ChatGPT and DALL-E vs. the Alaska Business Team
Who will measure up in a content contest?
In late December 2022, Dan Kreilkamp, who used to write and edit for Alaska Business before moving on to lend his exceptional talent to ARM Creative, texted me: “So what do you make of this new chat bot?” My highly informed response was: “Chat bot?… I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
I sure do now. At the time, ChatGPT was building renown, and within days of Kreilkamp planting the bug in my ear I was seeing mentions of the text-generating AI (artificial intelligence) program everywhere I looked.
Seeing the rise of an AI text generator that was much more proficient than many of its predecessors just added to conversations we were already having internally at the magazine about AI generated images. In fact, when we were planning our December 2022 issue in October of that year, we had an article for which an AI-generated image might have made sense. Ultimately, questions about who really owns an AI-generated image and how to appropriately credit it (legally and ethically) prevented us from taking the plunge into AI-generated art.
It seems like AI-generated content has been a topic of conversation unceasingly in 2023, with people both excited about its potential and concerned about its effect on, well, everyone—from eliminating creative jobs to removing the humanity from everyday conversations to hindering skills development in youth and students.
The first consequence, the loss of creative jobs, would apply to this magazine significantly, as many of our staff are employed to provide creative copy and design. So we thought we’d test its current capabilities and share the results with our readers.
Within this feature you’ll find two prompts, each one assigned to both a long-time Alaska Business freelancer and to ChatGPT, resulting in four short-form articles. We have presented them here side by side so that you can see how AI stacks up against professional writers; however, we’ve obscured the byline so you can form an unbiased opinion.
Things to consider: What’s the quality of the writing, and how well did the respondent understand and follow the assignment?
We then took all four short-form articles and crafted prompts that were fed into DALL-E (an AI image generator) and given to our production team, resulting in eight images, which you will also find published here.
Things to consider: Is the image on topic, is it visually stimulating, and do you think there’s a better image option?
While we have drawn our own conclusions about our job security, they’re under wraps until the end of this article to better allow you the space to contemplate the creative potential of AI.
Writing Prompt: Write 250 words about an exciting cultural tour in Southeast Alaska.
Great fun; good family event; great historical site; must see; and well worth the visit. That’s how enthusiastic reviewers on Viator’s booking platform describe the Saxman Native Village, Ketchikan Highlights, and Lumberjack Show. The four-hour excursion operated by Cape Fox Tours creates an exciting, multi-faceted experience for Alaska visitors. And it’s a prime example of how cruise passengers, independent travelers, and other tourists can immerse themselves in Southeast Alaska’s rich culture and history.
“The Saxman Native Village, Ketchikan Highlights, and Lumberjack Show highlights the logging history of Ketchikan with a one-hour, axetion-packed lumberjack show where guests can watch athletes compete in twelve timber events,” explains Adrianna Oliva-Parks, manager of tour development and transportation at Cape Fox Tours.
After the lumberjack competition, tour guests embark on a scenic drive to Saxman Native Village—established in 1894 and located about three miles south of Ketchikan—to learn about Tlingit culture and Native Alaskan customs. While exploring the area, they can enjoy an elaborate performance of tribal songs and dances in the communal Beaver Clan House. The excursion also includes an up-close view of local carvers meticulously crafting totem poles commissioned from around the world.
There’s also a guided, narrated walkthrough of Saxman Totem Park—which boasts the world’s largest collection of standing Native American totem poles. Guests are educated about the cultural significance of each of the majestic poles erected at the historic site.
“This tour offers the ultimate Alaska vacation adventure for those wanting to experience history in action,” Oliva-Parks says.
Southeast Alaska is a land of immense natural beauty, with its pristine wilderness, towering glaciers, and mist-shrouded mountains. However, it is also a region that is steeped in rich cultural heritage, with fascinating stories and traditions that have been passed down through the generations. An exciting cultural tour of Southeast Alaska would take visitors on a journey through this history, showcasing the diverse cultures and lifestyles that have thrived in this region for thousands of years.
The tour would begin in Juneau, where visitors can learn about the indigenous Tlingit people at the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Here, they can explore the stunning totem poles, carvings, and other artifacts that tell the story of the Tlingit people’s way of life and their deep connection to the land and sea.
From Juneau, the tour would head to Sitka, where visitors can immerse themselves in the Russian influence that shaped much of Alaska’s history. At the Sitka National Historical Park, they can witness a reenactment of the 1804 Battle of Sitka, where the Russian colonizers fought the indigenous Tlingit people for control of the region.
Next, the tour would take visitors to Ketchikan, known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” Here, they can experience the art and culture of the Tsimshian people at the Totem Heritage Center and learn about the traditional fishing practices that have sustained this region for centuries.
Finally, the tour would end in Haines, where visitors can witness the breathtaking natural beauty of the Chilkat Valley and learn about the culture and traditions of the Chilkat Tlingit people. Here, they can attend a traditional dance performance and witness the artistry of the Chilkat blanket, a masterpiece of weaving that has been passed down through generations of women.
With its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty, Southeast Alaska is truly a one-of-a-kind destination.
