Coachella Valley Independent

Indy Digest: Jan. 30, 2023

If you have not heard of ChatGPT yet … get ready to hear a lot about it soon.

According to its website, ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence model that “interacts in a conversational way. The dialogue format makes it possible for ChatGPT to answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

That description, while accurate, understates how useful some people and companies are finding ChatGPT to be. For example, Buzzfeed is planning on using its technology to write content. CBS News explains:

Online media company BuzzFeed plans to use artificial intelligence powered by OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, to help it generate content.

In a memo distributed to BuzzFeed staff on Thursday and obtained by CBS MoneyWatch, CEO Jonah Peretti said AI will play an increasingly large role in the company’s operations. Specifically, it plans to use the technology to move beyond curation to help create personality quizzes that ask users questions and generate text write-ups based on their responses.

Peretti also said AI will assist workers to enhance their content. “To be clear, we see the breakthroughs in AI opening up a new era of creativity that will allow humans to harness creativity in new ways with endless opportunities and applications for good,” he said. …

OpenAI has recently taken the tech world by storm and has already been tested by companies in a number of industries that are experimenting with its capabilities and diverse applications. Its “generative” AI has drawn attention from leaders of industry and investors alike, and has been used to write high school essays, create legal documents, help author legislation and even write a speech delivered this week by Rep. Jake Auchincloss, D.-Mass., in the House of Representatives.

Experts expect it to take over rote administrative tasks and replace some workers, while also enhancing the quality of many jobs.

Buzzfeed is not the only media organization using ChatGPT; I’ve heard from some other small publishers who are pondering using it to write some news copy—for example, taking a City Council agenda and summarizing it in a readable way.

College students are using it, too … and creating all sorts of ethical dilemmas involving cheating and plagiarism. Here’s an article from Wired that takes a deep dive into the topic. And I was gobsmacked when I read this piece in The Stanford Daily:

While the University plans to discuss ChatGPT, some students have already used the tool to complete their finals, according to an anonymous poll conducted by The Daily on the social media app Fizz, which requires a email to join.

According to the poll, which had 4,497 respondents (though the number may be inflated) and was open from Jan. 9 to Jan. 15, around 17% of Stanford student respondents reported using ChatGPT to assist with their fall quarter assignments and exams.


I decided to take ChatGPT for a quick spin earlier today. (It’s free to use now during its “research period,” but it certainly won’t be free forever.) I logged in via Google and verified my number—and that’s all it took to start. Here’s a screen shot of our conversation:

It took ChatGPT about 20 seconds to write that. Not bad at all.

I then asked it to write an article summarizing the last La Quinta City Council meeting; it politely said no: “I’m sorry, I do not have the information on the last La Quinta, California, City Council meeting as my training data only goes up until 2021. To get the latest information, you may consider checking the city’s official website or contacting them directly.”

So I decided to ask it: “Can you write me a short article about the 2020 city election in Desert Hot Springs, California?” This was the result, typed out in front of me in about 15 seconds:

This goes to show that ChatGPT is far from perfect: It completely whiffed it here. It was right about Matas, sort of—he was elected mayor over Adam Sanchez—but it got almost everything else wrong. Russell Betts and Roger Nunez won seats in a seven-candidate race; Measure HH was on the ballot in 2014; Anayeli Zavala stepped down from the council in 2019; and I have no idea where “Anthony R. Victoria” came from. This is why ChatGPT is free right now: There are definite kinks to be worked out.

Still, this is a fascinating technological effort. I’m impressed … and a little frightened as well.

—Jimmy Boegle

From the Independent

Documentary Drama: Desert Ensemble Theatre’s Intense Show ‘Kill the Editor’ Ponders the Meaning of Truth in Storytelling

By Valerie-Jean (VJ) Hume

January 29th, 2023

DET’s Kill the Editor makes one wonder: Is the goal of a movie to satisfy an audience, or is it something different? What is the responsibility of the filmmaker?

February Astronomy: Comet ZTF Has a Rendezvous With Planet Earth During the First Half of the Month

By Robert Victor

January 30th, 2023

Evenings in February feature a striking array of three bright planets: Venus, Jupiter and Mars—and a comet!

On Cocktails: Now That Dry January Is (Almost) Over, Sip on a Classic Cocktail … or Three

By Kevin Carlow

January 27th, 2023

Whether you’re celebrating with a special someone, or you want a little time with strangers at a dark cocktail bar, here are some of the most alluring drinks as we await pool weather.

Sweet, Not Saccharine: Bill Nighy’s Oscar-Worthy Performance Makes ‘Living’ a Success

By Bob Grimm

January 30th, 2023

In Living, the live-life-to-the-fullest “message” is delivered in a way that feels grounded, as if we’re watching something real.

The Indy Endorsement: The Tortilla Soup at John’s Restaurant

By Jimmy Boegle

January 30th, 2023

Far too many tortilla soups aren’t actually tortilla soups; they are hearty chicken soups. John’s version, however, is tortilla soup.

Outrageously Gory: If You Like Twisted, Complicated Horror, Watch ‘Infinity Pool’

By Bob Grimm

January 30th, 2023

Infinity Pool is a full-blown, sometimes-gory horror show with a dash of dark comedy and nasty social satire.

More News

The Press-Enterprise is reporting that two Riverside County supervisors say the county’s judicial system is in “crisis”: “A chronic lack of judges and the dismissal of more than 1,300 criminal cases in recent months has become a crisis for Riverside County, two supervisors said. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday, Jan. 24, to endorse a bill from state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, to add judges and to ask the executive office, which oversees county government’s day-to-day affairs, to study the county’s criminal justice challenges and offer solutions. That plan came at the suggestion of supervisors Kevin Jeffries and Karen Spiegel, who wrote in a memo to colleagues that Riverside County’s criminal justice system ‘is experiencing a crisis the likes of which we have not witnessed in more than a decade.’ While state government, not the county, is responsible for adding judges, ‘we are not getting our fair share of resources in many areas,’ Spiegel said Tuesday.”

