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Can A Robot Write A Podcast?

Published on
December 8, 2022
|
Updated on
December 7, 2022
|
📖
10
min read
This article may contain affiliate links
Written by
Alastair Budge

A startup called OpenAI released an Artificial Intelligence Chatbot called ChatGPT a few days ago. I tested it out to see whether it could write an episode of English Learning for Curious Minds

Can A Robot Write A Podcast?
Table of contents

For years people have been saying “robots are coming for our jobs”. 

As someone who makes podcasts that help people learn English for a living, I didn’t think people were talking about my job.

Each episode of English Learning for Curious Minds takes many hours, and involves a team of multiple talented people. There’s all the research, the writing, the recording, the editing, and the creation of transcripts with vocabulary.

Surely a robot couldn’t do this…

Well, what better way to test out this idea than putting a robot to the test.

Meet the robot

On November 30th, a startup called OpenAI released a chatbot called ChatGPT. It is an AI that responds to human language input, and can do everything from suggest cooking recipes to write computer code.

It can write emails for you, it can even write fictional stories.

Could it write a podcast episode?

I decided to put it to the test. 

You can see the full video of me below, and keep reading for my verdict.

How did it do?

As you can see, the AI did a pretty good job at suggesting ideas for episodes. I gave it some examples of past episodes, told it who the audience was, and it came up with the following ideas:

  1. "The Art of Spying: A Brief History of Espionage"
  2. "The Science of Dreams: Understanding the Role of Sleep in Memory and Creativity"
  3. "The Mysterious World of Cryptids: Exploring Legendary Creatures and Folklore"
  4. "The Art of Deception: A History of Magic and Illusions"
  5. "The Strange History of the Ouija Board: From Spiritualism to Popular Culture"
  6. "The Evolution of the Computer: From Abacus to Quantum Computing"
  7. "The Fascinating World of Mummies: How Ancient Civilizations Preserved the Dead"
  8. "The History of the Circus: From Ancient Rome to the Modern Day"
  9. "The Complex World of Artificial Intelligence: From Early Ideas to Modern Applications"
  10. "The Fascinating History of the Automobile: From Steam Engines to Electric Cars"

Although number 9 would have been particularly interesting (with the AI writing about itself), I chose number 8, as it would certainly make for an interesting episode.

After choosing the title, I asked it to provide me with an outline for a script. This is the process we normally go through anyway when writing a script, so I tried to get the AI to follow it as closely as possible.

Again, it did a good job, and here was its response:

Sure, here's a possible outline for the episode "The History of the Circus":

  1. Introduction: Introduce the topic of the circus and its origins in ancient Rome, where it was a form of entertainment at public gatherings.
  2. The rise of the modern circus: Discuss the development of the circus as a traveling show in the 19th century, featuring acrobats, jugglers, and animal acts.
  3. The golden age of the circus: Explore the heyday of the circus in the early 20th century, when it was a popular form of entertainment for all ages, with famous circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
  4. The decline of the traditional circus: Discuss the factors that led to the decline of the circus in the mid-20th century, such as competition from other forms of entertainment and changing attitudes towards animal acts.
  5. The resurgence of the circus: Talk about the emergence of new, contemporary forms of circus, such as Cirque du Soleil, that have revived interest in this art form and brought it to a new audience.
  6. Conclusion: Summarize the key points of the history of the circus and its enduring appeal as a unique form of entertainment.

A good start, right?

Now for the tricky bit. The script itself.

You can read the full script it came up with at the end of this article, and see the process of creating it in the video above.

My conclusion was that it did a pretty good job overall. 

It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was able to write in a conversational style that sounded almost human.

Will a robot take my job?

If you are asking yourself “will all episodes be written by an AI in the future?”, don’t worry, they will not. 

Although the AI is pretty amazing, the script it wrote does still feel a little unnatural when read aloud.

What’s more, the information is at times superficial, lacks depth, and at times is contradictory (look at the two answers given for the capacity of the Circus Maximus). It doesn’t provide sources, which is problematic, especially as it sounds very confident, even when it is factually incorrect.

What does this mean?

There have been many interesting views on the impact of AI on the future of work. There are articles suggesting that  before too long journalists, authors, accountants and lawyers will all be losing their jobs to AI.

And that AI is already able to pass as a human. 

