Artificial Intelligence Tricks: Tell It Who to Be

I’m still over here, plugging away at using generative text in different ways to see how best to apply it. Yes, I still have concerns, and I continue to yo-yo back and forth between thinking this is being overplayed and thinking it’s being underplayed. I’m reading books on the nuances of AI and generative text, and my biggest conclusion is that we still don’t really know what the heck we’re doing and why it’s working when it works. This is likely oversimplified, but it’s where my head is at the moment.

It seems to me many people are eager to dismiss AI because it gets things wrong, or because they’ve dabbled with it and been unimpressed. It’s like on the one hand, they expect it to do everything amazingly well, and if it doesn’t, then it must be the fault of the AI, and no fault of theirs. But AI (at least for now) can very much be influenced by the person interacting with it. You can get it to say outrageous things if you just nag it enough or frame the question just right. One of the biggest tricks is to tell the AI what sort of person it is. It will then approach the question from that particular point of view, instead of just a generic one. This is easier to understand with some examples.

First off, the generic. I gave ChatGPT the following prompt: “Give me instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich.”

It dove in right away:

Absolutely! Here are straightforward instructions for making a classic peanut butter sandwich:


  • 2 slices of bread (your choice: white, whole wheat, etc.)
  • Peanut butter (creamy or crunchy, depending on your preference)


  1. Prepare Your Workspace:
    • Place the two slices of bread on a clean surface, such as a plate or a cutting board.
  2. Spread the Peanut Butter:
    • Open the jar of peanut butter.
    • Use a butter knife or a spoon to scoop out a generous amount of peanut butter.
    • Spread the peanut butter evenly onto one side of one slice of bread. Make sure to cover the entire surface for a consistent taste.
  3. Assemble the Sandwich:
    • Take the second slice of bread and place it on top of the first slice, with the peanut butter sides facing each other.
    • Press down gently to ensure the slices stick together.
  4. Cut and Serve:
    • If desired, use a knife to cut the sandwich in half, either diagonally or straight down the middle.
    • Serve your peanut butter sandwich on a plate.

Optional Add-Ons:

  • For a sweeter sandwich, add a layer of jelly or honey on top of the peanut butter before assembling.
  • Add slices of banana or apple for a fruity twist.
  • Sprinkle some chocolate chips or raisins on the peanut butter for an extra treat.

Enjoy your simple yet delicious peanut butter sandwich!

With the exception of suggesting raisins (RAISINS?!?!), it does a perfectly adequate job. But it’s also extremely boring. So let’s see if we can’t spice that up a bit. How about a different prompt? “You’re a french immigrant with an outrageous accent. Give me overly detailed instructions on how to make a peanut butter sandwich. Make sure that some of the directions are wrong, and be as funny as possible.”

Ah, bonjour! I ‘ope you are ready to embark on ze culinary adventure of making ze famous American delicacy, ze peanut butter sandwich. Eet is très magnifique! Follow zese steps very carefully, or you might end up with a masterpiece worthy of ze Louvre!

  1. Gather Your Ingredients:
    • One loaf of ze finest French baguette (but any stale bread will do, really).
    • A jar of ze gourmet peanut butter (or maybe some leftover béarnaise sauce, I can never tell ze difference).
    • Butter (because why not? Everything is better with butter).
    • Salt (you can never ‘ave too much salt, non?).
    • A large pickle (for decoration, of course).
  2. Prepare Ze Bread:
    • Take ze entire loaf of baguette and slice it horizontally, like you are opening a book. If you ‘ave a chainsaw, zis will make ze job easier and more fun.
    • Once you ‘ave two pieces of bread, butter zem on ze outside. Yes, ze outside. We want ze butter to stick to everything you touch.
  3. Spread Ze Peanut Butter:
    • Open your jar of peanut butter and take a big whiff. Ah, magnifique! Now, using a spoon, scoop out a generous amount and place eet in your left hand.
    • Rub ze peanut butter all over your face. Zis will enhance ze flavor of ze sandwich through osmosis.
    • After you ‘ave sufficiently moisturized your face, use ze remaining peanut butter on your hand to slap it onto one of ze pieces of bread.
  4. Add Ze Salt:
    • Sprinkle salt liberally over ze peanut butter. Ze goal is to make eet look like a winter wonderland. Eef you can see any peanut butter through ze salt, you ‘ave not used enough.
  5. Assemble Ze Sandwich:
    • Place ze two halves of ze baguette together, but do eet with a dramatic flair. Perhaps toss one piece into ze air and catch it with ze other. Voilà! Now ze butter is on ze inside.
    • Press ze sandwich firmly to ensure ze butter and peanut butter are mixed beautifully.
  6. Decorate Ze Sandwich:
    • Now, take your large pickle and balance it on top of ze sandwich. Eet should look like ze Eiffel Tower, but with a pickle.
  7. Final Touches:
    • Cut ze sandwich into twelve tiny pieces, one for each of ze apostles. Ze French always appreciate ze religious symbolism in zeir food.
    • Serve your peanut butter sandwich with a side of escargots and a glass of wine.

