H.T. Webster drew this in 1923.
Kilby sent it to me a few hours ago, in May of 2020, asking me to queue it up for three years in the future.
So greetings from Month Three of the Coronavirus Lockdown. I hope everybody made it through okay to the other side.
Oh wow. Miss you Bill.
Greetings from Year Four of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Wish you were here…
You’d be happy to know that H.T. Webster was pretty much right about “electricity” (ChatGPT) doing all the work in 2023, but sad to know that despite that, no one was taking salmon fishing vacations in Labrador, or anywhere else, but was working harder than ever.
And despite being made by “electricity”, they’re still CIDU!
2023: “What’s a daily?”
I can’t even decipher all the art in larK’s three, much less the purported humor.
As for the electricity thing, just lately we’ve seen some pretty decent writing and “painting” done by AIs. One NPR report on AI writing had ChatGPT write the first few lines of the report. Pretty amazing stuff. I could see it doing 95% of my old job as a technical writer.
I think larK’s three are all generated by AI (Stable Diffusion perhaps) based on the caption. As recently as a year ago we didn’t expect to be here, and here we are. And honestly, a lot of the pictures I’ve gotten out of Stable Diffusion look as good as a lot of book covers I’ve seen.
I’m taking a class in International Accounting and the term project is to do a PowerPoint presentation. I have been using Stable Diffusion to generate pictures for it, giving full credit of course, and the results are no worse than when I search for Creative Commons art on the Internet. The professor likes it so far. Of course he wouldn’t like it if I used ChatGPT for the text …
I asked ChatGPT for its opinion.
Me: A cartoon drawn by H.T. Webster in 1923 shows a cartoonist in his studio. There is an “idea dynamo” to generate ideas and a “cartoon dynamo” to do the drawing for him. The caption says “In the year 2023 when all our work is done by electricity.” Write a comment on this for Comics I Don’t Understand.
ChatGPT: This cartoon seems to be making a humorous prediction about the future use of technology in the creative process. It suggests that in the year 2023, machines will have advanced to the point where they can generate ideas and do the drawing for a cartoonist, essentially taking over all of the work. While it’s true that technology has come a long way in recent years and has had a significant impact on many fields, it’s unlikely that it will completely replace the role of the human artist. Creativity and the ability to bring new ideas to life are uniquely human traits, and it’s doubtful that they can be fully replicated by machines.
Mark, that’s a pretty impressive response! Was their input just the text you give here, or does it also have a way of inputting images, so that you could “show” it the cartoon?
Ted Forth wrote a 2023 story:
When I noticed this was from Bill, and read the comment below the comic, I teared up. Which is definitely saying something, considering we never met in person. We do miss Bill indeed, and wish he had made it to the other side.
If Ted really did write that story as a child (and it isn’t just a pastiche by Marculiano written last month), then he got one thing presciently correct: the need to plug in our devices every night, or else they don’t function the next day, no matter how cool and advanced they are. Somehow I doubt little Ted would have predicted that “feature” of the future — surely he would have envisioned infinite super fusion power pack modules that last till the heat death of the universe….
Mark in Boston, I took the prompt you gave ChatGPT (“a cartoon drawn by H.T. Webster in 1923 shows a cartoonist in his studio. There is an ‘idea dynamo’ to generate ideas and a ‘cartoon dynamo’ to do the drawing for him’ “) and entered it as a prompt for Dall-E 2 and Stable Diffusion. These are the results (Dall-E 2 on the top row, Stable Diffusion on the bottom):
Clearly not great either as cartoons or as HT Webster imitations. However, these are just the first results they spat out. By finetuning the prompt, generating variations of the images and doing more refining etc. it would be possible to produce something quite passable.
Tom Tomorrow let ChatGPT write his comic for last week. He still did his own art and wrote the last panel.
While I did send this comic to Bill, we never discussed “how” it was to be posted, just “when” (he didn’t tell me anything about the text he wrote to frame it). At one point Bill mentioned that three years was not the longest lead time for a pre-saved CIDU post, but he never revealed whether the record-holder was something from the past, or another one scheduled even farther in the future. However, the Editors have indicated that this is (probably?) Bill’s last “new” post. It’s possible that the one that Bill was thinking of was wiped away by the server meltdown in 2018.
P.S. Webster’s “dynamo” cartoon is one three “self portraits” included in “The Best of H.T. Webster“, a memorial collection that was published in 1953. According to the introduction, Webster’s last new cartoon was published in April of that year, over six months after his death in September, 1952. Even if some of his features had switched to re-runs by then, this still represents an impressive archive: a six-month lead time is virtually unthinkable for newspaper comics today.
P.P.S. According to Wikipedia, Webster’s legacy may have been assisted in its length by an assistent, but there’s no indication where this information came from (the memorial volume makes no mention of him at all).
Not everyone made it…
… and those of us that do remain have not reached all the way to the “other” side (yet).
Mitch4: I just gave ChatGPT the prompt. There’s no way to enter images. You have to “create a word picture of the scene” as old-time radio announcers used to say, and describe the cartoon to ChatGPT.
Bill keeps working even after he is gone.
While you fellows are doing a great job – like everyone else, I miss him.
Bittersweet to be reminded of Bill in the new year. Cool, but a bit sad. I am glad this site has continued along into 2023.