We asked an artificial intelligence to predict what will happen in Sask. in 2023

Artificial intelligence has advanced to be able to spit out entire paragraphs of seemingly thoughtful writing, but can it predict the future? (Dayne Patterson/CBC - image credit)
Artificial intelligence has advanced to be able to spit out entire paragraphs of seemingly thoughtful writing, but can it predict the future? (Dayne Patterson/CBC - image credit)

Can machine learning predict what the new year has in store for Saskatchewan?

CBC handed the crystal ball to ChatGPT — an artificial intelligence system designed to simulate human conversation by drawing from human input and text examples across the internet — asking it to predict the weather, political conflicts and the province's future in 2023.

Artificial intelligence has expanded to the point where it can almost instantly respond to a simple prompt, like asking it to write a short news story about what could happen in Saskatchewan in 2023.

"2023 could see the opening of the Global Water Futures Institute at the University of Saskatchewan … [which] will focus on researching and developing solutions to global water challenges," ChatGPT responded.

"This could have significant implications for both the province and the world as water is a critical resource for many industries."

The bot broke down the turbulent relationship between the provincial government and Ottawa in seconds, stating that while it can't predict how the bond between the two will function next year, their differences on issues like climate change could play a role.

"It is important for both sides to work together and find common ground in order to address the challenges facing the province and the country," it wrote.

While the artificial intelligence seems to have provided a reasonable response, it's only regurgitating information people have already said, according to  Alec Couros, an educational technology professor and director of teaching and learning at the University of Regina.

"It's not some sort of predictive modeling machine, it's a tool that can basically repeat language," he said.

Couros said it works similar to predictive text on phones, but instead of providing the next few words it will provide an essay.

"It's not wise, it's not hyper intelligent," he said. "It's been trained on a large data set of human text in order to learn the patterns and structures of natural language."

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Couros said the ChatGPT bot isn't able to browse the web and the data set is out of date, and likely isn't even aware of key historical events like the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

For journalists looking for real analysis on things like the relationship between governments, artificial intelligence isn't quite there yet, said Toronto Metropolitan University associate journalism professor Gavin Adamson.

Adamson is working with others to use AI to identify the sources being used in a news article, and categorize them to learn what type of sources the author is choosing and consider the depth of the story.

Artificial intelligence is being used to write stories using structured data, like for baseball games or business stories, he said, but would find it difficult to give insight because despite the advancement of AI, it struggles to provide sentiment.

"Once you go anywhere off the kind of structured element of interpreting data or basic numbers, it gets to be really tricky," he said.