Recently, the chatbot ChatGPT was released and experienced a surge in popularity. It's reasonably good at mimicking humans, and it has a database of information to draw on. The upshot is that you can ask it a question and it will respond the way a human would -- albeit sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly, depending on the subject matter and the limits of its knowledge.
This has caused problems on Stack Overflow, which was deluged with a slew of answers generated by folks simply plugging questions into ChatGPT. This is a problem because the software is good at very confidently stating things that may be incorrect in subtle but important ways, and a large volume of such answers can cause real problems. As an extraordinary though potentially temporary step, SO banned all posts copied from ChatGPT outputs. This has led to discussions about both site-specific (e.g. 1, 2) and network-wide bans, and the company is, I believe, considering the issue.
What should our policy be on Worldbuilding -- at least until there is a network-wide policy in place? While we're not as large as Stack Overflow, the mods have seen several answers already that are clearly chatbot-generated, and there may be more we haven't found. There are several reasons against allowing such content, including:
- It's quite frankly plagiarism if the answerer doesn't note that they used ChatGPT, and is therefore not allowed by our normal plagiarism policy.
- On Worldbuilding in particular, answers can be harder to verify than on Stack Overflow or Mathematics, and so it may be very easy for someone to game the system with a large quantity of confidently-written but nonetheless wrong chat-bot generated answers.
- It can be very wrong very often, which I've seen myself doing some testing. I personally would not trust anything generated by the tool that involves information beyond what could be gleaned from a quick Google search.
There are also arguments in favor or allowing it:
- ChatGPT is a tool just like Wikipedia or a textbook; it may be wrong at times, but so long as the software used is noted, folks are welcome to vote up correct answers and vote down incorrect answers.
- Chatbots may (may) make it easier to turn complex information into straightforward answers.
I personally come down hard on the side of disallowing ChatGPT and all similar tools, but obviously this is an issue for the community as a whole to decide. What should we do?
Here's an example of an answer that was clearly generated by ChatGPT (answer deleted; text shown here for discussion). It was one of a slew posted in a ~10-minute interval by one user.
This setup is not scientifically plausible. There are a few issues with it:
The distance between the Jupiter-like planet and the Solar system is too small. The closest star to the Sun, Proxima Centauri, is about 4.24 light-years away. A distance of 0.1 light-year is about 6.16 trillion kilometers, which is a little over a hundred times the distance between the Earth and the Sun. This is not a realistic distance for a planet to be passing by the Solar system.
The idea of colonizing a moon that is rich in ice to use as fuel for fusion reactors is not feasible. Fusion reactors require a specific type of fuel, typically hydrogen or helium, which are not found in ice. Additionally, the amount of fuel needed for fusion reactors is typically much greater than what could be extracted from a single moon, even if it were rich in ice.
It is not clear how the settlers would be able to establish a colony on a moon of a Jupiter-like planet that is passing by the Solar system. It would require a significant amount of resources and technology to set up a habitable environment on a moon, and it is unlikely that a group of only 2.5 thousand people would be able to accomplish this in a short amount of time.
In order to make this setup more scientifically plausible, you could consider changing the distance between the Jupiter-like planet and the Solar system to a more realistic value, finding a different source of fuel for the fusion reactors, and providing more information about how the settlers would be able to establish a colony on a moon of the planet.
I put the question body into ChatGPT and got the following, on the first try. Besides the many stylistic similarities, note that the same points are regurgitated, just in a different order.
There are several issues with the scenario you have described:
A rogue planet passing by the Solar System at a distance of 0.1 light years is extremely close and highly unlikely. The closest known rogue planet to the Solar System is about 20 light years away.
It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for a group of 26 starships to carry 2.5 thousand people and all the necessary resources to establish a colony on a distant moon. Such a mission would likely require a much larger fleet of ships and a much larger population.
The timeline you have described is also unrealistic. It would take much longer than 20 years for a starship to travel to a distant planetary system, even at the fastest speeds currently achievable with current technology.
It is not clear how the settlers would be able to sustain themselves on an ice-rich moon, as it is unlikely that there would be any other resources available to them.
Overall, the scenario you have described is not plausible as it stands. In order to make it more realistic, you would need to significantly revise the details of the mission, including the size of the fleet and population, the distance and location of the target planetary system, and the resources available to the settlers.
Clicking "Try again" in the chat sometimes led to it going into more detail in some of its points, or expanding the concluding paragraph.
There are a number of other answers which we identified as matching ChatGPT outputs via the same comparison. Examples are 1, 2, 3, and 4 (note that it incorrectly describes what the Bondi radius is). These are all, without a doubt, chatbot-generated.