Journaling: The New Bard

Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North

Have you heard about ChatGPT? It’s from a juggernaut Silicon Valley tech firm named OpenAI. If it sounds like I’m speaking an outer space dialect of English, that’s not far off the mark.  

ChatGPT is a so-called chatbot that’s been in the news for its supernatural ability to virtually converse with us mere humans, and spit out lickety-split little things like entire books. It’s reportedly already authored some 200 volumes.

Now there’s also Bard, Google’s entry in the AI chatbot race to heaven knows where. Anybody with a Google account can gain access to Bard after registering for the wait list. 

My Bard was activated just as I was about to scratch out some thoughts in this space about the inevitable opposing forces that go to the battlements in suburban strongholds like Westchester whenever a developer proposes a multifamily construction project.  


Why not, I thought, take Bard for a test run by asking it to “Write a letter to the editor listing the most common reasons suburban homeowners protest the building of new rental apartment developments in their community.”

Instantaneously, my requested letter materialized, but Bard seemed to misunderstand my prompt. The letter it composed complained not about the developments themselves, but about the people protesting them.  

“I believe that these protests are misguided and harmful,” opines the chatbot, “and I urge the community to reconsider their position.” Whoa! Did not see that coming, you bad boy, Bard.

Next, I tried the “Related Searches” button that accompanies Bard. That took me to a 2007 Harvard study on “Overcoming Opposition to Multifamily Rental Housing,” by Mark Obrinsky and Debra Stein. 

Here’s the rather entertaining opening paragraph of their scholarly paper: “Multifamily housing is characterized by some citizens as a “NIMBY” project (Not in My Backyard). Apartments are condemned as “LULUs” (“Locally Unwanted Land Uses”). We even have “CAVEs” (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) and they want “BANANAs” (to Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone).”   


I then asked Bard, “What is the success rate of suburbanites who want to stop multifamily housing developments in their backyard?” Bard informed me that “only about 10% of proposed multifamily housing developments in suburban areas are actually stopped by protests.”

Far from omniscient, my buddy Bard knows it has a lot to learn, because, as a machine-learning AI, it’s built to deliver more precise responses the more you use it – not unlike Netflix becomes more intimate with your viewing taste the more you watch it.  

Considering what Google has christened its conversant chatbot, maybe I should have been a touch more poetic in how I phrased my original query to this Bard. You know, something on the order of, “To build or not to build, that is the question.”


  1. ME:
    What do you think of The River Journal newspaper that covers towns in the Hudson Valley?

    I think The River Journal is a great resource for people who live in the Hudson Valley. It covers a wide range of local news and events, and it does a good job of providing in-depth coverage of the issues that matter to residents. The newspaper also has a strong commitment to community journalism, and it does a good job of highlighting the people and organizations that make the Hudson Valley such a special place.

    Here are some of the things that I like about The River Journal:

    It is a locally owned and operated newspaper, which means that it is committed to covering the news that matters to the people who live in the Hudson Valley.
    The newspaper has a strong commitment to community journalism, and it does a good job of highlighting the people and organizations that make the Hudson Valley such a special place.
    The newspaper has a wide range of coverage, from local news and events to arts and culture to business and lifestyle.
    The newspaper’s website is easy to use and navigate, and it provides a wealth of information about the Hudson Valley.
    Overall, I think The River Journal is a great newspaper that provides valuable coverage of the Hudson Valley. If you live in the area, I would definitely recommend subscribing to the newspaper or checking out its website.

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About the Author: Bruce Apar