South Park S26, Ep 4 Review
The following review has not been written with the help of AI like ChatGPT. Nor will it likely ever be written, as I’m confident in my ability to communicate through writing. Some people, though, see a thing like ChatGPT as an easy way to do their writing for them. Case in point, Stan and a few of the boys (and a teacher) at South Park Elementary start using ChatGPT to get out of writing stuff they don’t want to. Like talking to their significant others.
This might be my favorite episode of the season.
Stan Discovers the Power of ChatGPT
One day at recess, Wendy hears Bebe bragging about how sweet Clyde’s being to her via their text messages. This leads Wendy to wonder why Stan’s never the same with her, while I’m wondering, “When did they get back together? I thought they broke up from the fallout of the ‘Internet Troll’ season.” Regardless, Stan goes to Clyde for advice, and he spills his secret: he’s not writing it. He’s using ChatGPT, the new chatbot AI making the rounds on the Internet.
I felt compelled by South Park to look up ChatGPT for myself, downloading and getting the free trial as the episode was airing, and it sounds like a dream come true. It writes out responses for conversations, tells stories, and even creates AI art. Thus, rather than taking the time to talk to his girlfriend, Stan takes the lazy way out and starts using it to write what he should say to Wendy. And she buys it, which is a problem.
As someone who took years of practice to get to my current skill level, I could see a lot of problems with using ChatGPT like this. Firstly, it causes a person’s creativity to stagnate if used too much. Secondly, sooner or later, people will catch onto the fact that it’s not you writing but a bot. Case in point, Stan almost drops the ball when he doesn’t remember what he texted to Wendy, and it only gets worse from there.
The Potential to Cheat on Essays is Obvious
Things escalate when Stan, Cartman, Clyde, and Butters use the chatbot to cheat on their school essays. Things snowball into Mr. Garrison using to grade their papers, and it worsens from there. Eventually, the school catches on that someone’s using ChatGPT to cheat, and the heat starts to come down on everyone.
This whole sequence of events was my favorite part of the whole episode, because it validated my opinion on using AI for something like this. The boys don’t want to fess up because they know how mad the girls will be, but don’t know how to get out of their mess. The episode does stall with this overly-long gag of their chat interrupted by this random boy coming into the bathroom, but they shut it down when it happens again.
The funniest part of the episode, though, is the “technician” the school brings in to find out who’s using ChatGPT. It’s this bearded guy dressed straight out of a fantasy story who used arcane arts and a falcon to find the culprit. It’s not the boys or Garrison, though; he thinks its Wendy.
A Lazy Deus Ex Machina Ending
With Stan now in a no-win scenario, he can’t think of a way to get out of this. If he fesses up, he’ll be in trouble from the school and Wendy. If he doesn’t, Wendy gets in trouble. So, he plays the only card he’s got-the deus ex machina card, a la ChatGPT.
In what has to be the laziest example of a deus ex machina, Stan uses the chatbot to come up with a story to get himself and everyone off the hook. He makes this superficial speech about how they should blame the ones who made the AI, everyone buys it, and no one gets in trouble. The end. On the one hand, I think this was such a lame way to end the episode. On the other hand, I think it’s funny because it was supposed to be lazy. It proves the problems with using an AI like ChatGPT for a crutch. It’s a powerful tool when used correctly, but it’s not perfect. It’s story had Cartman insult Stan for being Jewish instead of Kyle.
As much as I would’ve loved to see the climax be about ChatGPT going Skynet and messing with everyone’s heads, I still thought “Deep Learning” was a solid episode. It points out all the problems with this new technology and milks it for all its worth. Additionally, if the episode was partially written by Matt and Trey using ChatGPT themselves, it drives the point home further. Well played, guys.
Again, this wasn’t written by ChatGPT.