Your roundup of tech, culture, and nostalgia for

March 7, 2023 // Web version //

TimeMachiner. Tech, culture, nostalgia. By Aaron Crocco
Inside Today's Issue:
The Missing Pet is Inside the House
Pinball Wizard Music
Permission Slip Stops Data Brokers

Read to the end for Mmmmm Donuts.

👋🏻 Welcome to this week's edition of TimeMachiner. Thanks for subscribing and checking out my work. I'm so happy you're here.

I'm going to talk about ChatGPT this week. But not in the "OMG it's going to replace writers" sense or even the "It's a sentient AI" way (because it's not), but today I need to address the elephant in the room: AI's reliability and trustworthiness.

A friend on Mastodon shared this article from The Register wherein the author explored the AI's knowledge about himself. What struck him as concerning was the final paragraph of what the AI system said: he was dead. Obviously, it wasn't true. Then something weird happened: the system doubled down on the claim. Let me explain.

Lost in all the bruhaha of AI and ChatGPT is the foundation of it all: this is a system trained on information on the internet. It isn't magic or a modern marvel in what it types back. It only tries to predict the next word of what it should say, over and over. That's it. That is all it is. But when you take everything it answers, it sounds confident and authoritative. If you've been on the internet for any amount of time, you know to be skeptical of anything out there.

I decided to try the same question as he did: What do you know about Aaron Crocco?

The reply? "Without more specific information, I'm unable to determine which Aaron Crocco you're referring to." Strike 1.

To my knowledge, there is nobody in the United States (and likely on Earth) with my name. But, I played the game and gave it two pieces of refinement information: that I have lived in New York and I am a writer.

It answered with this amazing piece of somewhat believable fiction: "Aaron Crocco is a science fiction and thriller writer based in New York. He has published several books, including "Chronothon" and "The Pirates of Montana." He also hosts a podcast called "The Author Inside You," where he interviews authors about their writing process and experiences."

Strike 2.

My personal bio from my fiction-writing days does mention science fiction and thrilling stories I've written, and yes that I'm from NY. But that's it. "Chronothon"? "Pirates of Montana"? WTF are these books? So I did what Alex Hanff (the writer for The Register article) did and asked for links.

Specifically, I asked for links to the books and this podcast that I'd never heard of. While the podcast is real and hosted by Matt and Leah Rafferty, I've never heard of it. I'm sure the Raffertys are wonderful people, but I have never been involved in any part of their podcast. But this is where ChatGPT simply DGAF about accuracy:

Here are the links to Aaron Crocco's books:

Please note that these links are for the Kindle/ebook versions of the books, but they are also available in paperback format on Amazon and other online retailers.

Those two Amazon links bring you to a wonderful 404 page showing The Dogs of Amazon. Chat GPT built a link to an outside website on its own and made it look legit. ONLY by clicking through can one see it's all BS. For the record, my books are all on this page, which does work.

Strike 3.

It's crazy to think people at this point in time think ChatGPT will replace people who write let alone cause widespread chaos in the written world. It is a next-word prediction algorithm and nothing more.

Hanff's conclusion is ChatGPT should be destroyed as it is malevolent. I disagree. ChatGPT is an unreliable infant of a system masking itself as a "source of knowledge and truth". But just like The Wizard, it is a terrible liar if you're willing to look behind the curtain.

For now, that is all I have. I hope you have a great week.


PS: If you enjoy TimeMachiner please forward this email to a friend. It would mean a lot. Thank you. 😊


A dog named Duke was the mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota for four consecutive terms before retiring at 91 in dog years. Source

The Missing Pet is Inside the House
When a pet runs away it can be a traumatic experience. A small neighborhood instantly transforms into a vast landscape of places they could go. Sometimes there are happy endings. For the Manuela family and their lost tortoise, theirs did too. However, it took 30 years. Stephen Messenger at The Dodo has more. Flash…
Show Me This Story
Pinball Wizard Music
Video game music is an art form. Composers finally have their own category at the Grammy awards. But watching the music get composed for pinball in the 80s is where some real magic happens. Composer Suzanne Ciani is the main composer in this documentary video showing how she creates music and digitizes speech for…
Show Me This Story
Permission Slip Stops Data Brokers
The collection of our personal data to then be packaged and sold is nothing new. TVs do it, websites do it, and companies all over the world do it. It's why GDPR and CCPA exist. But what do you do if you live elsewhere? That's where Consumer Reports comes in. A new service +…
Show Me This Story
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