Others have said that this is an exaggeration, as AI isn’t as smart as we think it is, as it’s (currently) unable to do much more than summarise existing information and provide relatively generic advice.

There are others who have pointed out some the copyright issues it presents.

My view, at least as far as podcasts are concerned, is that podcasters will have to work harder to produce differentiated, original content. 

This can come in the form of detailed analysis that an AI is unable to do (yet), or it can come in the form of strong narrative storytelling, or it can come in the form of injecting humanity, humour and personality. 

An AI can write a script, “record” a script, and of course it doesn’t need to worry about editing because it won’t make mistakes or cough in the background.

But an AI doesn’t have a human backstory, a listener can’t connect with an AI in the same way as they can with a human podcaster. 

An AI has no history, no personal story, no personality. 

The day that an AI can develop this, podcasters might be in serious trouble.

The script the AI wrote

Here is the script, copied and pasted without human intervention from ChatGPT, the Artificial Intelligence. 

Welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, where you can learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. In this episode, we'll be exploring the fascinating history of the circus.

Did you know that the first modern circus was founded by an Englishman named Philip Astley in 1768? Astley was a former cavalry officer who combined his equestrian skills with acrobatics and other acts to create a thrilling show. His circus was a huge success, and he soon opened more circuses in London and other cities across Europe.

But the circus is more than just a form of entertainment – it's also a unique art form, with its own history, culture, and traditions. For example, did you know that the clown is a central figure in the circus, with a rich history dating back to ancient Rome? In the 19th century, the famous clown Joseph Grimaldi introduced many of the characteristics that we still associate with the clown today, such as whiteface makeup, red noses, and baggy pants.

In this episode, we'll take you on a journey through the history of the circus, from its humble beginnings in ancient Rome, to its golden age in the 20th century, and its modern resurgence. We'll explore the evolution of the circus, its famous performers and acts, and the challenges it has faced over the years. So sit back, relax, and get ready to be entertained and amazed by the fascinating world of the circus.

The origins of the circus can be traced back to ancient Rome, where it was a popular form of entertainment at public gatherings. These early circuses featured chariot races and other sporting events, as well as displays of skill and daring by acrobats, jugglers, and tightrope walkers.

The Roman circus was a massive spectacle, with huge arenas that could hold thousands of spectators. The most famous of these was the Circus Maximus in Rome, which could seat up to 150,000 people. The circus was a popular form of entertainment for the Roman people, and many attended regularly to watch the races and other performances.

The chariot races were the most popular event at the Roman circus, with teams of horses and drivers competing in grueling races around the arena. The races were often incredibly dangerous, with drivers and horses risking their lives to win. The winners were celebrated as heroes, and the losers were sometimes killed for their failures.

In addition to the chariot races, the Roman circus also featured other acts and performances. Acrobats, jugglers, and tightrope walkers showed off their skills, while animal trainers presented exotic beasts from around the world. The circus was also a venue for public executions, with criminals and prisoners of war being put to death in front of the cheering crowds.

But the circus was not just a place of entertainment – it was also a political tool used by the Roman emperors. The circus was a way for the emperors to gain popularity and support among the people, and they often used it to display their wealth and power. For example, the emperor Nero is said to have put on lavish shows at the Circus Maximus, with extravagant costumes, special effects, and even live elephants.

Despite its popularity, the Roman circus eventually fell into decline, along with the rest of the Roman Empire. As the empire weakened, the circus lost its political importance and became more of a tourist attraction than a vital part of Roman society. By the 5th century, the circus had largely disappeared from the Roman landscape.

But the legacy of the Roman circus lived on, and it would serve as the foundation for the modern circus that emerged centuries later. The skill and daring of the Roman acrobats, the thrill of the chariot races, and the spectacle of the animal acts all became essential elements of the modern circus. So the next time you visit a circus, remember that you are experiencing a tradition that dates back to ancient Rome.

In the 19th century, the modern circus as we know it today began to take shape. With the invention of the steam engine, circus troupes were able to travel more easily and reach a wider audience. These early circuses featured a variety of acts, including acrobats, clowns, animal trainers, and magicians.

The circus was an exciting and exotic form of entertainment, with colorful costumes, elaborate sets, and thrilling performances. Many famous circus performers emerged during this time, including "The Great" Equestrian, who was known for his daring horseback stunts, and "The Great" Blondin, who performed death-defying tightrope walks across Niagara Falls.

