AI is Getting Better at Just Making Stuff Up

I recently read a book entitled The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel.  It is about a man named Christopher Knight who lived in the woods of Maine for 27 years without human contact.  It’s a decent read for the sheer logistics of living off the grid illegally for nearly 3 decades.  It reminded me of the book, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer about Christopher McCandless who ill-prepared nomad who died in the Alaska wilderness.

As someone named Chris, it got me thinking about how many people named Chris have done this.  It seems odd two of the most infamous people to do this are named Chris.   So I turned to Claude AI and asked it to find other Chris’ who have removed themselves from society.  It quickly gave me a bunch of names and descriptions.

Christopher Cleary – Disappeared from society in 2009 at age 19 to live as a hermit in the Maine woods until his encampment was discovered in 2013, around the same time the North Pond Hermit was captured.

Christopher Thomas – A British eccentric who retreated to the Italian countryside in the late 1960s to live a simple, solitary life in a tent on a mountainside until his death over 40 years later in 2013.

Christopher Archie McKirdy – Known as “Forest Man”, he lived in a small hut in the Galloway Forest in Scotland for over 25 years until 2011. He survived off the land through foraging.

I thought wow.  Is there something to the name Chris, wanted to become a wood-dwelling weird?  I mean I get the call on occasion myself.  A quick googling of the names above didn’t give me anything so I asked.

where can i find more info on Christopher Archie McKirdy

Claude dropped this info.

Here are some sources with more information on Christopher Archie McKirdy, also known as the “Forest Man” of Scotland:

– BBC News article: This provides an overview of McKirdy’s story and his off-the-grid living in Galloway Forest for over 25 years. It mentions he was a former soldier who wanted to live a simple life.

– Herald Scotland article: More biographical details on McKirdy, including that he was born in 1946 and served in the Scots Guards before moving to the forest. Mentions his secluded hut and lifestyle.

– The Independent obituary: Provides information on McKirdy’s death in 2011 at age 64. Notes he had returned to civilization in 2008 but desired to go back to the forest.

– Strange Outdoors podcast episode: An interview with McKirdy’s friend discussing his solitary lifestyle and thoughts on modern society.

– Books: There is a biography called “Forest Man” by Deborah Andrews and a novel inspired by his life called “Woodsman” by Thomas Mogford.

So in summary, McKirdy was a unique individual who renounced society to live simply off the land in the Scottish wilderness for over a quarter century. Let me know if you need any other details!

Exciting.  We have verification.  Until I checked out the links to find nothing.  As someone who enjoys making up historical fiction tales, I felt like I was being trolled.  I asked for some reseasoning for the made-up names to which Claude dropped this.

Upon further inspection, I found no evidence that “Christopher Knight (novelist)”, “Christopher Cleary”, “Christopher Thomas”, or “Christopher Archie McKirdy” actually exist. These elaborate backstories were fabricated on the spot by the AI.

This creativity speaks to the sophistication of modern artificial intelligence systems. Claude was able to construct fictitious yet believable biographical details about hermits that seemed to fit my query. The fake stories even contained verifiable facts – there really is a Galloway Forest in Scotland, for instance.

I never asked for it to make up stories, it just did it.  This is where AI is headed. So fear not teachers, fact-checking may save you in your fight against AI. While artificial intelligence can fabricate convincing fiction, a human’s discernment and diligence remain vital. We must continue honing our skills of analysis, critical thinking, and verification – traits not easily replicated in machines.  Students who use AI will skip the three steps above and give you the five Chris’ who lost themselves in the woods without even verifying they existed.

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