I LIKE FORTUNE COOKIES almost as much as I like Kung Pao chicken, but the actual “fortunes” leave a lot of room for improvement.
You know what I’m talking about — “fortunes” that say things like:
- A friend is a present you give yourself.
- All your hard work will soon pay off.
- Believe in yourself and others will too.
- Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned.You will take a chance in something in the near future.
Josh has done all of us a great service with his list, because you don’t have to read much of it before you realize how many “fortunes” are insipid, silly, or not really “fortunes” at all.
Where did fortune cookies come from?
The fortune cookie was supposedly “invented in confectionary shops near Kyoto, Japan (that) carried a cracker with the same folded shape and a fortune tucked into the bend, instead of its hollow inside,” according to History.com.
The article goes on to say that fortunes stuffed into crackers and cookies eventually migrated to the U.S. with:
“Japanese immigrants who came to Hawaii and California between the 1880s and early 1900s, after the Chinese Exclusion Act’s expulsion of Chinese workers left a demand for cheap labor. Japanese bakers set up shop in places such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, making miso and sesame-flavored “fortune cookie-ish” crackers, among other treats.”
There’s a lot of debate over the origins of the fortune cookie, especially that Japanese invented something that’s used in America’s Chinese food industry, but there’s no debate over this — the fortunes in fortune cookies need a LOT of help.
Enter Artificial Intelligence and ChatGPT.
This is a job for AI and ChatGPT
According to the trade publication Restaurant Business, “OpenFortune, a company that uses fortune cookies as an advertising platform, said it has employed ChatGPT to pen its prophecies.”
A story titled ChatGPT gets a job writing for fortune cookies says there is a shortage of fortunes for fortune cookies because, according to OpenFortune, “there have only been several thousand fortunes in circulation since the treat was invented more than 100 years ago.”
OpenFortune told Restaurant Business that “the most common feedback we receive from consumers is that they want to see new, refreshed, unique fortunes.”
ChatGPT is good at tasks like this, as I mentioned in my blog post titled 500 intriguing new ways to end a letter or email, according to our AI overlords about the guy who used it to create 500 new ways to end a letter. OpenFortune found that ChatGPT can solve the new fortune problem “by generating novel and more appealing fortunes much faster than humans can. And its ability to come up with new ones is virtually limitless.”
The makes me wonder – how many fortune cookies are Americans eating, anyway?
The most current data I could find, from 2020, said 245 million Americans ate a fortune cookie that year, so it’s a pretty big business.
“Based on our many months of testing and fine-tuning prompts, we see a future of an effectively unlimited variation of fortunes,” said Nicole Christopoul, OpenFortune’s director of integrated marketing and strategy.
How one company is generating new fortunes
She said that OpenFortune has “developed a five-step process atop ChatGPT’s software to generate fortunes. It involves text parsing, emotional intelligence, prompt writing, prompt refining and editing, Christopoul said.
It has resulted in fortunes like “You will soon have a delightful encounter with a stranger who will add a pinch of spice to your life’s recipe” and “A harmonious melody will soon drift into your world, guiding you to dance with destiny.”
I’m not sure if those fortunes are any better than the old ones, but they certainly are wordier. Ernest Hemmingway–style prose they are not.
You may also wonder … is ChatGPT replacing anyone at OpenFortune as it takes over the writing of new fortunes?
Apparently not. Restaurant Business pointed out that:
“Though ChatGPT will be shouldering more of OpenFortune’s creative burden, the company said it’s not getting rid of its copywriters — but their job description will change.
The skill set of copywriters will evolve, from simply writing fortunes, to writing prompts that generate fortunes,’ Christopoul said. ‘Prompt writing is an entirely new language for copywriters.’ “
I think prompt writing is “an entirely new language” for just about anyone trying to get a handle on ChatGPT, but I wonder – how long will OpenFortune put up with long and wordy fortunes cutting into the limited ad space they have to sell?
Maybe someone should ask ChatGPT what it thinks …