In other county news: RivCo’s sheriff has painted himself as a defender of the U.S. Constitution who answers to nobody but the voters. Two political science experts, writing for The Conversation, say that Chad Bianco, and those who think like him, are wrong: “We traced sheriffs’ views of themselves as ultimate protectors of the Constitution to the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a political organization founded in 2009 by Richard Mack, a former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona. … The association, which Mack founded after former President Barack Obama’s election, calls itself a network of (self-described) ‘constitutional sheriffs’ that encourages sheriffs to refuse to enforce laws they believe to be unconstitutional and to resist overreach by the federal government. Its key idea dates back further, though, to Posse Comitatus. That was a white supremacist, anti-Semitic right-wing movement in the 1970s that believed as part of its conspiratorial ideology that the county sheriff held the ultimate government authority in the United States. This view is not historically accurate, nor is it found in the U.S. Constitution. Nevertheless, Mack and his organization have spent more than a decade actively recruiting and training sheriffs to believe that their office is more powerful than the president, and that they can reject laws they believe to be unconstitutional. … Many sheriffs continue to say they get to determine which laws to enforce, even if their constituents disagree.”

A big federally imposed deadline for states to work out Colorado River allotments is tomorrow. Our partners at Calmatters say: “As the New York Times reported over the weekend, no one is volunteering to make the cuts that the federal government is now demanding, but there’s finger-pointing a-plenty. The Rocky Mountain states of Wyoming, Colorado and Utah blame users down river; Nevada says it’s done enough; and California’s mega user, the Imperial Irrigation District, said the coming water crunch is not its problem. Imperial vice president JB Hamby: ‘We have sound legal footing. … That’s kind of a responsibility on (Arizona’s) part to plan for these risk factors.’ That’s a major sticking point. As CalMatters’ water reporter Alastair Bland noted earlier this month, the water district in Imperial sucks up more Colorado River water than Nevada and Arizona combined. Even so, growers there say they’re ‘all squeezed out.’ … The Associated Press got its hands on some of the email back-and-forth that made up (some of that) failed haggling. Chris Harris, executive director of the Colorado River Board of California: ‘I genuinely believe that we are at an impasse, and we’re all headed to a very dark place.’”

Meanwhile, on a local level, the Los Angeles Times reports: “The elected leaders of the Coachella Valley Water District … recently announced plans to cut the amount of Colorado River water the district uses to replenish the aquifer. This strategy will reduce inflows to the valley’s source of drinking water for three years, while sparing big users such as golf courses from mandatory cuts, at least for the time being. ‘We want to be the least disruptive possible to any entity, to any user,’ said Cástulo Estrada, vice president of the water district’s board. ‘This is voluntary. And we think that, for now, we could do it out of replenishment without having to impact anybody.’ Responding to the federal government’s call for urgent measures, the water district has proposed to reduce water use by as much as 35,000 acre-feet per year for the next three years, a decrease of about 9%. A portion of the water savings could come from farmers or others who agree to use less water in exchange for payments. But the water district’s managers anticipate securing the bulk of the reductions by curtailing water deliveries to a groundwater replenishment facility in La Quinta, where Colorado River water pours into ponds and percolates into the soil to recharge the aquifer.”

Barring anything unforeseen happening in the next 3 1/2 months, May 11 will be a historic date as far as the pandemic goes. CNBC says: “The Biden administration plans to end the COVID public health emergency this spring, which will mark a major turning point in the U.S. response to pandemic. The White House, in a statement Monday, said it would terminate on May 11 both the public health and national emergencies first declared by the Trump administration in 2020. The statement from the Office of Management and Budget came in response to two pieces of legislation introduced by House Republicans seeking to end both emergency declarations. The emergency declarations have enabled hospitals and nursing homes to respond more flexibly when faced with spikes in patient volume during COVID surges. Enrollment in Medicaid has also surged during the public health emergency because Congress basically barred states from disenrolling people from the program.”

Desert X today announced the participating 2023 artists. ARTnews reports: “For its fourth edition, Desert X, a biennial-style exhibition that presents public art at various sites across the Coachella Valley in California, has named the 11 artists it has commissioned to create new installations. The exhibition’s 2023 iteration is scheduled to run March 4 to May 7, and it is organized by artistic director Neville Wakefield and co-curator Diana Campbell. Among the major artists who will show work in Desert X are Torkwase Dyson, Tschabalala Self, Mario García Torres, and Héctor Zamora. Three of the participating artists are based in Southern California: Lauren Bon, Matt Johnson, and Gerald Clarke (Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians).”

• And finally … Cindy Williams, of American Graffiti and Laverne and Shirley fame, died yesterday at the age of 75. Here’s her Los Angeles Times obit I had the pleasure of talking to Williams, who had a home in Desert Hot Springs, about a year ago, just before she kicked off a new tour of her one-woman show in Palm Springs. I asked her whether she considered it a blessing or a curse to be so closely identified with the role of Shirley Feeney. She replied: “It’s a blessing. It’s a total blessing. It’s not like I played Hannibal Lecter. I was on a show that delighted people, and that was our intention, to make people laugh, so people approach me with the best of themselves. It’s an absolute blessing.” We send our love and best wishes to her friends and family.

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Jimmy Boegle

Jimmy Boegle is the founding editor and publisher of the Coachella Valley Independent. He is also the executive editor and publisher of the Reno News & Review in Reno, Nev. A native of Reno, the Dodgers...