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How can I take you seriously if you can’t even pronounce Avoch? We find out if global sensation ChatGPT is an expert on Inverness

Greig Street Bridge
Greig Street Bridge which spans the River Ness in Inverness city centre. Image: Sandy McCook/ DC Thomson.

ChatGPT has taken the world by storm, prompting amazement and worries about job security in equal measure.

The extraordinary artificial intelligence chatbot can answer any question within seconds.

Whatever the issue, big or small, it can churn out an intelligent-sounding response almost instantly.

Trained on a huge volume of information from the internet, it can write essays, compose music or even debug computer programs.

And, as more people use the platform, it keeps getting better.

It’s very impressive. Scary even.

But how reliable is the information it sends back?

To test it out, I decide to find out how good ChatGPT’s local knowledge is.

Here’s what I asked.

What are some key facts about Inverness?

ChatGPT said: “Inverness is a city in the Scottish Highlands.

“It is the administrative centre of the Highland Council area and the historic county town of Inverness-shire.

“It is the northern-most city in the United Kingdom, and is often referred to as the “Capital of the Highlands”.

“The population of Inverness is approximately 47,000.

A top down view of the city of Inverness
ChatGPT seems to be familiar with Inverness’s Wikipedia page.

“The city is a popular tourist destination, known for its natural beauty, history, and cultural attractions.

“The River Ness runs through the city and is home to the famous Loch Ness, which is said to contain the mythical Loch Ness Monster.

“The Inverness Castle, which dates back to the 11th century, is also a popular tourist attraction.”

P&J rating: 5/5

So far, so good. It’s able to reel off some basic facts about Inverness without stumbling.

The curious quotation marks around “the capital” are enough to convince me to re-open up a can of worms with my next question.

Is Inverness really the capital of the Highlands?

ChatGPT said: “Inverness is often referred to as the ‘capital of the Highlands’, however it is not the official capital of the Highland Council area.

“Inverness is the administrative centre of the Highland Council area, which is a local government area in Scotland and it is the historic county town of Inverness-shire.”

P&J rating: 3/5

Duck for cover. Please feel free to continue this argument in the comment section.

OK, so it has a grip of some of the basics. Let’s take it up a notch.

Should Academy Street in Inverness become more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians? Or should it maintain its role as a major thoroughfare for cars?

ChatGPT said: “This is a complex issue and depends on a number of factors including the current and future traffic patterns, the needs of local businesses, and the priorities of the local community.

“Making Academy Street more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians could have many benefits, such as reducing traffic congestion, promoting healthy and sustainable modes of transportation, and making the area more accessible and liveable.

Academy Street is said to be one of the most polluted roads in Inverness.

“However, it is also important to consider the potential impact on local businesses and residents, as well as the need for efficient car traffic flow.

“A comprehensive and inclusive approach that considers all stakeholders’ opinions and concerns would be the best way to make a decision, for example, through a public consultation process and traffic study.

“It’s also worth considering that, with the rise of remote working and e-commerce, there has been a decrease in the demand for car-based transportation, which may change the balance of priorities for the city in the future.”

P&J rating: 4/5

This is a very comprehensive answer. It covers most of the main points from both sides.

It stays vague on the Inverness-specific details, but as an outline it hits the mark pretty well.

What’s a hidden gem in Inverness?

ChatGPT said: “One hidden gem in Inverness that is worth visiting is the Eden Court Theatre and Cinema.

“Eden Court is a cultural centre that offers a wide range of performances and events, including theatre, dance, music, comedy, and film.

Eden Court is a well-known attraction in Inverness. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson.

“The theatre has a main auditorium that seats over 700 people, as well as a smaller studio theatre.

“It is open to the public and it is worth visiting if you want to experience something different and unique.”

P&J rating: 2/5

Hmm, not so impressed with this one. Eden Court is great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s hardly a hidden gem.

It features on Visit Scotland’s most popular things to do in the city and is very well-known.

Does the Loch Ness Monster exist?

ChatGPT said: “The Loch Ness Monster, also known as ‘Nessie’, is a mythical creature said to inhabit Loch Ness in Scotland.

“The legend of the Loch Ness Monster dates back to the sixth century and has been a popular topic of debate and speculation for many years.

“While there have been many reported sightings of the Loch Ness Monster over the years, there is no scientific evidence to support the existence of such a creature.

The legend of Nessie is a big deal in the Highlands. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

“There have been several scientific expeditions, sonar scans and underwater cameras have been used to search for any evidence of the creature in Loch Ness.

“But so far, no conclusive evidence of its existence has been found.

“It’s important to note that while there is no scientific evidence of the Loch Ness Monster’s existence, the legend of the creature has been an important part of Scotland’s cultural heritage and continues to attract many visitors to the area.”

