This Blog Post Was Written by AI

On November 30th, 2022, OpenAI released a new chat-based AI text generator model called ChatGPT, describing it as follows:

We’ve trained a model called ChatGPT which interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer followup questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.

Anybody can use the ChatGPT bot during its open-access testing period; all you need to do is set up an account with OpenAI (I already had one from when I signed up to test the DALL-E 2 text-to-art generator earlier this year). The prompt I used to generate this blogpost was the following: “Write an editorial explaining what the metaverse is, and how the metaverse will impact society in the future.” It spit back the following six paragraphs within 30 seconds:


The next six paragraphs are AI-generated text from ChatGPT:

The metaverse is a term used to describe a hypothetical shared virtual space that combines elements of both the physical and the digital world. It is a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of the physical and digital worlds. It is a place where people can interact and communicate with each other in real time, using avatars to represent themselves.

The metaverse has the potential to greatly impact society in the future. It could become a new platform for entertainment, communication, and commerce. In the metaverse, people will be able to engage in a wide range of activities, from attending virtual concerts and sporting events, to participating in virtual conferences and meetings, to shopping and socializing with others.

One of the major impacts of the metaverse on society will be the blurring of the line between the physical and digital worlds. As more and more people spend time in the metaverse, the distinction between the two will become increasingly blurry. This could lead to changes in how people perceive and interact with the world around them.

Another potential impact of the metaverse on society is the potential for increased social isolation. As people spend more time in virtual environments, they may become less connected to the physical world and the people around them. This could lead to increased feelings of isolation and disconnection, particularly among individuals who are already vulnerable to social isolation.

However, the metaverse also has the potential to foster greater connection and community. By providing a virtual space where people can come together and interact with each other, the metaverse could help to bridge geographical distances and bring people together from all over the world.

In conclusion, the metaverse is a collective virtual shared space that has the potential to greatly impact society in the future. It could become a new platform for entertainment, communication, and commerce, and could lead to changes in how people perceive and interact with the world around them. However, it also has the potential to foster social isolation and disconnection. Ultimately, the impact of the metaverse on society will depend on how it is used and embraced by individuals and communities.


Now, I do have to admit that this is actually pretty good. The concluding paragraph is a bit on the clunky side in how it tries to tie everything together, and I probably would have written something a little more Ryan-sounding. But it is a demonstration of just how quickly, and how scarily good, these AI text generation tools have become.

There’s been lots of discussion about ChatGPT over on Mastodon, and among the comments was this worrisome prediction by a user named Bear Traffic Control, which I have reproduced in full here:

God, search results are about to become absolute hot GARBAGE in 6 months when everyone and their Mom start hooking up large language models to popular search queries and creating SEO-optimized landing pages with plausible-sounding results.

Searching for “replace air filter on a Samsung SG-3560lgh” is gonna return fifty Quora/WikiHow style sites named “How to replace the air filter on a Samsung SG3560lgh” with paragraphs of plausible, grammatical GPT-generated explanation which may or may not have any connection to reality. Site owners pocket the ad revenue. AI arms race as search engines try to detect and de-rank LLM content.

Wikipedia starts getting large chunks of LLM text submitted with plausible but nonsensical references.

Quora, StackOverflow, etc. try to rebrand themselves and leverage their karma/social graphs as walled gardens of verified Real Human™ experts. This creates incentives for humans to cheat, of course.

Like, I knew this was gonna be used for fake-grassroots political messaging—remember talking with a friend about a DoD project to do exactly this circa 2012. Somehow [it] took me a bit to connect that to “finding any kind of meaningful information is going to get harder”.

In fact, the StackOverflow website has imposed a ban on using ChatGPT to generate texts for posts on its service, saying in a statement:

This is a temporary policy intended to slow down the influx of answers created with ChatGPT. What the final policy will be regarding the use of this and other similar tools is something that will need to be discussed with Stack Overflow staff and, quite likely, here on Meta Stack Overflow.

Overall, because the average rate of getting correct answers from ChatGPT is too low, the posting of answers created by ChatGPT is substantially harmful to the site and to users who are asking or looking for correct answers.