One of the key figures in the rise of the modern circus was an Englishman named Philip Astley, who is often considered the "father of the modern circus". Astley was a former cavalry officer who combined his equestrian skills with acrobatics and other acts to create a thrilling show. In 1768, he opened the first modern circus in London, and his success inspired others to follow in his footsteps.

The circus became a popular form of entertainment throughout Europe and North America, with new circuses opening in cities and towns across the continent. The circus was a unique and exciting experience, with colorful tents, elaborate sets, and a wide range of acts and performances.

One of the most famous circuses of this period was the Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was founded in 1871 by the American showman P.T. Barnum. Barnum was known for his extravagant shows and his larger-than-life personality, and his circus was a huge success, touring the United States and other countries. The circus was famous for its "Greatest Show on Earth" slogan, and it featured a wide range of acts, including acrobats, clowns, and animal trainers.

The rise of the modern circus was also a time of great innovation and creativity. Many famous circus acts and performers emerged during this period, including the Flying Zoppe family, who were known for their aerial acrobatics, and the clown Emmett Kelly, who became famous for his sad-faced character "Weary Willie".

But the rise of the modern circus was not without its challenges. The circus was a dangerous and demanding profession, with performers risking their lives every day to entertain the crowds. In addition, the use of animals in the circus was controversial, with animal rights activists arguing that the treatment of the animals was cruel and inhumane.

Despite these challenges, the circus continued to thrive and evolve, and it remains a beloved and enduring part of American culture. The rise of the modern circus was a key moment in the history of this unique and captivating art form, and it paved the way for the golden age of the circus that followed.

The 20th century was the golden age of the circus, with famous circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey entertaining millions of people around the world. The circus was a popular form of entertainment for all ages, with exciting acts, colorful costumes, and exotic animals.

At its height, the circus was a massive undertaking, with huge tents, elaborate sets, and trained animals. Some circuses even had their own trains, with cars specifically designed for transporting animals and performers. The circus was a true spectacle, with performances that amazed and delighted audiences of all ages.

But behind the scenes, the life of a circus performer was often difficult and dangerous. Many circus performers came from humble backgrounds, and they joined the circus as a way to escape poverty and hardship. They worked long hours, often performing multiple shows a day, and they traveled constantly, living in cramped quarters on the circus train.

Performers were paid according to their skills and popularity, and the pay was often low, especially for those who were just starting out. For example, clowns and acrobats might earn a few dollars a week, while more established performers like animal trainers and aerialists could earn several hundred dollars a week.

Despite the challenges, many performers found a sense of community and belonging in the circus. They formed close bonds with their fellow performers, and they were proud of their skills and their contribution to the circus. Many performers came from families with a long history in the circus, and they passed their skills and traditions down to their children.

But the circus was a dangerous profession, and many performers were injured or killed in accidents. The high-wire acts, animal acts, and other stunts were all risky, and performers sometimes paid the ultimate price for their art. For example, in 1962, the famous trapeze artist Lillian Leitzel was killed when she fell from a high-flying act at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Despite the dangers and hardships, the circus remained a beloved and enduring part of American culture. The golden age of the circus may have passed, but its legacy lives on in the memories of those who experienced it, and in the traditions and techniques that continue to be used in the circus today.

The 20th century was the golden age of the circus, with famous circuses like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey entertaining millions of people around the world. The circus was a popular form of entertainment for all ages, with exciting acts, colorful costumes, and exotic animals.

At its height, the circus was a massive undertaking, with huge tents, elaborate sets, and trained animals. Some circuses even had their own trains, with cars specifically designed for transporting animals and performers. The circus was a true spectacle, with performances that amazed and delighted audiences of all ages.

But behind the scenes, the life of a circus performer was often difficult and dangerous. Many circus performers came from humble backgrounds, and they joined the circus as a way to escape poverty and hardship. They worked long hours, often performing multiple shows a day, and they traveled constantly, living in cramped quarters on the circus train.

Performers were paid according to their skills and popularity, and the pay was often low, especially for those who were just starting out. For example, clowns and acrobats might earn a few dollars a week, which would be equivalent to about $50-$100 in today's money. More established performers like animal trainers and aerialists could earn several hundred dollars a week, which would be equivalent to about $500-$1000 in today's money. In Euros, this would be approximately 40-80 Euros per week for starting performers, and 400-800 Euros per week for more established performers.

