05 September 2023

AI, Caramba


by Peter Rozovsky

Can you stand one more story of AI oddities?  This one is a little different. 

A few months ago I put up a query on Facebook.  I will repeat it here because I am still looking for an answer:

Back in the early seventies I read a short story in a high school English class and I don't know the author or the title.  Any hints?  The narrator is an adult remembering his childhood.  He was a member of the best Boy Scout troop in a city. An ambitious young man (brother of the mayor, or something similar) decided the best way to get started in politics was to be the head of that troop. He tried to push the scoutmaster out and when that failed the authorities started an investigation of the scoutmaster for unspecified wrongdoing.  The young narrator was called before the inquiry panel and asked if the scoutmaster had ever mistreated him.  Eager to defend him, the boy said, no, he's very nice to us. He hugs us, etc.  Unknowingly, he gives them exactly the ammunition they need to falsely charge the man with being a pedophile.  

That's all I wrote on Facebook but I will reveal the ending here:


After the hearing the scoutmaster  tells the boy "You told the truth and I'm proud of you."  Then he goes home and kills himself.

If anyone know the author and title of that story I would love to find out.

But back to the AI deal.  Someone on Facebook decided to ask Bard for help.  Bard is an experimental AI program from Google. They showed me the result and it was startling.  Bard found a story by a well-known author with the word "Boy Scout" in the title and it described a plot very much like the one I described.

I got quite excited.  Then I reached the ending and it was completely different than the one I remembered.  Huh?  Did I have it all wrong?  Were there two similar stories with different conclusions?

Not Bard

I finally realized what had happened.  Bard had attached a version of the story summary I wrote to an existing title and, since it didn't know the real ending, had made one up.  And claimed it was the real one.

So I went to Bard and asked it to find novels about a member of the mafia trying to save the environment.  Now, that is a logline for my novel Greenfellas.  Here is a reasonable summary of that book, written by me:

Sal Caetano is the consiglieri for a New Jersey Mafia family.  When he becomes a grandfather he decides to save the environment for his granddaughter, by any means necessary.  His mission puts him in conflict with other gangs, the FBI, politicians, ecoterrorists and, most dangerous of all, his own mob family.

This is what Bard came up with:

Sure, here is a novel about a member of the mafia trying to save the environment:

Greenfellas by Robert Lopresti

In this comic novel, a group of mobsters in New Jersey decide to start a new business: environmental protection. They call themselves the Greenfellas, and they use their mob connections to help clean up pollution and protect endangered species.

The Greenfellas are led by Vinnie "The Earthworm" Caputo, a former waste management executive who is now dedicated to saving the planet. He is joined by his crew, including "Big Al" the enforcer, "Little Pauly" the accountant, and "The Professor" the scientist.

 The Greenfellas soon find themselves in over their heads when they take on a corrupt developer who is trying to build a casino on a protected wetland. But they are determined to succeed, even if it means risking their lives.

Greenfellas is a funny and heartwarming novel that explores the unlikely relationship between the mafia and environmentalism. It is a story about redemption, friendship, and the power of one person to make a difference.

Bizarre, huh? Bard correctly identified my book as matching the request, and then made up a plot for it.  I can only hope that very few people, like my Facebook friend, try to use Bard as a source for information. 

It reminds me of the weird recent case of the lawyer who asked an AI  to write his brief. The lawyer was suspicious about the results so what did he do?  He  asked that same AI if the citations were accurate. It assured him they were. What could possibly go wrong?

I just asked Bard about ecoMafia novels again and this time it didn't find my book but produced a list of books that don't acually exist such as Mafia's Green Agenda by Michael Connelly (2013) and The Green Olive Conspiracy by Anthony Bruno (2012).  (I like that title.) I will not give you the plots.  

And now I'm going to go read something created by humans.


  1. At least it did describe your novel as " funny and heartwarming".

  2. Every time one of my various services asks me if I want to use AI to "boost" my search, work, etc., I punch close as quickly as possible. Thank you for confirming my complete defiance of it. Back to Dickens.

  3. I think you dodged a bullet, Rob. Whew.

  4. Still wish I knew who wrote that original story, though...


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