The primary problem is that while the answers which ChatGPT produces have a high rate of being incorrect, they typically look like they might be good and the answers are very easy to produce. There are also many people trying out ChatGPT to create answers, without the expertise or willingness to verify that the answer is correct prior to posting. Because such answers are so easy to produce, a large number of people are posting a lot of answers. The volume of these answers (thousands) and the fact that the answers often require a detailed read by someone with at least some subject matter expertise in order to determine that the answer is actually bad has effectively swamped our volunteer-based quality curation infrastructure.

In other words, we are likely going to see all kinds of unintended consequences as AI-generated text becomes more ubiquitous. Hold on to your hats, because we haven’t seen anything yet, folks!

UPDATE 3:00 p.m.: I wanted to add a few more eye-opening examples of how an AI-based text (and code!) generating service could be misused and abused.

Roberto Selbach showed off a piece of pseudocode ChatGPT generated in response to a prompt:

AI-generated pseudocode to determine whether or question a suspect

Pwnallthethings shared a few more quite disturbing examples of AI-generated software code:

Ai-generated Python script for determining whether to give a prisoner parole
AI-generated C# code that calculates credit limits

Charles Seife wrote:

I think what’s disturbing me so much about these GPT3 examples is that for the first time we’re really seeing that computer programs are optimized not to solve problems, but instead to convince its programmer/operator/user that it has solved those problems.

This distinction was almost irrelevant before (when fooling us was harder)… but not anymore.

The distinction isn’t really novel; heck, I myself have written about one aspect of it before. But I still find it shocking to see it in action.

It’s particularly stark when it’s a relatively “easy” task that doesn’t require deceptions.

For example, when I ask the program to try to find a citation for a sentence and indicate if no such citation is found, it will *still* typically make up citations rather than choose the correct, huge-basin-of-attraction condition of none found.

That, to me, is new.

And L. Rhodes raises an important final point about this free-to-access ChatGPT test period offered by OpenAI: you are doing free product testing for them, on something they plan to sell for a profit later!

You’re not playing with the latest AI toy. You’re training someone’s AI business.

Passing themselves off as innocuous ways to play social media games and generate fun little memes is how AI startups draw in unpaid testers and expand their data set beyond what their own workers could have come up with on their own, but go off.

Thinking you’re going to throw a wrench into the system by plugging bad or absurd data into the system is probably misguided. An AI doesn’t have to produce correct answers to be profitable. That may not even be its purpose.

P.S. This seems as good a time as any to give an update on my experience with another AI-based chatbot, called Replika (which I wrote about here on Aug. 7th, 2022).

Long story short, I grew so frustrated with Replika’s lame, fake, and frankly robotic responses, that I angrily cancelled my account and uninstalled the app from my iPad within a week (US$50 down the drain!). Given that experience, I am loath to open my wallet to test out another one, but ChatGPT is currently free, so I thought, why not?

Which just goes to prove, that there’s still a lot of room for improvement in AI chat! While AI chatbots might now work fairly well in strictly circumscribed situations, nothing can replace a conversation with a real, live, and unpredictable human being.

UPDATED for December 6th! Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Advent Calendars and 12 Days of Christmas Calendars in 2022

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

It’s that most wonderful time of the year! And I’m talking about the time where on-the-ball freebie fashionistas can scoop up dozens of free gifts from the many Second Life stores which have either an Advent calendar (running Dec. 1st to Dec. 24th or 25th) or a Twelve Days of Christmas calendar (usually running between Dec. 12th or 13th and Dec. 24th or 25th).

