My entrepreneurial predilection emerged early in life. As an inventive kid favored with cupboards full of supplies and carte blanche permission to set up operations all over the property, I had a steady stream of ideas for low-tech startups that held promise within the kid economy. Some concepts were flawed, and that was the case with the homemade backyard summer carnival of 1963.
Assessing the inventory of likely components for rides—ladders, carts, wagons, clotheslines, and the hobby horse and sandbox—I sketched out my dreams. With no basis in the laws of physics, the rides did not come to fruition, but the kooky games did, as those drew benefits from a certain loose artistic flair and expansive applications of fuzzy logic. To coax participation, I plied each kid on the block with five free tickets to use at the various stations.
Shortly after start time, it became clear that the supply of candy, trinkets, trading cards, and semiprecious stones for game prizes would run out in about 10 minutes, so I quickly seeded the prize bucket with a new set of free tickets for more tries at the games, with potential rewards of more free tickets. The weakness of this ruse emerged immediately as kids wandered off in search of real rewards like ice cream or the thrill of running around hollering.
Decades later, I think of those former kids and hope each still knows better than to fall for free tickets for more free tickets, and I hope they all eat ice cream on occasion and run around hollering with their friends. But I wonder: Do people still want what is real? Our nature as living organisms ensures that hunger will call for real nourishment and our muscles (and better judgement) for actual invigoration. But our imaginations are increasingly being trained for virtual engagement, and now ChatGPT is here to supply endless streams of recycled (and sometimes wrong) information with no attribution.
Would it matter if this magazine were to be made up of “facts” and phrases scraped up from the internet and nicely formatted so they sound just right? Or isn’t that a little like free tickets for more free tickets?
I understand that artificial intelligence is helping solve many real-world problems like designing stronger parts to make better, safer vehicles (and maybe carnival rides?) and finding cures for deadly diseases, but many of the positives sound more like time-savers for people wanting to move on to preferred endeavors.
There’s hardly anything I prefer to working together with a bunch of creative people to assemble a vibrant magazine all about real things going on in our East Bay community. But given that the game in vogue since November 2022, when OpenAI released ChatGPT, is to spot stuff we suspect was written by the bot, I’ll just assure you that ChatGPT was not employed to assist with this issue. After all, could a bot have written Chef Enrique Soriano’s paean to his mother’s cooking and independently thought to include two ways to remove the slime from cactus paddles in its bot-style guess at the chef’s freestyle guisado recipe? Could ChatGPT have interviewed seven kids and their teacher in the Malcolm X Elementary School Garden about weedos and written the story here complete with esoteric kid syntax? Could it track down and interview nine East Bay community members exploring new DE&I lanes into wine careers as did Mary Orlin for her story, Opening Wine Cellar Doors? Or could it simulate never-before-digitized 20th-century photos as you find in Barbara Kobsar’s account on the founding of the Walnut Creek Farmers’ Market? Well … as this issue is now entirely posted online, I guess that it can … sort of.
Here’s your free ticket to the Edible East Bay Summer 2023 carnival. I think you’ll find it pretty well stocked with prizes: real stories filled with in-person observations that came directly from our writers and the many people they interviewed; lots of original art, photos, and recipes; plus poetry and other valuable messages from local businesses with treasures they specifically want to share with you.
Cheryl Angelina Koehler