The figurative language of Farhad Manjoo….

Reading time: About 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about several similes from American journalist Farhad Manjoo…

Don’t panic or anything, but machines are learning how to write.

New artificial intelligence software, called GPT-3, has been created by an artificial-intelligence research lab based in San Francisco known as OpenAI, and a few hundred software developers have been testing the product this summer.

It is said to be the the most powerful “language model” ever created.

A recent post in the New York Times by columnist Farhad Manjoo (pictured above) — under the headline “How Do You Know a Human Wrote This?” — evaluates the product. Manjoo was a staff writer for Slate magazine from 2008 to 2013 and left Slate in September 2013 to join The Wall Street Journal as a technology columnist. He replaced columnist David Pogue at The New York Times in January 2014 and has been a contributor to National Public Radio since 2009.

Manjoo’s conclusion about GPT-3? He said that it,”is so good at aping human writing that it sometimes gave me chills.”

Still I have to wonder if a computer would have been able to produce the same figurative language that Manjoo did. Here are my favourite examples:

  • How much better would my life be — how much better would my editor’s life be, to say nothing of the poor readers — if I could ask an all-knowing machine to suggest the best way to start this column? It would surely beat my usual writing process, which involves clawing at my brain with a rusty pickax in the dim hope that a few flakes of wisdom and insight might, like dandruff, settle on the page.
  • Writing is something of an inexplicable trick, and it feels, like telling a joke or making a soufflé, like an inviolably human endeavor.
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