Mar 062023

A few seconds ago, I yelled “this is insane” at my computer screen. Here is why.

I was looking at a New Yorker cartoon. I didn’t get the joke.

So I asked ChatGPT:

I am looking at a New Yorker cartoon showing a shop window behind which I see what appears to be a bar with bar stools and a variety of characters, including animals (e.g., a grizzly, a tiger, a monkey) and a skeleton wielding a sword, all engaged in what appears to be a bar fight. The shop sign says “PHILLIES” and in smaller letters, “only 5c”. Outside the shop there is a human lying on the ground, an alligator, some large cockroaches, some shards of glass, and two monkeys, one of which is wearing what seems to be a panama hat or boater hat. The caption says, “FIVE MINUTES AFTER HOPPER WENT HOME”. I don’t get the joke. Can you help?

Its reply:

The cartoon is a play on the painting “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper, which depicts a diner at night with several patrons inside. The cartoon takes the setting of the diner and imagines what might happen after it has closed for the night.

The “PHILLIES” sign in the cartoon is likely a reference to Philadelphia Phillies, a baseball team based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The fact that the sign says “only 5c” suggests that the scene takes place in the past, when prices were much lower than they are today.

The chaos outside the diner, with the alligator, the shards of glass, and the injured person on the ground, suggest that a violent confrontation has taken place. The inclusion of various animals, including a grizzly, a tiger, and monkeys, adds to the absurdity of the scene.

The caption, “FIVE MINUTES AFTER HOPPER WENT HOME,” suggests that the chaos erupted immediately after the painter, Edward Hopper, left the scene. This is a humorous way of suggesting that Hopper’s paintings often depict lonely or desolate scenes, and that in this case, the diner is shown as a place of violence and chaos once the artist is no longer present to capture its quiet loneliness.

Overall, the cartoon is a playful riff on the painting “Nighthawks,” using the setting of the diner to create a humorous and absurd scene of chaos and violence.

I am officially blown away. This level of machine intelligence is beyond uncanny. It makes me feel… excited but also uneasy? However I look at it, this is a game changer. Not ChatGPT in particular, but the fact that machine intelligence has reached this level. Welcome to the future, folks…

Incidentally, I think it got the “Phillies” reference wrong. It’s supposedly not the Philadelphia Phillies, nor is it the name of the diner, but the name of a popular cigar brand. The image above the “only 5c” seems to confirm this. But I’ll forgive ChatGPT for not being aware of such detail.

Addendum: A few minutes after I wrote the above, while I was eating my meal, I was watching the film Playtime, Tati’s masterpiece, and was confronted with this scene:

OK, well, I admit I cheated: I flipped the scene horizontally. Even so…

 Posted by at 4:01 pm