Needed Vacations and Help From AI

Vacations are important for the soul! May is not only Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, but also Mental Health Awareness Month. So let’s be mindful about observing it in the many ways we can (breathing with mindfulness, taking breaks or seeing a therapist.) For me, whether it’s doing “nothing” at home or taking a plane across the world, a change of scenery works wonders for my mood and creativity.

Recently, I was fortunate to travel with my husband and kids to Japan for the springtime sakura (cherry blossoms) and to Bora Bora (Tahiti) with my mom. Yup, I know; it’s almost too much, both trips being bucket list-type travel opportunities within weeks of each other. Our “big” Asia trip was cancelled in 2020 (as many of us shifted plans,) so I guess I’m making up for it. (For a few photos, got to instagram

Unlike most people who go on trips to get away from work, I look forward to “working” on my trips. For me, there’s just something about being in an airport, in an airplane, in a different place, besides home to get my creativity flowing. It also helps that I love writing. So when I’m in a happy place (physically or in my head) I’m even more excited to write there.

But don’t get me wrong, I also love taking breaks and having experiences that are unique to a particular place. I simply sprinkle writing and research related items throughout. For example, I enjoyed a kintsugi experience, mending broken pottery, making them even more beautiful. There are so many lessons here and it’s part of a story I’m writing, so I considered this “research.” I also went on one of the most picturesque hikes (thanks to our older son,) visited a dagashi bar (all-you-can-eat candy and video games for an hour, a favorite experience for my boys,) and had a magical moment as sakura petals snowed down while a gentle wind blew. All helped my imagination, to add richer details the stories within.

And because of my growing interest in AI related news (like various large language models,) I have been putting it to the test throughout my days: asking for recipes based on unused ingredients in the fridge, finding titles, making art, and… planning my trips! (Bonus, all are fodder for story ideas.)

So for Japan, I asked ChatGPT the best food options in a certain city (giving it types of food, price range and general location.) I instantly got a list. But I didn’t stop there, of course. I still needed to check out these eateries and choose my favorites. Then I asked it to name places to visit and things to do based on family values (nature, beauty, hiking; animal related; popular or historical destinations…) This type of research usually takes me hours, even days. But with the help of ChatGPT, I was able to compile some lists instantaneously.

I also asked what was needed to prepare for the trip (covid requirements, airport hacks, reservations…) like a knowledgable friend or personal tour guide, I got a bit of extra help in all the planning this time. It also helps to have a good friend in Japan (thank you, Grace!) and an acquaintance who’s a Bora Bora expert (thank you JJ!) People can never really be replaced!

With the computer, the key is to discover how to ask it questions (I guess this is important with people, too.) This is becoming an art. And users are honing their skills to gain some amazing results: translating medical text into layman’s terms, even getting affirmations as if from a caring friend who’s texting encouraging messages in real time. The uses are endless and growing more sophisticated, especially now with ChatGPT-4 which can be used with a subscription.

A terrifying component for me is the deep fake possibilities with all the emerging AI platforms. In the last few weeks, deep fake Drake (google it! or chatGPT it) was the talk of the town. Basically, someone created a song using new AI technology in the style of Drake and The Weeknd and it was REALLY GOOD! In other words, this original AI song sounds just like it’s from these artists, except they had nothing to do with it. Yet “Heart on My Sleeve” has so far “amassed over 250,000 Spotify streams and over 10 million views on Tik Tok” according to (4/17/23)

So imagine: someone getting into trouble because they said something, but it wasn’t really them. Or maybe worse, someone does/says something awful and says that it’s fake and they’re let off, only to continue the hate and harmful rhetoric/action. See, big problems here and growing! Tech people and lawyers are scrambling to make this right.

But I can’t help thinking we are at a precipice. Will we “unknowingly” allow AI to control us as we become the proverbial frogs in the pot, dying slowly. Or will we jump out because we recognize the inevitable. And by jumping out, I mean jumping into a new reality where we actually change the parameters around our nuclear bomb from within, so even the rogue among us who break these needed rules don’t have a choice but to submit.

It’s currently the wild wild west of AI. And if you’re savvy and future forward, you’re scrambling, too, to figure this all out for yourself: best uses, best security, best ways ahead. If you’re not there yet, it’s ok. You will be thrust into it soon enough. If you’ve tinkered with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. So please share: how have you used or want to use AI chatbots and other AI platforms? What are your fears and hopes for this new era? Seriously, hit me up on discussing this. I am truly fascinated!

In the meantime, ask ChatGPT how to relax or vacation from wherever, because we need it!

Art by Ann Suk Wang, using Dall-E

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