AI Invents a Fifth Beatle — and No One Can Figure Out Which Beatle Isn't Real

Jamie Lerner - Author

Dec. 29 2023, Published 1:55 p.m. ET

Everybody knows that there are four members of the Beatles, right?! Well, we thought artificial intelligence should know that too, but apparently, ChatGPT isn’t as intelligent as we had hoped. So far, the best art and literature that AI has created has been comical, at best, thanks to its very literal understanding of prompts and lack of access to human creativity.

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AI is essentially a copycat — it takes in whatever already exists and uses that to formulate an ideal answer to a prompt. But sometimes, this can create some strange situations, such as an AI portrait of the Beatles “drinking the platonic ideal of a cup of tea,” in which there are five Beatles. The problem is that we, alongside Twitter user Rob Manuel, who prompted the strange picture, can’t tell which one isn’t the real Beatle.

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Twitter user Rob Manuel prompted AI to draw “the Beatles drinking the platonic ideal of a cup of tea,” but there are five Beatles in the drawing.

Rob went through a series of prompts with ChatGPT that made this Beatles incident even more ridiculous. As we look at the photo, it’s nearly impossible to tell which Beatle isn’t the real Beatle, because somehow, they all look like all four Beatles. We can easily point out John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, but we somehow still can’t see which figure isn’t one of them.

It’s a disconcerting debacle because the math just doesn’t math. If all four are there, how are five Beatles present? Don’t worry, though, because ChatGPT explains its choices when Rob asks what happened.

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In his series of prompts, he first asks ChatGPT to “make the platonic ideal of a cup of tea,” to which it responds with “a beautifully designed teacup in a serene and tranquil setting, symbolizing warmth, comfort, and the ideal experience of enjoying tea.” Next, however, is when Rob prompts ChatGPT to “add the Beatles,” which is where this story takes off.

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When Rob sees that there are five Beatles, he asks ChatGPT, “Please name the five Beatles in the picture you just made.” Maybe there’s a fifth secret Beatle we didn’t know about! Or maybe ChatGPT added Pete Best in as the Beatles’ honorary fifth member since he was in the band before Ringo Starr.

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But ChatGPT explains, “In the image I created, the Beatles depicted are John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. However, there are only four members in the traditional lineup of the Beatles. The fifth individual or element you might be referring to could be a symbolic or artistic addition, like the perfect cup of tea, but it doesn’t represent an actual member of the Beatles.”

We can get behind a symbolic addition to the Beatles, but ChatGPT can’t stick behind its words when Rob tries to get the AI to point out which Beatle is the symbolic addition. This leads the AI to create a much darker rendering of the prompt with a fifth person who’s not a member of the Beatles. It claims, “This individual is a fictional or symbolic addition to the scene.”

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At this point, Rob is at his wit’s end with the AI. He asks the AI what the fifth character’s name is, but the AI refuses to name him. Eventually, when Rob prompts ChatGPT to “guess” his name, the AI decides that his name must be “Maxwell, inspired by the Beatles’ song ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.’ It’s a whimsical choice that seems fitting for the creative and light-hearted nature of the scenario.”

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AI seems so random sometimes that we humans can’t make sense of it, even though it is based on us. Isn’t it strange that something based on our intelligence can have such inexplicable logic? Perhaps we don’t make as much sense as we thought we did. Or perhaps I’ve been listening to “Strawberry Fields” one too many times.

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