Image Prompt: Tourists experiencing the breathtaking natural beauty of the Chilkat Valley in Haines.
Writing Prompt: Write 250 words about an innovation in aviation safety.
Aviation safety is a top priority in the airline industry, and continuous innovations are being made to improve safety measures. One significant innovation in aviation safety is the implementation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) system.
ADS-B is a surveillance technology that uses GPS to track an aircraft’s position, altitude, and velocity. Unlike traditional radar systems, ADS-B does not rely on ground-based radar and transponders but instead broadcasts information directly from the aircraft to air traffic control and other aircraft equipped with ADS-B receivers.
This innovation in aviation safety has numerous benefits. One significant advantage is that ADS-B provides more accurate and real-time tracking of aircraft, enabling air traffic controllers to monitor and manage air traffic more effectively. This system also enhances safety in areas with limited radar coverage, such as mountainous regions or over the ocean, where radar coverage is scarce.
ADS-B also enhances safety by improving situational awareness for pilots. The system provides pilots with real-time traffic and weather information, enabling them to make more informed decisions and avoid potential hazards. Additionally, ADS-B can detect and alert pilots of nearby aircraft, even if they are not visible, enhancing collision avoidance capabilities.
The implementation of ADS-B has been a game-changer for aviation safety. It is a significant step toward achieving the goal of a safer, more efficient, and sustainable aviation industry. With this innovation, pilots, air traffic controllers, and passengers alike can be assured that their safety is the top priority in every flight.
Alaska has about six times as many pilots per capita than other states, according to the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities’ Statewide Aviation Division, and about sixteen times as many aircraft. More than 400 Alaska communities rely on aviation for year-round access, with planes often taking the place of cars, buses, trucks, and even ambulances.
With the necessity of travel even in harsh weather and through remote mountain passes, pilots often rely on instrument flight rules (IFR) to navigate when clouds are less than 1,000 feet above the ground or visibility is less than three miles.
One challenge with IFR flying in bad weather is that flying at higher elevations can cause icing conditions on aircraft. Pilots sometimes fly at lower elevations to keep from icing, but that can be dangerous in mountainous terrain. Additionally, flying too low puts pilots outside of radio range and out of contact with air traffic control.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in September released thirteen new IFR routes—with plans to release twenty-three more soon—that incorporate GPS-based data to update instrument navigation information. The new routes provide lowest-possible minimum en route altitudes (MEAs), often creating completely different routes than regional pilots used in the past.
The FAA collaborated with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the Alaska Airmen’s Association, the Alaska Air Carriers Association, and other stakeholders to create the new routes. The collaboration will continue as the group uses highly detailed maps to update IFR routes throughout Alaska.
Image Prompt: A prop plane flying in low-visibility conditions.
Many have observed that ChatGPT has a tendency to include “in conclusion” at the end of whatever it’s writing. In fact, before we edited “An Imaginary Tour of Southeast Alaska,” that phrase was present, but even with the desire to run the response as close as possible to what ChatGPT wrote, we just couldn’t publish it.
It’s not a phrase you’ll see much in journalism or other contemporary professional writing. The general preference is to craft a conclusion (when a piece requires one) in such a way that the words “in conclusion” aren’t necessary. The phrase “in conclusion” should be relegated as a tool to help developing writers.
That’s our take on the AI generated short-form articles: they read like an amateur following a template, have no depth, and don’t meet our standards for publication. For example, in “An Imaginary Tour of Southeast Alaska” we did not cut ChatGPT’s assertion that visitors can witness a reenactment of the 1804 battle of Sitka, although according to Editor Scott Rhode’s research, while a reenactment took place in 2017, he didn’t find any evidence it’s an ongoing activity. In the same article, ChatGPT failed to mention how one would actually travel from Juneau to Sitka, which—as any Southeast resident knows—isn’t something to take for granted.
In the aviation short-form article, note how Rindi White includes dates pertaining to the safety innovation she selected; they communicate to the reader why it matters to cover this topic now. The AI did not. In all fairness, the prompt didn’t include a request for dates, but that’s also the point—ChatGPT did what it was asked while our writers took the initiative to do more.
On the image side, according to Art Director Monica Sterchi-Lowman, most of the AI-generated images were off in various ways: some were blurred, like a filter had been applied. Others seemed to be a great image at first glance but upon closer inspection had issues like a thumb missing its nail or glasses missing a part of the frame.
Overall, the production department had the same reaction we did: the work that AI produced was amateurish, like a new designer practicing applying filters without any real attention to whether or not the final result was good.
Sourcing AI-generated images took Sterchi-Lowman and our web manager Patricia Morales about 1.5 hours, compared to the 15 minutes Sterchi-Lowman spent looking for stock images. That said, all of the prompts did generate some kind of result in DALL-E, while Sterchi-Lowman had to adjust one of the image prompts to find an appropriate stock image. The AI generated images came in at about one-third of the cost of the stock images, though neither comes close to the cost of an original editorial image.
So is the Alaska Business team celebrating at our next budget meeting because we’ve found low- to no-cost copy and image solutions? No. But we might raise a glass to the idea that our jobs are safe—at least for now.