Unlimited Stupid Questions

Possibly the most important benefit of ChatGPT ...
Stupid Questions

I had a long hacking session with Hugo and Tailwind CSS yesterday evening, refining the micro content types I added last week and ripping out traditional CSS styling in favor of Tailwind utility classes and typography. This kept me constantly on the edge of things I don’t fully understand.

I’ve reinforced others’ comments about how generative AI tools allow us to tackle more ambitious projects, reduce the activation energy needed to get started and get to the finish line. And I’ve referenced the analogy of ChatGPT as a kind of weird intern with an interesting set of characteristics. But yesterday evening, I realized that one of the very top benefits I get from ChatGPT: permission to ask unlimited stupid questions.

Introverts and Men

I’m definitely on the introvert end of the spectrum–maybe even “on the spectrum” itself. I love the idea that introverts are fantastic at meetings, only they need an hour to get ready and two hours to recover. Social gatherings? Double that.

I think the strong aversion to bothering people, taking up someone else’s time, may an adjacent introvert characteristic. The fear of looking bad by asking dumb questions? Well, perhaps that may apply to most of us humans, introvert and extroverts alike.

I know this aversion holds me back, keeps me stuck, but it is difficult to overcome–I identify with the concept of “social exhaustion” and for me, every asked question is a significant withdrawal from the social energy account.

ChatGPT Doesn’t Mind

The models behind conversational AIs like ChatGPT are constructed to deliver a friendly, chatty, thrilled-to-help you persona. They never get tired or frustrated. They love questions, and no question is too stupid! They don’t care if I should have known that already. (SHAME = “should have already mastered everything.”) They’re just happy to help.

The crazy result: unlimited free questions! The dumber the better! Zero withdrawal from my social energy account when I ask a question!

I can’t describe how huge this is for me, and how much it has unblocked and freed me.

GPT-4 Has Great Answers

Unlimited free questions isn’t worth much unless the answers are actually good. I have access to ChatGPT’s GPT-4 model through a $20/mo ChatGPT+ subscription, and the answers are consistently solid. Yes, I have to keep my radar on watching for “alternative facts”–a process that’s similar to watching for fake reviews on Amazon. If it smells bad, it probably is bad. But that’s pretty rare with GPT-4 in the kinds of questions I’m asking. In fact, in several cases, I was sure I had caught GPT-4 hallucinating, only later to realize it was right and I was wrong.

Yesterday’s Topics

Just to give you a feel for the kind of things that ChatGPT / GPT-4 can help with, here are the topics from just yesterday evening. Not a developer? Imagine these are questions about all those Microsoft Word or Excel features that you can’t figure out or even find in the Office 365 Hell-Menu™️. GPT-4 is just as smart there.

  • Remind me how to set up a separate development branch in Git
  • Here’s what git status is telling me, what does that mean?
  • How do I switch back and forth between branches quickly
  • I made some changes and they are showing up in both branches, why is that?
  • I notice that my Hugo project’s package.json has older dependencies than the sample project I am following, how do I resolve that?
  • I’m using the Tailwind CSS typography plugin, but when I add “prose” directives they’re being ignored, what might the problem be?
  • There’s a file that Hugo auto-generates that I currently am tracking in Git but shouldn’t be, how do I resolve this and ignore that file from now on?
  • How do I merge that fix over onto my development branch?
  • I got this error when I tried that, how to resolve?
  • Oh crap, I accidentally pushed to the main branch instead of development!
  • How do I add a timestamp in my command prompt in zsh

Yes, dammit, I should have already mastered all of this.

Honey Badger Don’t Care

Stupid questions? Look at those eyes—honey badger doesn’t give a crap. Neither does ChatGPT. And neither do I. Free at last.