Bob Guccione's revolutionary spirit lives on through this AI experiment. Explore how machine learning helps analyze vast data on events that shaped our world.
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AI on AI: Omni Predicts Current Discussions Around Artificial Intelligence
As more and more Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools become available there have also been additional applications theorized and warnings issued by the scientists involved. Taking a look at vintage issues of Omni magazine shows that our conversations around AI are rooted in a decades-long history of wanting AI to take over human tasks and invent new possibilities, and that it was known that this would not come without consequence. Current AI tools such as ChatGPT can help further these conversations, this time with the direct involvement of AI.
Context and Complexity: Diving into "The Penthouse Vietnam Veterans Adviser"
This experiment previously tested how AI research would describe the unexpected legacy of Penthouse magazine when it came to writing about the Vietnam War. In honor of Memorial Day we decided to put it to a further test to see how tools like ChatGPT can supplement original and historical works, particularly those as complex as Penthouse’s “Vietnam Veterans Adviser.”
Loving, Sensual, and Free: Viva and Feminist Magazines Through the Years
Viva's launch in 1973 added a new perspective to the conversation between women's magazines, which at the time consisted of the Ms. Magazine camp, offering feminist news and writing, fashion magazines such as Harper's Bazaar, or traditional but still popular publications such as Good Housekeeping. Viva joined elements of these magazines with erotic content, refusing to shy away from sex and controversy. Associate Publisher and Editor Kathy Keeton explained "Viva's Woman" in her First Word section for the August 1974 issue, explaining who the modern reader of Viva was. The inclusion of antiquated delineations between the "feminist" and the "traditional housewife," as well as a decidedly heteronormative stance, shows how Viva very much represented social currents of its time. This offers the perfect jumping off point to learn about other feminist movements through magazines thanks to ChatGPT, and to begin to theorize about what the future of the feminist magazine would look like.
Arthur C. Clarke's 2001 Prophecy Quiz
In 1985 questions about the future touched on many of the issues still in the headlines today, from nuclear weapons to space tourism. In the July 1985 issue Omni put these queries to Arthur C. Clarke, famed science-fiction writer and futurist. We invite you to test your knowledge about Clark's just as Robert Weil and Peter Tyson invited Omni readers in 1985, with the 2023 addition of ChatGPT's answers to the same questons.
AI Predicts the Future of Censorship
Just as in 1975, conversations surrounding censorship and free speech are predominent and urgent today. As "book bans" continue around the U.S., it is important to look at both the history of censorship and what the full extent of such bans could be. While Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury serve as seminal texts in this genre, Chat GPT offers its own entry when prompted.
Preserved Scandal: The History of Bob Guccione and Kodak Film
While ChatGPT continues to help provide background information in the beginning stages of research, it still falls flat when pulling specific information and offering a next step for further learning about a topic. This strength and weakness are both on full display when it comes to the history of Bob Guccione's use of Kodak film for his risqué photography, providing background on the format while omitting the story of when Kodak refused to process photographs of Cheryl Rixon.
Nostalgic Crush: AI Predicts What Decade Will Inform Trends Next
From butterfly clips and low rise jeans to vintage-inspired shows such as "Daisy Jones and the Six" and "Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies," nostalgia-informed fashion and culture seem to be taking over today's trends. As all-consuming as this might feel, the March 1980 issue of Penthouse proves that it is not a new phenomenon at all. Reading Marjorie Rosen's "View From the Top" column "Bring Back the Sixties," it becomes clear that culture has been stuck in this cycle for many years. Asking AI about this recurrence reveals a bit more history on the trend, an apt overview of how archives fit in, and examples in today's culture we have all observed firsthand.
The Gender-Delineated "Ad Age"
We have established that AI chat tools are a helpful place to begin, but not end, casual research into a topic. Asking ChatGPT for an overview on magazine advertisements in the 1970s revealed a path of questioning about gender roles in mass media. While the written responses did not provide nuance around gender identity and nonbinary readers, it did provide a place to start on this research inquiry. It will be difficult to contine with the resources offered, however, because ChatGPT provided either dead-end links or links to irrelevant articles for further reading.
AI Since Omni: From the Cray-1 in 1976 to GPT-3 in 2020
What happens when you ask AI to write its own history? An article titled "Monster Machines: Artificial Intelligence" by Michael Edelhart in Omni, August 1983 provides inspiration for just this prompt. Edelhart writes about the supercomputers built by Seymour Cray, an important milestone on the road to the current juggernaut status of AI. While ChatGPT allows us to learn more about its own development in a way that extends beyond the boundaries of different companies in the space, its writing style still stands in sharp contrast to that of a human, such as Edelhart.
Longevity and Longevity: The Limitations of AI for Research
Users are beginning their research journey more and more through AI models such as Google Bard and ChatGPT. While they can be helpful tools to get a taste for available resources, they lack the taxonomy needed to ensure accurate searching built into existing tools such as Wikipedia. Asking for cursory information about Longevity magazine, one of the popular titles from Bob Guccione and Kathy Keeton's General Media, returned two erroneous results - one more defective than the other. Consider this your reminder to always check a few different resources and be wary when sources are not identified.
Pornography and Free Speech: The 1970s Debate and Its Impact Today
This is a further exploration of how ChatGPT recaps and analyzes complex historic threads. Putting the tool to the test through the thorny history of debates surrounding pornography in the 1970s displays the successes and drawbacks of the tool. While it provides a helpful primer, AI makes overt missteps a human might not, such as identifying Andrea Dworkin as "pro-pornography" when she was in fact a creator of the Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance. The lack of nuance and reference to primary sources means I do not predict a history teacher will mistake this for student work anytime soon.
The Importance of Popular Culture Archives - According to AI
For those who have experienced archives, whether during a history course in school or in trying to track down a "lost" episode of their favorite tv show, the word renders thoughts of magic and wonder...or just yellowing pages. Archivists continuously work to bring awareness to the materials they steward, connecting collections with users who make preservation worthwile. It is a difficult task that requires constant ingenuity.