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  • Shane Golden - When Darwin met Turing ; Wine and AI

    July 06, 2023 3 min read

    Shane Golden - When Darwin met Turing ; Wine and AI

    Say what you like about Nostradamus but to be held up as a predictor of mankind’s future endeavours over 450 years after his death is quite a feat. Being less accurate than a stopped clock has been no barrier to his success and with a plethora of vague predictions to his name it seems that this trend will continue long into the future. The fact that he can still hold an audience captive is surely testament to humanity’s continued quest for certainty in a distinctly uncertain world.  

    The great leap forward that is ChatGPT has unleashed an army of doomsday predicators. Pay too much attention to them and you will be forgiven for thinking that the end of the world is nigh and a “Terminator”-style dystopian darklands awaits us. Artificial Intelligence (A.I) is here to stay. We don’t need to give up hope just yet but some of us do need to adjust. Having already proved its worth in fields as diverse as early disease detection to subsistence farming in Third World countries, it is quite literally saving lives and only just getting started.  

    But what about those who work in the creative arts? Those who write and influence about wine, crime or travel may have good cause for concern but neither Jancis Robinson, James Ellroy or William Dalrymple are currently quaking in their boots. All of them have distinct, independent and singular voices carved into their work. Conversely, if you write to a formula and don’t see yourself in your work then A.I is now in your rear-view mirror. This can only be something positive, influencers be wary. 

    As if having to taste hundreds of wines a week isn’t difficult enough, or having to live in a world of unbounded sensuality,  the wine critic’s job is even more perilous now that they can be supposedly replaced by AI. Wine reviews and tasting notes can just as accurately be generated without the outmoded need for human intervention. Or at least that’s those with vested interests want you to believe. We’re being told that the replication of instinct, experience and taste can be done just as well via a digital process. Is it appealing or appalling that there are apps out there that tell you that the wine you’re buying is a 72% match for your taste? What percentage would it take for you to stop trusting yourself and hand over the reins to the ghost in your phone? 

    I put ChatGPT to the test (so you don’t have to) by asking it to write reviews of a number of wines. The initial results were impressive, informative and accurate. But stack the results together and a different picture emerges. With all the soul of a wet sock, I may as well have been reading the back of a packet of Cornflakes. But don’t cast me as a luddite, sensuality is simply beyond rationality. 

    A.I is a challenge to be embraced. Alan Turing articulated a philosophical model by which we judge machine intelligence in respect to human behaviour.  The Turing test is a reasonable standard all wine writers should hold themselves to. “Could this have been written by an algorithm?” is a question that needs to be asked more and more by both reader and writer. If the answer is yes, then A.I is no longer in your rear-view mirror but in the driving seat. This is where Darwin’s Evolutionary theory should kick in. Standards will need to be raised but those with talent and identity in their work will adapt, survive and thrive.  

    Since wine is first and foremost an experience those who work passionately in this industry, and there is no shortage, have an advantage. 

     A.I doesn’t feel, sense or love wine. At least not yet anyway. 


    -Shane Golden.