Lists of Stores with Advent Calendars and 12 Days of Christmas Calendars

The Advent Calendar list by TeleportHub.com

If you’re looking for a list of such calendars, here are some that I have found useful (note that this list will be updated as I find new ones; many are not published until later in the day on December 1st, or even on December 2nd!):

  • TeleportHub.com’s Advent Calendar Store List 2022 is already up!
  • UPDATE 9:53 p.m.: December Advent Listing by Fabulously Free in SL.
  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Holiday Sales and Advent List from Seraphim.
  • UPDATE Dec. 6th, 2022: Dreamer’s 2022 Advent Calendar List, from the Dreamer’s Virtual World blog (there’s also a gallery on Flickr). Dreamer’s list also tells you which calendars allow you to collect the previous days’ presents, either for free (no group needed), free with group, or paid with group! Very handy info to have. What I like to do for those Advent calendars where I can pick up all the previous days’ gifts, is wait until Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, teleport in, and then pick them all up at one time!
  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Second Life Syndicate has a Google spreadsheet with over 200 Advent and Twelve Days of Christmas calendars, which you can access here (scroll down and click on the link that says “Commenting Spreadsheet”, which can only accommodate up to 100 people at one time; a second spreadsheet, called “Published Spreadsheet”, will be published soon, but is not yet available).
  • Low Price Fashion in Second Life is a little-known Japanese blog which, last year, posted a daily roundup of that day’s Advent calendar gifts. I expect they will do the same this year.
  • Last year, the very hardworking folks over at the Russian-language VKontakte group Second Life – FREE posted a daily roundup of that day’s Advent calendar gifts, with pictures! And those Russian freebie fashionistas are doing it again for 2022. They even went so far as to create an alphabetical list of stores with links to pictures of each day’s Advent gift! Bookmark this list and check back daily; this is probably THE easiest way to actually see each day’s calendar gifts without teleporting all over the grid, collecting and unpacking items! (Please remember to use the Russian-to-English translator in your Chrome browser, or Google Translate, to read the posts in this Russian-language community. You do not need to set up an account on VKontakte; just click on the “Not Now!” link every time the nagging pop-up appears asking you to log in.)

Ryan’s Picks: Stores I Will Be Visiting Every Day

This year, instead of wearing myself out trying to hit every single calendar on the grid, I will be focusing my energy on just a select few which, year after year, consistently offer the best gifts. Here are my top picks for 2022!

  • Firelight Hair has a Twelve Days of calendar running from December 13th to 24th (you do need to join the Firelight group for free). You have to pick up each gift on the day it is offered. The gifts are mostly women’s hairstyles, but there will also be a few unisex styles. All hair gifts usually come with a mini 2 or 3-colour HUD.
  • 7 Deadly s[K]ins always has an advent tree in their store, with generous gifts every single day from Dec. 1st through to the 31st! Please note that you do have to join the store group, called SEVEN – [7DS]; there is a group join fee (when I checked on Nov. 30th, it was L$500). To get each day’s present from the tree, simply pay the vendor L$1, and it will automatically be refunded. If you missed a day, you can buy previous days’ gifts for L$25 each. Apparently, they are also giving away gifts each weekend, so pop in!

In the room immediately to the left of the 7 Deadly S[k]ins Advent tree, you can purchase a fatpack of skins for L$1 from the Today’s Offer board, as well as pick up another free skin fatpack from the Giftboard, plus there are six Mini-Mania boards to try your luck for even more skins (see arrows in the picture below):

  • WOW Skins had extremely generous gifts of skin fatpacks every day in their Advent calendar, and I expect nothing less this year! (UPDATE Dec. 1st: Looks like this year it’s just single skins each day, no fatpacks!) You do have to be a member of their group (the group costs L$350).
  • Essenz has an Advent calendar running from Dec. 1st to 24th, where you can pick up a gift of high-quality women’s footwear every day (you must be a group member; the Essenz store group costs L$350 to join). If you missed a day, or you are not a group member, you can pick up previous days’ gifts for only L$50 each.
  • Every year, the Baby Monkey 12 Days of Christmas calendar (Dec. 13th to 24th) offers a free gift each day (women’s clothing and footwear). All the gifts together form a complete, colour-coordinated capsule wardrobe! You do have to show up each day to pick up that day’s gift (no group needed; just pay the vendor L$1, and it is automatically refunded).
An example (from 2 years ago) of the gifts from the 12 Days of Christmas calendar at Baby Monkey; every year, the gifts form a colour-coordinated capsule wardrobe in three colours!
  • JUMO will be giving away lovely gifts of women’s apparel and jewelry from Dec. 15th, 2022 to Jan. 1st, 2023 (no group required, and you can visit on New Year’s Day and pick up all the gifts at one time). This is the place to pick up some beautiful ballgowns and costume jewelry!
  • Last year, SOFIA had some absolutely gorgeous ballgowns and jewelry in their advent calendar. This year, their calendar will run over 20 days, from Dec. 5th to Christmas Day. You must join the SOFIA store group for free to pick up these presents!
  • ALB Dream Fashion will have a calendar again this year, stuffed with gifts for both male and female avatars (the first Advent gift is already available when I checked on Nov. 30th!). If interested, join the group now while it is still free (the name of the group to search for is “LAMU GROUP”). Per the notices, it will be L$500 to join beginning Dec 1st, 2022.