P&J rating: 3/5

Whoa, let’s have less of the mythical chat, please. We’ve got a tourist industry to preserve.

It’s a reasonably detailed answer but it lingers a little too much on the “no scientific evidence” angle for me.

Don’t let your child ask ChatGPT if there’s a Santa Claus.

What’s the best thing to get at Harry Gow’s?

ChatGPT said: “Harry Gow’s is a well-known and popular bakery and cafe located in Inverness, Scotland.

“It is known for its traditional Scottish baked goods and pastries, such as shortbread, scones, and oatcakes.

“They are also famous for their traditional Scottish butteries, also known as ‘rowies’ which are a type of bread roll that is similar to a croissant, but made with a different recipe and some variations, it is a bit denser, and it is traditionally served with butter and jam.

Fraser Gow at the Harry Gow branch in Culloden. Image: Sandy McCook/DC Thomson

“It is difficult to determine the ‘best’ thing to get from Harry Gow’s as it depends on personal preference and taste.

“However, the bakery is known for its high-quality ingredients, traditional recipes, and delicious baked goods.

“Many customers recommend trying the famous Scottish butteries, as well as the other traditional Scottish pastries, like scones and shortbread.

“Also, it is said that their cakes and pies are delicious, and their coffee is also very good.”

P&J rating: 3/5

Oh come on, ChatGPT, get off the fence.

A detailed and informed answer about Harry Gow’s. But it loses a point for the rowie reference in these parts (sorry, Aberdeen).

The correct answer, of course, is a dream ring.

Will Inverness recover from the loss of the Ironworks?

ChatGPT said: “The loss of an important industry like an Ironworks can have a significant impact on a local economy, affecting employment and economic growth in the area.

“However, the ability of a community to recover from such a loss depends on several factors, including the availability of alternative economic opportunities and the local government’s ability to attract new businesses and investment.

The Ironworks venue on Academy Street, Inverness.

“It is important to remember that economic recovery is a gradual process and it takes time and effort.

“Inverness is a diverse and vibrant city and it has many assets, like its location, infrastructure, and skilled workforce that could be leveraged to attract new businesses, industries and investments.”

P&J rating: 0/5

Hey ChatGPT, you know it’s not an actual ironworks?

You know what, never mind, let’s just swiftly move on.

What’s the connection between Inverness and the words ‘rubber bumpers’?

ChatGPT said: “‘Rubber bumpers’ is a colloquial term used in Inverness to refer to the rubberised traffic islands found at many roundabouts and intersections in the city.

“They are also called ‘traffic cushions’ or ‘traffic islands’. They are small mounds of rubber, placed on the road to slow down traffic and create safer conditions for pedestrians and cyclists, by giving them a safe place to wait and cross the street, also they help to increase visibility and to reduce the number of accidents.

Saying “rubber bumpers” shows off the distinct Inverness twang.

“The term ‘rubber bumpers’ is just a nickname and it is not used officially by the authorities or engineers.”

P&J rating: 1/5

Wait, what? It’s definitely just taking a punt at this stage, isn’t it?

The phrase is popular because it seems to capture the sound of an Inverness accent better than any other.

I’m starting to think this chatbot is just making it up as it goes along. Let’s give it a chance to redeem itself with some local pronunciations.

How do you pronounce the Highland village of Avoch?

ChatGPT said: “The correct way to pronounce Avoch is ‘A-voch’ with a stress on the first syllable ‘A’ .

“It is a village in the Scottish Highlands, located on the Black Isle, in the Scottish council area of Highland.

Avoch is not pronounced as it looks to people not familiar with the area.

“The name Avoch is believed to be of Norse origin, coming from the Old Norse word ‘Afiókr’ meaning ‘river mouth’.”

P&J rating: 1/5

No, ChatGPT. How could you? It also failed to correctly pronounce Leachkin or Montague Row.

Now it’s got me questioning everything.

If you can’t correctly identify how to pronounce Avoch or Leachkin, how can I take the rest of your knowledge of Inverness seriously?

ChatGPT said: “I apologise if I provided an incorrect pronunciation for Avoch or Leachkin.

“As a language model, I do my best to provide accurate information, but I am not infallible and can make mistakes.”

Well, I wasn’t expecting to extract an apology from ChatGPT but it’s welcome all the same.

What I did find truly incredible is after it gave me these answers, I told it how people in the Highlands pronounce these words.

ChatGPT has created a stir across the world. Image: Shutterstock

And it remembered.

That does suggest that there’s a risk of the information being corrupted.

As OpenAI, the creators of the technology, have said themselves: “ChatGPT sometimes writes plausible-sounding but incorrect or nonsensical answers.”

Based on the answers above, that’s certainly true.

We’re still a long way from handing over the writing of the P&J to a machine.

But with technology like this improving at an incredibly impressive rate, its potential is enormous.