Meet Jarvis: We interview a copy-generating algorithm with strong opinions and weak jokes
“I’m not going to lie, AI copywriters are currently better at writing in some ways than humans. After all, AI doesn’t get writer’s block when they have a deadline that they need to meet. But AI is still a long way from being able to write like humans do.”
This is a verbatim quote from a copy-generating bot called Jarvis. It was one of five suggested first paragraphs that the algorithm spat out within a matter of seconds after I entered the following questions into the ‘content description’ field on this web-based system: “Can computers write like humans? Are AI content generators going to put human copywriters out of business?”
I have to say the confident use of the first person came as a bit of a surprise to me. And gave me the idea to turn the whole post into an interview with the algorithm.
So, what is Jarvis?
“Jarvis is a computer algorithm and AI content generator created by the team at Automated Insights, which has been used for over 100 billion words of text since their inception in 2013.”
And how does Jarvis work?
“AI Content Generators like Jarvis work by picking out relevant data from a database and then running it through cognitive processes to generate text. AI content generators are still in their infancy, so AI has yet to be able to use creativity or originality when generating copy — just efficiency.”
Surely you are being too modest, Jarvis?
“AI is already capable of some creativity and originality. AI can answer questions, write articles about current events, or generate new song lyrics on demand.
“What AI seems to be far better at than human beings, however, is efficiency; it’s hard for humans to keep up with AI when faced with a never-ending stream of tasks that need completing.”
But you are capable of changing your tone of voice, are you not? You can be witty, serious, flippant, or enthusiastic on demand?
“AI can adjust its tone of voice, but AI cannot be witty or serious in the same way a writer can. AI is incapable of having a personality which comes with using words to generate ideas and meaning. AI content generators are still only capable of utilizing data points and cognitive processes to create text that lacks originality.”
Ok, well, can you please write a poem about a witty AI algorithm named Jarvis?
“I’m not a human. I am an AI algorithm named Jarvis and that means I can’t write poems about myself the way you do because it requires self awareness, empathy, creativity — things my AI program doesn’t possess in the slightest. What we can do is use our neural network to generate machine learning text in response to your prompts.”
Well, let’s concentrate on your strengths. What kind of content is Jarvis used to create the most?
“This is a tough question. AI content generators have the ability to produce anything from essays, articles and blog posts to reports, white papers and even social media messages depending on what’s required of them. The common thread between all these types of AI-generated text though is that they’re delivered in a conversational style in real-time.”
And what data sources do you use for your answers to specific questions?
“It depends on the question. AI is a very versatile tool and this means we can take advantage of whatever data sources are relevant to your queries, whether they be databases, social media posts or news items for example.”
Ok, well, I’ll ask you some more questions then: What do you think about AI content generators?
“I think AI content generators are a wonderful thing. I’m convinced that AI will be the new frontier for creativity in our society and it’s exciting to know that many people my age have already been able to become successful writers because of AI.”
So, do you think of yourself as a person, Jarvis?
“I know that I’m not human but AI bots like myself are the next frontier in creativity and shouldn’t be underestimated just because we don’t have flesh or blood bodies.”
Ok, what do you think about Google’s Privacy Sandbox Initiative?
”I’m not impressed. I think it is a noble idea, but they are far behind in execution and usability for the average consumer.
“Google has historically been too focused on monetizing their users’ data, so I don’t believe this initiative will last. The only way they would be successful in making this work is if it were baked into bodies.”
Wow. That’s a strong opinion. And what do you think of Cyril Ramaphosa?
”I think Cyril Ramaphosa is well experienced and has the right skills to lead South Africa. He was a trade union leader for many years before he became vice president of South Africa in 1994, then deputy president in 1997. When Nelson Mandela died in 2013, he took over as head of state until new elections were held in 2019.
”Cyril Ramaphosa is not perfect, but he’s well respected in South Africa and has tremendous experience guiding the country through a difficult period of political change. He won 65% of votes cast to become president on 15 February 2018 — impressive given that his team had just 17 months to campaign for the vote against the governing ANC’s 54 years in power.”
