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We asked an AI to write a typical SF story: Here’s what it came up with

Photo illustration of ChatGPT, an AI tool that can write many things—including imagined "typical San Francisco" news stories | Camille Cohen/The Standard

Move over, killer robots. The hottest technology out of San Francisco is now OpenAI’s new chatbot.

Called ChatGPT, the bot is currently in its testing phase and free to use for anyone with an OpenAI account. And the internet is taking notice. 

The premise is simple: You type in a prompt and the AI responds. On Twitter, users are sharing the often hilarious results—whether that’s lyrics for a song about being drunk at Costco or a touching letter to their son explaining that there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.

But it’s not all fun and games. OpenAI, which is based in San Francisco’s Mission District, describes its mission as ensuring that artificial general intelligence benefits humanity.

And ChatGPT can be used for more than, say, writing an imaginary episode of Seinfeld or composing a Shakespearean sonnet about having explosive diarrhea—which, we must stress, is something we definitely did not do because The Standard is a serious media organization.

Asked how the technology works, the chatbot said that it’s able to "analyze the responses it receives and adjust its behavior accordingly, allowing it to improve its performance over time." That means the more people use it, the smarter it gets. 

But what does the AI know about San Francisco? We asked it to write a typical San Francisco news story. 

The results show a solid grasp of the issues that San Francisco is perhaps most infamous for: Homelessness and unaffordability. Most surprisingly, the AI sometimes generated fictional quotes from San Francisco politicians and activists—and not just Mayor Breed.

Here’s what ChatGPT thought was a “typical San Francisco news story.” 

San Francisco, CA - A recent study has found that San Francisco has one of the highest rates of homelessness in the country, with more than 8,000 individuals living on the streets. The city has been working to address the issue, but progress has been slow and the situation remains dire for many.

In an effort to combat homelessness, the city has implemented a number of initiatives, including providing temporary housing and funding for mental health and addiction services. However, these efforts have been met with criticism from some who argue that they are not enough to address the underlying causes of homelessness.

Despite the challenges, city officials remain committed to finding solutions to the homelessness crisis. "We are working tirelessly to address this issue and to provide support for those who are most in need," said Mayor London Breed. "But this is a complex problem and it will take time and continued effort to make real progress."

In the meantime, advocacy groups and community organizations continue to provide support and assistance to homeless individuals in San Francisco. "We may not have all the answers yet, but we are committed to doing everything we can to help those who are struggling," said a spokesperson for the San Francisco Homeless Coalition.

Two other stories also tied the homelessness crisis to a lack of affordable housing: One invented a fictional $20 million subsidy for affordable housing, with Breed, Supervisor Rafael Mandelman and Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, weighing in on the program’s merits. Another AI-generated story cited a report from Zillow that average home prices in San Francisco reached $1.3 million, noting the city’s thriving tech industry and high salaries. 

In another example of a “typical SF news story,” the chatbot combined the city’s world-famous cable cars with its “green” reputation, generating a news article about the city partnering with Elon Musk’s Tesla to retrofit cable cars with state-of-the-art electric motors. 

But then, weary of homelessness and Elon Musk, the ChatGPT seemed to just kinda give up and throw in everything but the kitchen sink.

San Francisco, CA - The bustling city of San Francisco was in the news today for a number of reasons.

First, the city announced plans to implement a new public transportation system that will use electric and self-driving vehicles. The new system is expected to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality in the city.

In addition, the city celebrated the opening of a new park in the Mission District. The park, which features a playground, walking trails, and public art installations, is expected to become a popular destination for residents and visitors alike.

Furthermore, the San Francisco Giants won their home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, bringing excitement to the city. The team's star player, Buster Posey, hit a grand slam in the ninth inning to secure the victory.

Overall, it was a busy and exciting day in San Francisco.

One thing’s for sure: It’s a busy and exciting day to be playing around with AI!