When OpenAI gives you access to the GPT-4x, you are ecstatic. You waited for an invite for months. You put “with this technology, I want to change the world” on your application; it was probably too cliché. Besides, you haven’t done much with machine learning. Truth be told, you are a programming newbie.

Before you got the invite, you talked about this with a friend. They reassured you it wouldn’t be an issue. “It isn’t like normal code”, they said. You only need to give the AI a good “prompt”—a piece of text to complete. It can be anything you want: prose, dialogue, poetry, a translation...

You give it samples from some public domain books you’ve been reading. It does surprisingly well completing the author’s thought, even in Chaucer’s English. This is the first language model trained since most of the Rare & Special Books Collections of the Library of Congress got digitized. Maybe it helps? You prompt it with a piece of Ancient Greek and add “/ English translation: ”. Your dorky classics major friend says the translation is soulless, but it’s the best machine translation he has read. His friend is impressed with its rendering of Old Arabic. You think of the news about the GPT-4x improving the understanding of the Çineköy inscription but remember it was immediately disputed.

After a few days of experimenting with the AI after classes, you voice-call Katy, your friend from a sleepy Northeastern town. You’ve grown very close—it’s corny, but you’ve even started calling her “sis”. She is very eager to help. She has to jump through a lot of hoops, and it takes almost a week, but she eventually convinces the librarian to let her read the book you want from the vault of her university’s library. With some remote help from your dorky classicist friend, she faithfully transcribes the hitherto untranslated pages. She sends them to you in an old-fashioned email attachment. Will this be the biggest thing you do in college, you wonder.

It is late, dark, and the stars are starting to come out. You can't wait until tomorrow, though. You copy the transcription into the GPT-4x’s input box, add “/ English translation: ”, and click “Submit”. OpenAI’s servers have been seriously overloaded recently. You realize you will have to wait almost until dawn to read the translation. You switch to Discord and open a familiar voice channel. “Everybody ready?” Katy asks. You lower the hood of your cowl and join the others in a chant:

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.

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Tags: AI, fiction, my work.