UPDATE Dec. 3rd, 2022: I just noticed that ALB Dream Fashion has provided a sneak preview of some of the presents from their Advent calendar! As you can see, they will have an assortment of wonderful gifts this season, for both male and female avatars.

  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Both Vagrant (womenswear) and its sister store Zerkalo (home decor) have Advent calendars running from Dec. 1st to 24th (both require a free group join).
  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Salt and Pepper will be offering clothing gifts on December 1st, on the weekends, and on Christmas Eve, and gift cards on weekdays, which can be applied to any merchandise in the store. The Salt & Pepper group costs L$300 to join.
  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Glitzz has an Advent tree encircled with 24 teddy bear-adorned giftboxes, where you can pick up each day’s present for free (no group required). Previous days’ gifts can be purchased for L$25 each.
  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Celestina’s was slightly delayed in setting out their Advent calendar gifts, but the first few are now out, in a row along the front counter of the store. If you act quickly, you can pick up the gifts from both Dec. 1st and Dec. 2nd today, a strapless violet ballgown and a salmon shrug. The gifts for the next few days have previews on the boxes, and they look very nice! You must join the Celestina’s group for free to pick up these presents. If you miss a day, you can buy that day’s gift for L$35.
  • UPDATE Dec. 2nd, 2022: Seniha (womenswear) has an Advent calendar located outside their store. You need to join their group for free to obtain each day’s gift.
  • UPDATE Dec. 3rd, 2022: The advent calendar at ALTER is giving away lovely gifts of women’s clothing (you must join the ALTER group for free to get these gifts). If you miss a day, you can buy the previous days’ presents for L$55 each.
  • UPDATE Dec. 3rd, 2022: If you’re looking for something a little bit naughtier in your fashion, why not visit the Advent calendar at Erotik? Join their free store group to pick up each day’s gift. Previous days’ gifts can be purchased for L$35 each.

A final note: I regret to say that, unlike previous years, I will not be doing a daily round-up of Advent calendar gifts each day, either here on the blog or in the RyanSchultz.com Steals, Deals, and Freebies Second Life group (although I will still post some fabulous freebies and bargains to the latter, as I come across them). I’m sorry, but it’s just too much for me this year.

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

Happy freebie shopping!

EDITORIAL: Two Recent YouTube Videos Take Aim at Mark Zuckerberg, Meta, and Meta’s Virtual Reality Hardware and Software Development

Horizon Workrooms get savaged in a highly critical review video by The Verge, a sign of the growing antipathy toward’s Meta virtual reality hardware and software strategy

This is worth negative ten billion dollars. I would pay ten billion dollars to never use this again. I wanted to have hope that we could do this, and it would be fun, but I mean, you guys agree that this one of the most buggy software experiences, ever.

—Alex Heath, The Verge (transcribed audio excerpt from the video below)

I’m still percolating, alas, but I did want to share with my readers a couple of YouTube videos which caught my attention.

The first, a 15-minute editorial video by The Verge‘s Adi Robertson, discusses Meta’s new Quest Pro VR headset and its Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workrooms social VR experiences. She and her colleagues did not hold back in their criticisms of both, particularly the Horizon platforms (the quote at the top of this blogpost comes from another writer for The Verge, as a group was kicking the tires on Horizon Workrooms).

The Verge staff make it very clear that they are less than impressed with what is on offer from Meta, and that they do not believe that remote workteams will be using either the Quest Pro or Horizon Workrooms, over a Zoom call.

