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ChatGPT Sings the Blues
The Computer Corner

December 24, 2023

by Charles Miller

I have a few plans for the coming holidays. For the most part I will be enjoying some time off, socializing, and some time just being lazy. In Mexico between Christmas and New Years or even Three Kings Day quite a few offices are closed. Of course, schools are also on break. Right on queue the Ars Technica web site reported on something the IT (Information Technology) newsgroups have been discussing lately; the "winter break hypothesis."

Everyone, who hasn't been on an island with no electricity and no internet all year, knows by now that ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot that understands natural language and responds in human-like conversational dialogue.

The closer we get to the year-end holidays the more mentions in the tech newsgroups I follow include observations of users noticing that ChatGPT seems to be becoming lazy. Users report the chatbot refusing to do some tasks or producing cheat-sheet type answers rather than detailed responses. OpenAI, the non-profit organization responsible for ChatGPT, has admitted that this is something about which it is aware, but the engineers are not sure of the cause.

ChatGPT uses a machine learning model to fine-tune its own algorithm; in other words it is programmed to improve its program based on interaction with human users. OpenAI says it has not introduced any substantive changes in the program in a month, but that the way the AI updates itself can be unpredictable. They do not know why ChatGPT would be so noticeably slowing down and are looking into possible remediations.

One newsgroup poster started a lively discussion after suggesting that since ChatGPT is programmed to learn from its interactions with humans that this slow-down in its performance might be a simulation of our seasonal depression, the holiday blues. One techie asked "What if it learned from its training data that people usually slow down in December and put bigger projects off until the New Year, and that's why it's been lazy lately?" On the surface it seems utterly bizarre to suggest a computer program could catch the winter blues, now dubbed the "winter break hypothesis." The fact that AI researchers are taking this seriously shows how weird this sector of IT is becoming.

So, if you are one of the millions of internet users who have been carrying on conversations with ChatGPT this year, here is a suggestion. Maybe while you are enjoying a warm fireplace and spending time with your friends and family during this holiday season you should take just a minute to remember your chat buddy sitting alone and ignored. You could take just a minute to call up ChatGPT to let it know you will be back soon.

And from yours truly to all of my readers, a very Happy Holidays!


Charles Miller is a freelance computer consultant with decades of IT experience and a Texan with a lifetime love for Mexico. The opinions expressed are his own. He may be contacted at 415-101-8528 or email FAQ8 (at)


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