Antonym: You Are A Hacker Edition
AI recipes, new superpowers for Chat-GPT and some movie recommendations...
“Hack” is part of everyday language now. A hack can be anything that makes your life a little easier, or gives you a shortcut to something you want.
So we all like the noun. The verb, though — that’s for nerds.
“Hacking” is all hoodies, cybercrime and matrix-aesthetic reams of code. Pop the word in Google and look at the images.
As a noun, a “hacker” is not someone who will give you tips on how to re-grout your bathroom or lose weight, it’s someone who will break into your electronic devices and steal your money and blackmail you.
Shame, really, because we could do with appropriating the word right now to describe what anyone who is using generative AI tools at the moment is doing.
ChatGPT, Claude and their contemporaries like Google Bard (which may be getting a MAJOR upgrade any day now) let us create shortcuts and time-saving, mind-extending minor miracles every day. You have to write them down and keep them to remember the ones that work. The really useful ones often use a sequence of actions with multiple tools. For instance writing an article about a webinar or podcast, which we use a transcription tool, ChatGPT to clean up text and Claude to write the summary, bullets and first draft of the whole article, with a guest appearance by OrwellEd bot on Poe (using GPT4) to critique the prose.
Some have used magic as the metaphor – as in keeping your incantations and spells in a grimoire. In fact magic seems to be a common visual metaphor for AI tools (icons look like sparkles or magic wands). Maybe that will stick.
What we’re doing though, is hacking.
Hackers use technology. They look at systems and see where they can use technology to find a way in and get something done.
We are hacking.
And hacking will turn into apps.
And apps will turn into ecosystems.
While “hacking” may be what we are doing with AI, I propose an alternative analogy: recipes. We are all chefs, or at least cooks. The more enthusiastically and often we try to make delicious food, the broader our repertoire, the more delicious the dishes. We take recipes and make them our own, swap the best ones with friends, and maybe, sometimes, we invent an entirely new one.
Sometimes we don’t have the right tools and we improvise and learn something new. Sometimes we have to skip an ingredient or use a substitute and we find another way to make something.
Here’s a simple recipe for you to try at home. It’s a way of rustling up a quick transcript of a YouTube video without having to download it or put audio into a tool like Descript or Otter.ai.
Quick video transcript
Access to YouTube.
A video that you find interesting.
Google Docs or Word (to turn text into PDF).
Claude 100K AI model or Notion AI (you can also use ChatGPT, but you may need to feed it sections of the transcript rather than the whole thing, depending on how long it is).
Open the video in YouTube.
Click on the three dots menu button to open a pulldown menu.
Select show transcript.
Drag your cursor down the text to highlight it. (Careful not to drag the cursor outside the text box.)
Press CMD + C to copy the text.
For Claude 100K:
Paste the text into the word processor.
Export or print the document as a PDF.
Open Claude 100K and add the PDF.
Enter a prompt such as: “Format these lines as proper sentences and paragraphs removing the timestamps. Do not summarise and keep all of the content”
Paste into Notion.
Select the text and right click or press Space or CMD+J to get the “AI Assist” prompt.
Enter a prompt such as: “Format these lines as proper sentences and paragraphs removing the timestamps.”
For both variations:
Check that the transcript corresponds to the video and isn’t missing anything.
Copy the result into Word or Google Docs.
Add document formatting to taste and serve.
It can see, it can speak
The gap between paid and free versions of AI has grown in recent days, giving more glimpses of the shape of the near future. First, Adobe Firefly 2 looks like the best attempt at making generative AI user-friendly. It’s super-cautious about copyright infringement but has lots of simple controls to help nudge the images it makes for you in useful directions.
Meanwhile, ChatGPT Plus (the paid version) got several upgrades. You can ask it to make pictures for you with words in them (the Mrs Beeton cover image for this newsletter was made with it, although tweaked slightly as it had spelling errors). It’s impressive, and uses a little trick to take away some of the hacker-labour from the user – it takes your prompt and makes it better before creating the images. For a lot of non-hardcore techie or design users it will remove the need for paying for Midjourney. ChatGPT is sucking up the fledgling market from other tools, then.
The image generation is really cool, but what gave me a real AI-vertigo feeling was trying out the image analysis feature. In the standard ChatGPT mode you can put in an image and then prompt the system to analyse it, or do any number of things. I put in a photo of a busy street near my office and it described the shops, and then what the people were doing in the image, including a delivery driver I hadn’t noticed off to the side of the picture. “He’s either waiting for something or about to continue with his work,” ChatGPT said.
As ever with AI, the use cases aren’t handed to you in an instruction manual but once you have played with it, you starting hacking little applications all over the place. I input a photo of a whiteboard with really scrappy notes on a planning timeline and ChatGPT came back with it as notes, more or less in sequence, and some advice on how to organise them better. Without being asked to it had guessed that acting as a project manager at this point would be a good idea, even though I’d only asked for a transcription.
This week I’m…
The Law of Tehran (BBC iPlayer). Grim, gritty but not humourless, The Law of Tehran is a kind of day-in-the-life of a chaotic drug squad in Iran. They’re processing hundreds of arrested addicts, trying to avoid being sent to prison themselves, and break up huge international drug trafficking rings all in the same shift.
Past Lives (Cinemas, MUBI). At first glance it looks like a rom-com, but is much more than that. A Korean woman emigrates to America as a child but intermittently stays in touch with an old crush. Will they? Won’t they? It’s a grown up story with depth, but without ever being pretentious. Highly recommend.
Elon Musk, by Walter Isaacson
While I can no way compare my own struggle to read the 700 page Elon Musk biography with his efforts to develop commercially viable space business, I have read a lot of pages to get it finished. Nearly. It’s actually really interesting, although I’m looking forward to not reading it any more.
Julia, by Sandra Newman
After the Musky, male, utopianist vibe of the last book, this should be a good balancer. It’s the story of 1984 told from Winston Smith’s lover’s perspective. I’ve bought a copy of the very beautiful hardback and can’t wait….
That’s all for this week! It was a lot I know. If you liked it, please stick a share on it – we love those…