South Park Features ChatGPT as Source and Solution to Life’s Problems
ChatGPT took center stage in the latest episode of South Park, showcasing the excitement and potential controversy surrounding the generative AI chatbot. Everyone in the Colorado town is using or fighting against OpenAI’s creation in season 26, episode 4, titled “Deep Learning,” as ChatGPT hits the mainstream through the lens of pop culture.
South Park ChatGPT
The episode starts with the discovery and rapid spread of ChatGPT in South Park Elementary for homework and other school assignments. But initially, the draw for the male students is using ChatGPT to compose text messages to girls. As Clyde explains to Stan when he asks what ChatGPT is:
“Yeah, dude, there’s a bunch of apps and programs you can subscribe to that use OpenAI to do all your writing for you. People use them to write poems, write job applications, but what they’re really good for is dealing with chicks.”
Stan, Butters, Clyde, and Cartman used ChatGPT to write their essays and messages to their girlfriends but soon hit a rough patch when the girls install an app to alert them to AI-written messages. GPTZero and other products, even OpenAI’s own attempt at spotting AI-generated writing, don’t perform as well as the fictional detection tool employed in the show, but the demand for them is well represented.
But, even as the generative AI tool starts causing everyone problems in their academic and personal lives, Stan finds the solution at the same source, literally asking ChatGPT to write a story about the mess he is in and how to resolve it. He repeats the ChatGPT-written speech, and everything is okay again. The real villain, according to Stan via ChatGPT, is the tech giants who own ChatGPT and other generative AI tools. The answer, according to the show, is open source availability of this technology and a focus on blaming companies hoarding the tech, not the technology itself.
The resolution is deliberately written like a very lazy mockery of cliches and over-used catchphrases from South Park’s early years, but that seems to be the point the show is making about ChatGPT and its creative efforts. And, to add another layer or two of irony, ChatGPT is credited as a co-writer of the show along with Trey Parker. The trite and bland messages concocted by the chatbot on the show were actually composed by the AI chatbot and given a voice by synthetic speech generator Play.ht as noted in the credits with “Special thanks for Play.ht for AI voices.”