Issue 33 Jun 04, 2023

Please don't let AI write your emails


There's a lot of things coming out of AI these days. Either it involves creating images out of nowhere, and predicting what's outside the frame. Or it's AIs writing your copy for you, based on the prompts you give them.

AI is troublesome. If Dall-E generates an image, you need to remember that the AI model trained on something. That something is images its creator had no right to use. The same goes for text based AIs, which also has to train on content. ChatGPT basically read the internet. It's a bit murkier, words are words, and the AI is putting them in an order that resembles writing. There are writing styles being mimicked and it's just as bad as mimicking artists' styles, but overall, the writing that ChatGPT and its ilk spits out is something else. Copywriters are using them, I've linked to stories about how authors are utilizing AIs to get more work done.

So why not let an AI write your emails? That's what Readdle, makers of many fine apps, including the Spark email client, asked themselves. And then they went ahead and enabled such a feature, powered by ChatGPT. No more writing mundane emails, lots of time will be saved, right?

Yeah, no. Actual AI writing generating speed aside, this is not what I would call a "short invitation to a formal dinner party".

Subject: Invitation to a formal dinner party

Dear [Insert Name],

I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to extend an invitation to a formal dinner party that I am hosting in [Insert location] on [Insert Date] at [Insert Time]. The evening will be a celebration of friendship, good food, and delightful conversations.

As one of my closest friends, your presence would mean a lot to me on this special occasion. It would be an honor if you could grace the event with your presence along with your partner if you wish to. I will be preparing the food myself, so you can be assured of a scrumptious feast. Vegetarian options will also be available for those who prefer it.

Please let me know at your earliest convenience if you are able to attend, so that I can make the necessary arrangements accordingly. I hope you will be able to join me for a memorable evening.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

Blathering nonsense about closest friends and whatnot, and the promise of me cooking, none of which I asked for in my prompt aside; the worst part is the length. So many words to say so few thing, honestly.

I tried again, and again, with similar results. OpenGPT downright fabricates things. Rewriting these emails would take longer than writing them from scratch. It wasn't until I prompted for a "really short invitation to a formal dinner" that I got something useful.

Dear [Guest's Name],

You are cordially invited to a formal dinner. Date: [Date] Time: [Time] Venue: [Location]

Join us for an elegant evening filled with fine dining, delightful company, and memorable conversations.

Please RSVP at your earliest convenience.

We look forward to your esteemed presence.

Sincerely, [Your Name]

That's to the point and useful. It's also short enough for me to write myself, without having to double-check everything. Like fine dining, I mean, it could've been, but a formal dinner doesn't have to be fine dining. Again, things to be wary about.

Now, I've played a lot with various prompts, just to see where things break, and when they work. It's interesting for sure, this will be some sort of tool in just about everything sooner or later. The interface, that'll probably change, and the quality will improve. But just like people tend to write too long emails themselves, so will the AI. To truly save time, you need an AI to read the AI emails. Let them talk to each other and populate your calendar with semi-truthful invitations to formal dinners, then. When that comes to pass, I for one will want an AI that declines all invitations longer than twenty-five words.


📹 Charlie bit my finger, one of the first viral videos, got sold as an NFT a while back. It’s a piece of internet history, and while the owners – 3FMusic – said they wouldn’t pull the video from YouTube, now it’s gone due to changes in how unlisted videos of yore are being handled. I agree with Matt Webb here, that a museum (or similar) should buy, and display, such a piece, due to its cultural reference. Even if it’s a silly thing as a video about a kid biting a finger.

💻 I’m writing this in iA Writer, and I’m intrigued by iA’s latest Mac app: iA Presenter. Yep, it’s a Keynote and PowerPoint alternative built around text, and yes, it’ll probably make your presentations better. I hope there’s an iPad version down the line.

💣 Metal Gear, but in Lego? Yeah, now I want that game.

✈️ When digital nomads come to town is an interesting piece on how areas change when they become hotspots for digital nomads. Spoiler: It’s about money, and the large difference of income between the nomads, and the locals.

🍏 The Verge has a short documentary on the Apple Lisa, and how it ended up in a landfill. Worth a look before the WWDC hype train goes into overdrive (it’s next week).

Got something I should read? Send it to me, either by replying to this letter, or tweeting to @tdh. Thanks!


📚 I wrapped up The Enemy, a Jack Reacher novel that I’d forgotten that I’d read, the other night. Browsing the subsequent novels, I realized I was further along than I thought. Oh well, popcorn books can be reread. Not sure what I’ll start next, or rather, will have started when you receive this letter.

🎵 Boblikov’s Magical World is a weird name for an album, but if you’re in the market for some catchy garage rock, then this one, by Mando Diao, might be up your alley. I’ve been listening to it on and off for a while, and I like it.

📺 Succession is over, and for once, I watched the finale close to the airing date. I’m glad I did, the spoilers were many the day after. A fitting end, I thought, with some powerful scenes. This series just might belong in the pantheon of great TV experiences, such as The Sopranos, The Shield, Californication, and House.

🎮 I’m wrapping up Breath of the Wild this long-weekend. But honestly, the thing I play the most right now, due to a very high workload, is Slay the Spire on my iPad mini.

It’s a long weekend here in Sweden. I’m trying to rest and read as much as possible. Hopefully, you can too.

Until next week, take care.

— Thord D. Hedengren ⚡

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