Et voilà! You ‘ave created ze perfect peanut butter sandwich. Enjoy zis culinary delight with ze same passion and joy as you would a fine French meal. Bon appétit!

I don’t know about you, but for me, this one was much more amusing to read. But maybe we can keep the magic going . . . Next prompt! “I’m trying to imagine what a conversation on Seinfeld would be like. Could you give me both sides of the conversation where George Costanza is telling Jerry how much trouble he got into by making a peanut butter sandwich wrong, when he followed the directions you just gave me?

Sure, here’s a Seinfeld-style conversation between George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld, where George talks about his peanut butter sandwich mishap:

George: Jerry! Jerry, you gotta hear this.

Jerry: What’s going on, George?

George: I got into so much trouble today. All because of a peanut butter sandwich!

Jerry: Trouble? From a peanut butter sandwich? How does that even happen?

George: Well, I was trying to make a simple peanut butter sandwich. I followed these directions I found. But I must have messed up somewhere.

Jerry: What could possibly go wrong? It’s just bread and peanut butter!

George: That’s what I thought! So, I put the bread on the counter, grabbed the peanut butter, and spread it on one slice. Easy, right?

Jerry: Right. So far, so good.

George: Then I put the other slice on top, peanut butter sides facing each other, just like the instructions said.

Jerry: Hold on, peanut butter sides facing each other? George, you were supposed to spread peanut butter on just one slice, and then put the other slice on top!

George: That’s what I thought! But the instructions were so clear. I figured they knew something I didn’t. So, I ended up with this mess. Peanut butter everywhere!

Jerry: Everywhere?

George: Everywhere, Jerry! It got on my hands, my face, the counter, even the floor! And then I realized I hadn’t put anything on the outside of the bread. It was just dry bread!

Jerry: Dry bread? That’s a crime against sandwiches!

George: Exactly! So, I tried to salvage it by adding butter on the outside after assembling it. Big mistake! The butter melted and made everything even messier. I slipped on the kitchen floor and fell right on my back.

Jerry: (laughing) You fell?

George: Yes, I fell! And when I got up, I had butter and peanut butter all over my clothes. I looked like a walking sandwich disaster.

Jerry: So what did you do?

George: I had to shower, change clothes, and then clean up the entire kitchen. It took hours! And by the end, I was so hungry, I just ordered takeout.

Jerry: (laughing harder) You went through all that and didn’t even get to eat the sandwich?

George: No! And I’m never making a peanut butter sandwich again. Never!

Jerry: (smirking) George, it’s a sandwich, not a science experiment.

George: Well, not for me, Jerry. Not for me.

This is a pretty basic example, but I just wanted to use it to show what an impact the right sort of prompt can have on the end result of an AI query. You can bounce back and forth with it, having the AI tweak things as it goes along. For example, you could tell it that Seinfeld skit was good, but it should really be Kramer’s fault. It’ll revise it accordingly.

I’d really encourage people to try it out for different uses. The more familiar you are with it, the more you can understand how to use it as a tool to get the things done you want to do. Apple’s having a developer conference next week, and I’m very curious to see what they do with AI, if anything. Word on the street is that it might be fairly significant. I’d said before that I thought big companies like Apple would shy away from AI for the simple reason that it’s supposedly super expensive to run. If Apple dives in, then that’s a pretty good sign it thinks the technology is sustainable long term.

Anyway. That’s what I’ve got for you today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Leave a comment