Despite the challenges, many performers found a sense of community and belonging in the circus. They formed close bonds with their fellow performers, and they were proud of their skills and their contribution to the circus. Many performers came from families with a long history in the circus, and they passed their skills and traditions down to their children.

But the circus was a dangerous profession, and many performers were injured or killed in accidents. The high-wire acts, animal acts, and other stunts were all risky, and performers sometimes paid the ultimate price

Despite the dangers and hardships, the circus remained a beloved and enduring part of American culture. The golden age of the circus may have passed, but its legacy lives on in the memories of those who experienced it, and in the traditions and techniques that continue to be used in the circus today.

Many of the famous circus performers of the golden age have become legends, and their acts and stunts have been remembered and celebrated long after their deaths. For example, the Flying Wallendas, a family of acrobats known for their high-wire stunts, are still remembered for their daring and skill. And Emmett Kelly, the sad-faced clown who became famous for his character "Weary Willie", is still remembered as one of the greatest clowns of all time.

Despite the challenges and changes that the circus has faced over the years, it remains an enduring and beloved part of our cultural heritage. The circus may have evolved, but its spirit of excitement, wonder, and entertainment continues to captivate and delight audiences of all ages. So the next time you see a circus, remember the rich history and traditions that have brought it to where it is today, and enjoy the show!

In recent years, the circus has experienced a resurgence in popularity, with new circuses and circus-inspired shows appearing all around the world. This resurgence has been fueled by a renewed interest in the history and traditions of the circus, as well as by the unique and exciting performances that modern circuses have to offer.

One of the key differences between the golden age of the circus and the modern circus is the use of animals. In the golden age of the circus, animals were a central part of the circus experience, with acts featuring lions, elephants, horses, and other exotic creatures. But in recent years, there has been increasing scrutiny and criticism of the use of animals in the circus, with animal rights activists arguing that the treatment of the animals is cruel and inhumane.

As a result, many modern circuses have phased out the use of animals in their performances. For example, the Cirque du Soleil, which was founded in 1984, has never used animals in its shows. Instead, the circus focuses on human performers and their incredible feats of strength, skill, and creativity.

Another difference between the golden age of the circus and the modern circus is the emphasis on contemporary and artistic influences. Many modern circuses, like the Cirque du Soleil and Circus Amok, incorporate elements of theater, dance, and music into their performances, creating a unique and exciting blend of traditional and modern circus arts.

Despite these differences, the circus remains a beloved and enduring part of our cultural heritage. The circus may have evolved and changed over the years, but its spirit of excitement, wonder, and entertainment remains the same. So if you want to be entertained, inspired, and amazed, look no further than the circus!

The circus is a unique and captivating art form, with a rich history and traditions that span the globe. From the ancient Romans to the golden age of the circus, the circus has evolved and changed, but it remains a beloved and enduring part of our cultural heritage.

Here are some interesting facts and trivia about the circus:

  • The word "circus" comes from the Latin word "cirkus", which means "circle" or "ring". This reflects the circular shape of the circus tent or arena, where the performances take place.
  • The first modern circus was the Circus Maximus in ancient Rome, which was a massive arena that could hold up to 250,000 people.
  • The circus has always been a family business, with many famous circus performers coming from families with a long history in the circus. For example, the Flying Wallendas, a family of acrobats known for their high-wire stunts, have been performing in the circus for over 200 years.
  • The circus is a demanding and dangerous profession, with performers risking their lives every day to entertain the crowds. In the golden age of the circus, many performers were injured or killed in accidents, and the use of animals in the circus was controversial and often criticized.

Here are some thought-provoking questions to ponder:

  • How has the circus changed and evolved over the years?
  • What are the unique features of the modern circus, and how do they differ from the traditional circus?
  • How do contemporary circuses like the Cirque du Soleil and Circus Amok differ from the traditional circus?
  • What are the challenges and controversies facing the circus today, and how do circuses address these issues?

Thank you for listening to this episode of English Learning for Curious Minds. We hope you have enjoyed learning about the fascinating history of the circus, and we hope you will join us again for more weird and wonderful topics in the future. Goodbye for now!

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