Gifting is one of those super human, personal and emotionally charged things. Doing it for those you care about. Putting thought into it. Thinking about what the receiver might like and hoping that it lights up their face when you give it to them. It's a wonderful experience for everyone involved an act that shows a real connection between two people.
So, with that lovely thought in mind, I decided to remove all of it. Try to make a mockery of the caring nature of gifting and do thoughtless gifting that's on par with buying someone a £10 digital Amazon voucher. And, because I REALLY care about testing the unthoughtfulness of gifting, I did it for my Mum.
With a week till the big day, I asked ChatGPT what I should buy for my Mum, giving it a few details about her interests. I didn't go into loads of detail and kept it light. So, I told the robot that she likes good food and being in the outdoors.
Its first suggestions were predictably generic. There was no way I was buying a woman in her 50s who likes cooking ANOTHER COOKBOOK. And picnics aren't really her thing. So, I asked for some more suggestions.
Before I did this experiment, I was certain it would be a catastrophe and an A.I language model wouldn't be able to choose a decent present, or even 'think' like people typically would about a gift. But its next suggestions started to veer from the interests I gave it, and interpret her love of outdoors as a love of gardening - an assumption that was pretty spot on.
I quite like gardening myself and have a good idea what would go into a nice gardening kit. But, not wanting to do any thinking at all, I asked Chat GPT what it would put in one. This immediately brought me back to disappointment with the answers being awful!
They all felt like the gift section of your local garden centre, the one full of discount stickers after Christmas. Or maybe even the naff bits in the 3 for 2 at Boots. I needed a better gift than that. My mum would see right through a rubbish garden starter kit. I had to put in a bit more effort it seemed.
I realised I must be more specific, being a better controller of the machine if I wanted it to break away from its generic suggestions. So, I informed Chat GPT I was in the UK and that I had a budget of £70 for this gift and asked it to find me something for the garden.
And I got some good results. The RHS endorsed toolkit sounded lovely. And a little under budget too. Nice work ChatGPT. Job done. Easy peasy. Time to hit buy… Or so I thought.
Now, remember I was putting in as little effort as possible here so asked for a link to the gardening toolkit so that I could click straight through to buy it.
But the link didn't work. And when I told it that, it gave me the same link again. I asked it for a third time and surprisingly enough, I got the same link again. I stopped there, since doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result I'm pretty sure is the definition of insanity. Whilst ChatGPT might be insane, I'm sure I'm not. Which meant I finally had to do some work of my own.
Luckily all I had to do was a simple copy and paste of the name of the set into Google and hit the first link to buy it. But, to my surprise, the item doesn't exist. I couldn't find it anywhere. I could find singular tools endorsed by the RHS, and other garden tool sets - but nothing at all that matched the set it had suggested.
Had Chat GPT made this item up based on a bunch of other items and some questionable A.I. learning? Who knows. What I do know though is that I started this with little hope. Those hopes were raised only to crash back down to earth again at the end.
I guess when it comes to it, it's about treating the people you care about with the respect and love they deserve - two emotions I don't think a computer is capable of. And I know for a fact that I'm far too picky to be happy with an A.I. chosen gift. Instead, I'll stick to sending family and friends a link to my wonderfully curated Things To Get Me list. I just hope that if they ignore it, they do so because they know me well and not because a computer told them too.
Oh, and I got my mum a gift in the end. One I knew she would like, accompanied by a bunch of her favourite flowers and lunch out with the family. Take that A.I.