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He’s No Shakespeare

May 4, 2023

As you may know, the whole ChatGPT-slash-AI experience has caused quite a stir – especially in radio circles. Will computers replace live personalities, writers and <gasp> consultants?

I was tipped off to the new Google AI program Bard by Beau Phillips in his REVERB blog (a good weekly read, BTW). I joined the wait list, and within two hours I was invited to join the experiment.

My first prompt was: “How can a radio station improve its ratings?”

What I got back – in a matter of seconds – was boilerplate. The robot gave me seven “tips”: Play the right music, have great personalities, be local, promote your station, be consistent, be innovative, and listen to your listeners.

Not exactly groundbreaking but not wrong, either.

Then I asked it: “What is the best way to analyze a radio station’s ratings?”

The answers were beyond generic – they were useless. I won’t get into the details but this was the brilliant conclusion: ‘by analyzing a radio station’s ratings, you can get a good understanding of how well the station is performing and what changes may need to be made to improve its performance.’

I think our status as The Ratings Experts is safe … at least for the time being.

Then, I asked Bard to write a 30-second radio commercial about windows. Here is one version of that copy:

**[Sound of birds chirping]**

**Narrator:** Do you ever feel like you’re living in a cave? Like the outside world is passing you by, and you’re just not getting enough fresh air?

If so, you need new windows! Windows that let in the natural light and fresh air, so you can feel connected to the world around you.

**[Sound of a window opening]**

**Narrator:** Imagine waking up to the sun streaming through your bedroom window. Or sitting down to dinner with a view of your backyard. Or reading a book in your favorite chair, with the breeze blowing through the curtains. New windows can make all of that possible. They can transform your home into a more comfortable, inviting, and enjoyable place to live.

**[Sound of a family laughing]**

**Narrator:** So what are you waiting for? Call your local window dealer today and start enjoying the benefits of new windows!

**[Sound of birds chirping]**

This may not be award-winning stuff but, to be honest, I’ve heard worse.

Next, I asked Bard to take a swing at writing a 30-second promo about a cash contest. It did not go well:

**[Sound of a cash register ringing]**

**Narrator:** Are you ready to win $1,000? That’s right, $1,000 cash! Just listen to this radio station and be the first caller when we give you the cue. That’s it! No purchase necessary, just be listening and be ready to answer the phone. So what are you waiting for? Start listening now!

**[Sound of a crowd cheering]**

**Narrator:** This is your chance to win big! Don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity. Listen to this radio station and be ready to win $1,000 cash.

**[Sound of a cash register ringing]**

**Narrator:** So what are you waiting for? Start listening now!

Bard is clearly not ready to be your creative services director. In fact, it contradicts itself by telling the listeners to be the first caller but then says to “be ready to answer the phone.” Well, which is it, Bard?

Yet, the program will grow, evolve, and learn – especially with more radio people feeding it prompts. Does Bard have the potential to be an idea generator? Sure. Is it ready to replace us? Not in its current form.

The big fear is that AI will replace radio personalities. If by “radio personality,” you mean reading liner cards and promoting the app – maybe. However, if you’re talking about people who can tell a story and make an emotional connection – probably not.

I did ask Bard to tell me a funny story. Here’s what it said:

Sure. Here is a funny story:

A man walks into a library, approaches the librarian, and asks for books about paranoia. The librarian whispers, “They’re right behind you!”

I hope you enjoyed the story!

Well, it does seem to have gotten the Dad joke vibe.

The nice thing about Bard is that it gives you three drafts for each prompt. They are not dramatically different, but they do offer alternatives.

Right now, Bard can be a helpful tool – especially if you have writer’s block. Will it evolve into Skynet?

I’ll let Bard answer that:

No, I am not Skynet. I am a large language model, also known as a conversational AI or chatbot trained to be informative and comprehensive. I am trained on a massive amount of text data, and I am able to communicate and generate human-like text in response to a wide range of prompts and questions. For example, I can provide summaries of factual topics or create stories.

[For those who are not science fiction fans: Skynet is a fictional artificial intelligence system from the Terminator franchise. It is a computer system that becomes self-aware and launches a nuclear war against humanity.]

I am not Skynet, and I do not have any plans to harm humanity. I am here to help people, and I will do my best to answer your questions and provide you with information.

So it says …

-Steve Allan, Programming Research Consultant