“Can you write this again but make it funny?” I asked ChatGPT, when it spat out a detailed itinerary of a three-day hike on a section of the England Coast Path. “I want to laugh out loud while I’m reading this on the beach.”
“Day 3: A Hilariously Charming Coastal Finale,” it wrote back. It promised me a day full of “moments that would tickle my funny bone,” and then proceeded to suggest that I start my day by backtracking four miles to watch for seals at Blakeney Point, which was also on day two of the itinerary. “Step into the day with a spring in your step as you set off from Cley Next-the-Sea. The coastal path unfolds like a never-ending comedy skit, with scenic marshlands and tidal creeks providing the perfect backdrop.”
I had accepted a challenge to ask AI to plan a town-to-town trek on the English coast and then follow its orders without fact-checking—beyond confirming the existence of the places it suggested. If I’m being honest, I wanted to have a bad time. Aside from making a living from exactly the thing AI purports to do flawlessly in mere seconds threatening to render me obsolete, I am also the sort of person who still sends postcards and handwritten letters. I love off-grid nature trips and the analog ways of doing things, so, naturally, I wanted to hate this new invasion of technology into our personal lives. I wanted it to fail at planning my trip, and miserably. I daydreamt that it would try to send me hiking straight into the sea the way Michael Scott drives into a lake while following his GPS in The Office.