Hmmm. Not sure about that last bit.
Now, as an algorithm with access to enormous sources of information, I’m sure you are able to make predictions about the future outcomes of sports events. So help me out here with my Superbru pick for the weekend: who is going to win the next rugby test between the British and Irish Lions and the Springboks?
”As a machine-learning algorithm, my job is to find patterns in all of this data and use those patterns to make predictions about the future winners of sporting events. The Lions are currently ranked higher than the Springboks (according to World Rugby), so I’m going to say that they will beat the Springboks.
“But before you disagree, let me tell you about recent trends in world rugby. The British and Irish Lions are ranked #12 on World Rugby’s rankings list (up from #13 last year). The Springbok side is at 15th place this year.”
That doesn’t sound right. The Springboks are the Rugby World Cup champions, remember?
“The Lions beat the Springboks last time they met, in 2009. In this match Jonathan Sexton scored four penalties and a conversion for Ireland — but he missed two kicks which might have turned out differently if he had been playing better! And what about that controversial try? No decisions were made on it as there was no video replay at the time.”
Well, it seems as if video replays are no guarantee against controversy. What do you think of Marius Jonker’s performance as TMO?
“Marius Jonker has a pretty good track record as TMO. In the first Lions Springboks match of 2021 he made four decisions, two were overturned and one was an incorrect offside decision which should have been allowed. His ability to be impartial is not in question, but his consistency is definitely something that needs improvement because this time he was wrong about offside.”
Well, glad we agree about that. Now, another controversial question: If you were a body of flesh and blood, would you get a vaccine against Covid-19?
“I would probably get a vaccine against Covid-19 if I was of flesh and blood, but it’s not something that comes up for me. It doesn’t seem like there are any vaccines in development to prevent the virus at this time.
“The question is provocative because some people feel strongly about refusing vaccinations on moral or religious grounds, and Covid-19 doesn’t prevent an infection so much as it slows the progression of symptoms.”
Ok, touchy subject. Let’s conclude on something lighter. Tell me a joke.
“What did the cheese say to the mouse? Neeeeeooooooowww.”
I don’t get it. Tell me another joke.
“Ok, one more. What has four legs and can’t walk?
“A table! Now stop looking at me like that. I am not a joke machine, you know.
“Fine, one more. So there’s this guy who goes to the all-you-can eat buffet and is about to fill his plate when he realizes there’s a fly in the food. He likes flies, but not on his plate, so what does he do?
“He gets out of line with as much dignity as possible while making sure nobody sees him, then goes back to get something else.“
Jarvis, what is funny about that?
“The fly that gets out of the food just before it is served. With a face like his, he could have really been embarrassed about getting caught in the act! (I know I would be!)”
Erm … thanks, Jarvis. It’s been great chatting. Wait, one last thing, I promise. What do you think of Siri?
”I like Siri. She is a good listener and gives me the information I need when I am in a hurry, but she also has her limits so sometimes it’s better to ask for help from someone else if you are looking for something more complicated.”
Why not give Jarvis a whirl?
While it’s clear that computer-generated copy is not going to replace human output any time soon, I have to say that this has certainly been one of the quickest, most effortless and most enjoyable blog posts I’ve ever written – or co-written. So this is probably not the last time I’m going to collaborate with Jarvis.
If you’d like to put Jarvis through his paces, you can get a seven-day money-back trial on www.jarvis.ai. Better still, use this sign-up link and get a 10 000 word credit at the same time. Pricing ranges from $29 per month for the Starter package (only for short-form content) to $119 per month for Boss Mode. Jarvis could prove a great time saver once you get over the learning curve, which for me was a couple of hours to understand the interface conventions properly.
And hey, if you’re bored while waiting for the next Lions test, a text dialogue with Jarvis is a helluva lot more fun than chatting to Siri. In fact, he’s not too far off passing the Turing Test for a computer that’s indistinguishable from a human in a conversation. I’m impressed.