pas mon art.

22 January 2023 · Art