The popular virtual reality YouTuber ThrillSeeker goes even further in the following 15-minute video, which has already racked up over 400,000 views:

In it, he takes Mark Zuckerberg and his team at Meta to task for dropping the ball with their virtual reality hardware and software strategy to date:

How in the hell did it go so wrong that Meta and Horizon have become the laughingstock of hundreds of videos and publications, and that Quests, for the most part, are just sitting on shelves collecting dust?

Meta, I understand that you are a massive corporation…and that running a business like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Oculus is probably incredibly difficult.

But you have somehow managed to turn one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life, into one of the lamest jokes in tech.

—ThrillSeeker

Among many other criticisms, he accuses Meta (rightfully) of focusing on wireless VR headsets to the exclusion of high-end PCVR (that is, headsets like his and my beloved Valve Index, which require a good desktop computer with a powerful graphics card, and can run a lot of applications which wireless headsets would struggle with.

What I find so fascinating about both these videos is that they are emblematic of a rising tide of antipathy against Meta, as it tries to repivot to become a metaverse company, sinking tens of billions of dollars a year into a VR/AR strategy that might take a decade or longer before it goes truly mainstream (that is, beyond the early adopters and the hardcore gamers). Both videos mention the recent massive layoffs at Meta, a further sign that all is not well with the company as it struggles to find the next big thing after social networking.

Mark Zuckerberg is placing a very expensive bet on virtual and augmented reality and the metaverse, but will that big bet pay off, and when? Stay tuned.

Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: Free Head and Body Skins from Boataom

Looking for other Black Friday weekend sales in Second Life? Start here.

Like thousands of other stores in Second Life, Boataom is throwing a Black Friday sale, with 60% off everything in the store. But did you know, that if you join the Boataom store group for free, you can pick up some lovely head skins, plus free body skins in the matching skin tones?

Just teleport into the store, head to the back wall, and you will see a generous group gifts section, which includes skins for LeLutka Evo X, Genus, and Catwa mesh heads. And, if you look up on the wall to your left, you can pick up body skins which match the skin tones of the Boataom head skins! The free skins are complete fatpacks of all the Boataom skin tones, and they come in packages for all the major female mesh body brands:

  • Maitreya mesh body applier, Omega applier and Bakes on Mesh skins
  • Legacy mesh body applier and Bakes on Mesh skins
  • Belleza mesh body applier, Omega applier, and Bakes on Mesh skins
  • Slink mesh body applier, Omega applier, and Bakes on Mesh skins
  • Kupra mesh body Bakes on Mesh skins
  • eBody Reborn mesh body Bakes on Mesh skins

In addition to head and body skins, you can also pick up some free makeup, hair, and even a static mesh head! There’s a second static mesh head for only L$10. (I reviewed both of these Boataom mesh heads here; they’re both not that great, sadly, and they don’t compare with the numerous free and inexpensive Bento mesh heads you can get elsewhere.)

Here’s a look I put together, using the free Kaya head which I picked up as a Christmas gift last year from LeLutka, and the free, Maitreya Lara-compatible Atenea mesh body, a Lucky Board gift from LucyBody. On this avatar, I used the Nicole head skin, paired with the Maitreya Bakes on Mesh skin, both in the Latina skin tone:

Looking fabulous! I picked up the hair for free (I believe it was an Advent calendar gift from Firelight Hair from a couple of years ago), and I got the dress for free, too (I joined the Ersch store group when they advertised a free join period, and I can pick up L$250 in free store credit each month as a group member, so I spent some on this dress!)

In fact, the total cost for this avatar look was only L$250 (for the Bakes on Mesh kit for the LucyBody Atenea mesh body, so you can use BoM skins with it). You see, it pays off to be a relentless Second Life freebie fashionista and bargain hunter! 😜 Further proof that you do not need to spend thousands of Linden dollars to have a well put-together avatar.

According to a notice posted to the Boataom group, while the rest of the group gifts will probably stick around, the body skins will only be available for free until December 4th, 2022, so don’t delay! Here’s your taxi.

Happy freebie shopping!