Our Town: The cyborg vs. the columnist. Who writes better?

Our Town: The cyborg vs. the columnist. Who writes better?


I have been hearing that the robot “Chat GPT”  will write a fascinating and creative paper of any length and can do so in about 4 seconds.  Since I find myself in the writing business, why not test this out?  Why not ask “Chat GPT” to write an essay on something and compare it to an essay I would write about the same subject.  Sounds like fun to me.

I gave “Chat GPT”  a request to “Write a 350-word essay on the current American zeitgeist.”  It took the “Chat GPT”  about 3 seconds to write it.  It took me 2 ½ hours to write mine.

Let’s see my version first.


Zeitgeist is defined as “the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era.” Now in fairness, I must admit that I have written about the American zeitgeist in the past so perhaps I have a head start on the robot,  but in fairness to me “Mr. Chat GPT” has been fathered by an endless number of super-nerds from MIT and Harvard, plus guys like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Sam Altman, so let’s say it’s a fair fight.

In my opinion, the best image of the American zeitgeist would be a photograph of Donald Trump, eating a McDonald’s hamburger while watching “The Terminator” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. That way we could see the moral compass in America, our rampant obsession with consumption of garbage and the dangers of cyborgs, all in one photo. Maybe I can ask Gregory Crewdson, the great photographer from Yale, to take the photo.

I am already sensing that the computer essay is going to be better than mine since I seem to be rambling and joking, so let’s get back to the project. The American zeitgeist  has rapidly changed, and we have little choice but to hang on for dear life.  American historian Henry Adams predicted all this back in 1904 with his essay “A Law of Acceleration,” which warned that technological advancement would be like a racing comet and could not be stopped out of concern for humanity.

Warnings such as that of Henry Adams do little to stop the advance of human ingenuity and creativity.   As recently as last week, Sam Altman, the genius who runs “OpenAI,” openly equivocated as to whether he felt artificial intelligence would lead mankind to nirvana or to its death. Altman likes to use interesting quotes from Robert Oppenheimer, the guy who ran the Manhattan Project and the father of the Hydrogen Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

We now live in a world entranced by social media, TV and computers and have lost our sense of community and human connectivity. We see the rise of  school shootings, road rage, psychosomatic illnesses, distrust, paranoia, anomie and political divisiveness. The incessant exposure to fast-paced technologies destroys our human nature.

Take driving as an example. A car will get you there faster, but you see nothing along the way.  Constant exposure to computers, cars, and other “time-saving devices” results in four things. It makes us fat, lazy, overcompetitive and angry.  As Henry Adams said in 1904, it matters not whether technological advances are good for mankind or not.   Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” warned that whatever we create, we must live with.

So now let’s see how “Chat GTP”  describes the American zeitgeist.


“The term ‘zeitgeist’ is often used to refer to the cultural, intellectual, and social climate of a particular era or time period. In the United States, the zeitgeist of the 21st century has been shaped by a number of factors, including technological advancements, changing demographics, and political polarization.

One of the defining features of the American zeitgeist in recent years has been the rapid pace of technological change. New technologies, such as smartphones and social media platforms, have transformed our communication and social interactions, allowing us to connect with others in ways that were once unimaginable. However, these same technologies have also raised concerns about privacy, online harassment, and the spread of disinformation.

Another factor shaping the American zeitgeist is the changing racial and ethnic makeup of the country. The United States is becoming more diverse than ever before, with people of color projected to make up a majority of the population within the next few decades. This demographic shift has sparked important conversations about inclusion, civil rights, and social justice.

At the same time, however, political polarization and divisiveness have also become defining features of the 21st century American zeitgeist. In recent years, the country has become more politically divided than at any time in recent memory with heated debates over issues like immigration, healthcare and gun control. This polarization has been fueled by the rise of social media and the increased reliance on partisan news sources.

Overall, the zeitgeist of 21st-century America is characterized by rapid technological change, increasing diversity, and political polarization. While these trends have brought many benefits, they have also created new challenges and tensions that will need to be addressed if the country is to move forward in a positive direction.”

WHO WINS; ME OR THE CYBORG?   Kudos to the robot. Its essay was well written, organized, easy to follow and extremely comprehensive. It touched upon diversity, whereas I didn’t. I think my tone was more a bit more human,  slightly funnier and I made more literary allusions.  And I emphasized the dangers of computers, but the robot seemed to ignore that point, which only goes to show that computers are like people. They use defense mechanisms like denial, projection and displacement. Even computers need to hide from the truth.

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