Playing with AI

I recently took an astronomy course in which the instructor demonstrated how to use ChatGPT to answer questions about a scientific topic such as the Big Bang. This prompted me to sign up for a ChatGPT Plus account ($20 per month) at Using my subscription, I have been experimenting with ChatGPT by asking specific and speculative questions, such as “How many astronomical units are there in a light-year?” and “How do we send exploratory spacecraft to Proxima Centauri?”. This is a fun tool that can be used by people who write speculative fiction.

I played briefly with creating images using OpenAI’s DALL-E; see Modern Technology in Middle-earth, in which I asked DALL-E to create an image of a high-speed train traveling through a Middle-earth landscape.

Shortly after I obtained my subscription, OpenAI added ChatGPT-4o to its models, where “o” stands for “omni”. They have promised a macOS app, which is being rolled out slowly, not to me yet, and other new features that appear to be vaporware so far. In fact, as I write this I’m unable to access DALL-E (“GPT not found”). [Update on May 24, 2024: Today I was able to download the ChatGPT app to my MacBook Pro, where it behaves identically to the web interface, including providing access to DALL-E. A Windows app is promised in the future, but the Mac app was released first because more ChatGPT users use Macs.]

In the meantime, Microsoft announced its new line of Copilot+ PCs, where Copilot is Microsoft’s AI assistant. The new computers, on the way from several manufacturers besides Microsoft, use the Snapdragon X Plus or Elite ARM processors. Microsoft claims they are faster than the MacBook Air, which uses Apples M series of ARM-based CPUs. All of these ARM processors run much faster than Intel’s and AMD’s x86_x64 processors.

I currently own a 13.5-inch Microsoft Surface Laptop 5 with an Intel i5 processor, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB SSD; this cost only $1200. I bought this laptop to use when I need a PC and for portability. It is adequate for my needs, although it performs poorly with software that requires a good GPU for graphics support. When I buy a PC, I prefer Microsoft’s computers because they don’t come loaded with bloatware (defined as software installed by the manufacturer that you don’t want or need).

The presale price for the new 13.8-inch Surface Laptop with the Snapdragon X Elite processor, 16 GB RAM, and 512 GB SSD is $1,400, which I consider pretty reasonable considering the new 13-inch M3 MacBook Air with 16 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD costs $1500. I’m going to wait for the reviews before buying.

Finally, next month (June 2024), Apple will hold its developer conference, WWDC24, when Apple is expected to announce new AI initiatives. Apple just released new models of the iPad Air (M2 processor) and iPad Pro (M4 processor), which are widely acknowledged by reviewers to be beautiful pieces of engineering that are inadequately supported by the iOS operating system. Everyone is hoping that the new version of iOS will take advantage of the raw processing speed of the M2 and M4 processors and provide AI assistance that is better than Siri.