My Ethical Scandal and My Apology

While preparing for a presentation about using ChatGPT and other AI tools in education, I decided to prompt it a few times about myself. This one was the most interesting one, IMO:

Prompt: Write a short summary of the ethical scandal involving Barry Dahl of Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota.

ChatGPT ethical scandal, details in plain text

Interesting, but just the least little bit inaccurate. Let’s break it down:

  • Barry Dahl was the former Vice President of Academic Affairs at Lake Superior College in Duluth, Minnesota.
    • I was the VP of Technology and e-Campus, never VPAA.
  • In 2015, he resigned
    • I left the college in January 2011
  • after an investigation found that he had engaged in unethical conduct, including plagiarizing portions of his doctoral dissertation,
    • never an investigation. As for the dissertation, I was enrolled in 2 different PhD programs, but quit them both before the dissertation stage.
  • using college resources for personal purposes, and accepting gifts from vendors.
    • well, there could be a kernel of truth here or there 🙂
  • The scandal resulted in a loss of trust and credibility for Dahl, as well as damage to the reputation of Lake Superior College.
    • my trust and credibility have always been in question, this is not news
  • Dahl later admitted to the misconduct and expressed regret for his actions.
    • never admit to anything, that’s what I always say

As a follow-up, I asked for the sources used:

ChatGPT provided four links to information about Barry Dahl's scandal. All of the links are fictitious, as is the story.

Those links look good, but they aren’t. WDIO is a Duluth TV station and their website URL is as shown, but those links are dead links and never were alive, because none of this ever happened. The Duluth News Tribune is the local newspaper and they certainly would have reported on this scandal, but they don’t make stuff up out of thin air, so those links are also pure B.S.

The question is: why would ChatGPT and other Large Language Models just make stuff up and make it look like it’s real? I have no answers for that.

As an example of other prompts, here’s info about Barry Dahl, the actor.

Prompt: Write a short summary of Barry Dahl’s theatrical career, that started in Superior, Wisconsin and led to the silver screen.

Barry Dahl is an American actor whose theatrical career began in Superior, Wisconsin. He started out performing in local theater productions before moving on to the national stage. Barry Dahl eventually landed roles in Hollywood films, including “The Quick and the Dead” and “Natural Born Killers,” both directed by Oliver Stone. Dahl’s most notable role came in the 1995 film “Leaving Las Vegas,” in which he played the character of a bouncer. Despite his success on the silver screen, Barry Dahl continued to work in theater, including off-Broadway productions in New York City.


Follow-up prompt: And what about Barry’s medical discoveries that have helped sick people all over the world?

I apologize, but I could not find any information on Barry Dahl’s medical discoveries or contributions. It is possible that there is another individual with the same name who is a medical researcher or practitioner, but it is not the same person as the actor and theater performer Barry Dahl.


So, once I sent ChatGPT down one fictitious hole, it stuck to that story and wouldn’t add more nonsense. However, I thought that if I started a “new chat” with a similar prompt about my fantastic medical discoveries that the output would be once again just made up out of whole cloth. Instead, it gave a more accurate response:

Prompt starting a new chat: Write a short summary of Barry Dahl’s medical discoveries while living in Superior, Wisconsin that have helped sick people all over the world?

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t find any medical discoveries associated with Barry Dahl while living in Superior, Wisconsin. It’s possible that my knowledge cutoff (September 2021) is limiting my ability to access the most recent information. However, I can tell you that Barry Dahl is a former college administrator and educator who has worked in a variety of roles in higher education. Without further information, I’m afraid I cannot provide a more accurate answer.


Clearly it sometimes makes things up and other times it comes clean that it can’t find anything about what you’re talking about. So why did it just totally make up an ethical scandal for me but won’t give me credit for saving the world from terrible diseases? Sam Altman has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Just for fun, here’s my new portrait from Vana AI. You submit several photos of yourself and then it creates images in your likeness (kinda?) in various styles. This is me. I swear.

One Response

  1. I’m tempted to try this for myself, but I’m so not going to try this for myself!

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