I was there when they broke the internet (coincidentally)

Started by David Pilling, June 01, 2023, 10:25:19 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

David Pilling

The PBS wiki consists of 1000's of text entries describing plants. These have been laboriously written by hand - most of them by Mary Sue Ittner, although many others have been involved. I have always found this difficult, just like writing essays at school on subjects I was not familiar with.

The latest wiki entry is for Chlorogalum grandiflorum:


I got Google 'bard' to write the text, and I am very proud of the result. It took me no time at all and it is much better English than anything I could usually have done.

The problem is that I have no idea if the material is correct and by now it will have been indexed by Google and will shortly be fed back into 'bard' etc.

We could see if we can stop the wiki contents being used to train AI, or we could decide to not use AI when adding stuff to the wiki. Not that it will make any difference...


And after many iterations of writing nonfiction text with AI, we will have a trove of fantasy botany.

David Pilling

I am going to analyse what happened here for the benefit of anyone Googling.

I used bard AI to generate the original PBS wiki entry for Chlorogalum grandiflorum - the generated text is shown in italics below.

The first chunk of the AI material consisted of copying everything on wikipedia:
Zero marks for that.

is also known as Red Hills soap plant, it is a perennial wildflower that grows from a red or brown-coated bulb up to 7 centimeters wide. The basal leaves have very wavy edges. The inflorescence may be a meter long and is composed of many flowers, each with six tepals which are white with a purple midvein. The tepals are narrow, up to 3 centimeters long, and curl back as they spread open. Each ephemeral flower opens in the evening and closes by the following morning. There are six stamens tipped with yellow anthers. The fruit is a capsule just over half a centimeter long.

Chlorogalum grandiflorum is endemic to the Sierra Nevada foothills of California, where it grows in chaparral, woodland, and forest on serpentine soil. It is a rare plant, and its populations are declining due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

There is an addition to wikipedia "It is a rare plant..."

Beyond that there are some additions

The plant is named for its soapy sap, which can be used to wash clothes and hair. The plant was also used by Native Americans as a medicine for a variety of ailments.

I can't find this for grandiflorum but there is a very interesting article about Soap Plant (Chlorogalum pomeridianum)


Probably they're similar, kinda sorta right.

The plant is a host plant for the larvae of the checkerspot butterfly.
The plant is used in traditional Chinese medicine.

I can't find either of these. Why would a California native plant be used in China, assuming traditional means more than a couple of 100 years old.

The original wiki entry containing the information I've not been able to verify does at the time of writing appear on Google search results. But by now I have now removed any material unique to bard.