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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Sandy: Is ChatGPT secretly Santa?

There’s always that one person you don’t know what to get during the holidays.

Whether you landed a stranger for secret Santa, have no idea what the best friend you have zero pictures with is into –– or you just ran out of ideas –– a question mark in the holiday shopping list shouldn’t necessitate a default candle or a gift card.

But if not a trip to the pharmacy or Yankee Candle, then what? Although it might be easy to find a neutral party you can consult for hypothetical or non-hypothetical gift-giving ideas, this probably isn’t the case at 3 a.m. That’s when everyone’s favorite night owl steps in: ChatGPT.

ChatGPT offers a pretty helpful list if you ask “What are some good gift ideas?” With ten different options bearing three examples each, it’s a quick universal guide to any gift-giving encounter you might face. 

Then, I discovered the ultimate gift quiz available on ChatGPT. 

Actually, I discovered it when looking for my long-distance girlfriend’s birthday gift. 

Her birthday inconveniently falls about a week before Thanksgiving. Since I wouldn’t be back home for at least another week, what initially seemed like an obstacle granted me a beautiful extension to think, shop or even make something by hand. However, disaster struck, and I suddenly had a spontaneous flight home that conveniently landed on her birthday. My plans for a shopping odyssey came to an end, granting me only three days to look for the best Amazon had to offer. 

After a gift-buying quiz failed me, I knew I had to rely on ChatGPT. Instead of asking it questions, though, I had it ask me questions through the following template:

“Can you ask me a series of questions that will help you help me decide what to get (relation to person) for (pronoun) (birthday or holiday)? I would like to spend no more than (amount) dollars, but I’m somewhat flexible. I’d like to avoid (something you want to avoid).”

I expected logistical questions, including clothes sizes, allergies or location. I also only expected a few questions at most, so I was pleasantly surprised when it gave me what was essentially an open-ended questionnaire for my specific inquiry:

  1. What are some of her hobbies and interests? 
  2. Does she have any specific hobbies or activities she’s passionate about?
  3. Is there something she has mentioned wanting or needing recently?
  4. Does she have any favorite movies, books, or TV shows?
  5. Does she have any favorite colors or styles when it comes to clothing or accessories?
  6. Is there a particular type of cuisine or restaurant she enjoys?
  7. Does she wear jewelry? If so, what types of jewelry does she prefer?
  8. Is there anything you both enjoy doing together, like a shared hobby or activity?
  9. Does she have any upcoming trips or special occasions that might require a specific item?

Almost 200 words later, I had a list of eight potential gift ideas with three specific item suggestions each, all tailored to the responses I provided. My next dilemma was a positive one: choosing between them. 

Was it successful? Extremely. Although I didn’t purchase one of the specific suggestions, I wouldn’t have thought to look for a Studio Ghibli blanket were it not for the list. Had ChatGPT existed earlier, I would have gifted fewer gift cards.  

ChatGPT might help you more with hard-to-get gifts than your cover letters. Instead of stressing at the mall, don’t discount consulting your free 24/7 guide: good ol’ ChatGPT.

Micah Sandy is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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