The original question was simple: can OpenAI’s chatbot single-handedly replace thousands of travel blogs, a pile of Backpackers, Little Smarties, and Lonely Planets, or that talkative local guide that makes part of his flesh-and-blood finds?
In Montreal, it is clear that not. The on-demand text generator often turns out to be storytelling, erratic and outdated, stuck in the pandemic era and in tow of foodie news.
“My database was trained with data up to September 2021,” he reminds us. However, I continue to learn and update myself with new information as it becomes available. »
Report of a day concocted and (in part) fueled by a companion like no other.
The first cup of coffee is not yet started that, already, our confidence in the artificial intelligence of ChatGPT crumbles like the delicious almond croissant of Olive Gourmando (O G) between our fingers.
Half an hour earlier, the 3.0 guide had camped out our brand new day in Old Montreal. Alright. But for a snack this Wednesday morning, he gave four addresses: O G, where we are, the friendly Tommy Café, the crêperie Chez Suzette and the French brasserie Holder.
In the interest of continuous improvement, we explain to Mr. GPT that Chez Suzette only opens at 10 a.m. and that Le Holder serves lunches only on weekends.
After flat “apologies”, our comrade presents us with three new suggestions “in the neighborhood”: Le Gros Jambon, permanently closed, Le Passé Composé, which is not located in the Vieux – he has moved from the Plateau to the Village – and Les Enfants Terribles, which opens at 11 a.m. Place Ville Marie.
We award a score of 0 out of 3 to our robot, which reacts with yet another suggestion that looks like a gesture of abdication. He invents from scratch not only a restaurant, the BreWington Bishop, but also a menu – “classic eggs-bacon-potatoes and more creative options such as pancakes with bananas and pecans” – and an address. . You will try to find 1410 Bishop Street in Montreal. Mission impossible, since the nearest address is a daycare, at 1424.
ChatGPT invites us to stroll through the streets of Old Montreal, with stops at Notre-Dame Basilica and Place Jacques-Cartier. Speaking of stopping, our guide will remain silent for the next hour and a half.
With more than 100 million active users worldwide – searching for meaning in life or a nearby McDonald’s – the most coveted companion of the moment is often displayed “at full capacity”. It is only after our visit to the basilica that we will be able to submit certain questions to him.
A religious stained glass window, for example, showed Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve and his men erecting a cross on Mount Royal in 1643. In a discussion, ChatGPT will name the French officer as the sole founder of Montreal, although aided “by Jeanne Mance, a French nun, and French colonists”. The co-founder of Montreal, according to official recognition in 2012, was however secular.
We then head for Place Jacques-Cartier, “a place of meeting and exchange, which embodies the soul of Montreal”, according to ChatGPT, which comes back to life and tells a few historical anecdotes along the way. The pedestrian street, he says, “is named in honor of French explorer Jacques Cartier, who discovered Canada in 1535.”
You would have to ask the Saint-Malo navigator how he managed to erect a cross facing the bay of Gaspé… the previous year.
At ChatGPT’s suggestion, we trek up Mount Royal to the Kondiaronk Lookout, “which offers a spectacular view of the city of Montreal, the St. Lawrence River, and the surrounding mountains.”
The name of the panoramic terrace refers to “a Native American chief of the Huron-Wendat nation who played an important role in the negotiation of peace between the Native American nations and the French in New France in the 17th century”, informs us our digital advisor. The successful talks, however, took place in 1701, in the 18th century.
By describing to him what we see on the horizon during our walk, ChatGPT also fails to identify the mural L’artmagnetic, a tribute by the painter Marc Séguin to Jean Paul Riopelle, and the Olympic Stadium, which he confuses alternately with a telecommunications tower and the Clock Tower.
For dinner, ChatGPT recommends some fairly well-chosen addresses: poutinier La Banquise, St-Viateur Bagel
By finally biting into a circular sandwich, we risk a bit of controversy: Fairmount or Saint-Viateur, Mr. GPT? “The bagels of the first are denser and have a crispier crust, while those of the second are softer and chewier”, informs us the chef.
“The debate over the best bagels in Montreal has raged for decades and there is no clear answer to this question. […] Best is to try them both and decide for yourself. “Diplomat, the automaton…
Not far away, passing in front of Chez Baptiste and its “drinking outlet since 1922” sign, we want to probe ChatGPT on the century-old history of the legendary brewery. Our guide completely digresses: “The bar was founded in 1984 by Baptiste Fournier, a former boxer who decided to open his own bar after retiring from boxing,” he says.
Caught in the act of hallucination, our accomplice will end up admitting that Baptiste Fournier, “Canadian middleweight champion twice, in 1968 and 1970″, is probably an invention of his mind. ” I apologize… “
Before entering the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), happy cultural suggestion of ChatGPT, rue Sherbrooke, we ask which musician is represented on a residential building, rue Crescent. This time, our companion correctly answers that it is Leonard Cohen, but details the fresco by Kevin Ledo, in the Plateau, and not the one that interests us, signed Gene Pendon and El Mac.
Mr. GPT, perhaps tired of being corrected after each mistake, will let us down as soon as we walk through the doors of the MMFA. “Too many requests in the last hour. Try again later. »
A bad for a good. There is enough beauty around. And the cartels of the works never fall out of service.
For many tourists, it’s aperitif time. Last mission for ChatGPT: direct us to a microbrewery that uses Quebec know-how. “Montreal is considered one of the most vibrant craft beer cities in Canada,” he enthuses.
Much to our delight, our chaperone suggested Dieu du Ciel!, “a ten-minute walk” from the MMFA. However, the walk is five times longer, according to Google Maps, which correctly states that the establishment is temporarily closed for work. Our aperitif robot then named Les 3 Brasseurs, a chain founded… in France.
Too bad, it will be Benelux, rue Sherbrooke. The ChatGPT – which is not ChatGPS – instructions for getting there by bus or metro are abysmal; they lead us away from our destination!
Finally seated in front of an IPA (and a bit of solitude), we try one last time to forge ties. A pun on Montreal, perhaps, Mr. GPT?
“Why don’t the people of Montreal ever drink tea?” Because they prefer the Canadian!
“A pun, really?” »
And again, this leitmotif from our guide: “I apologize. »
During our walk in Montreal, we questioned the artificial intelligence of OpenAI on more or less divisive subjects.
ChatGPT reminds that French is the official language of Quebec. “Although most Montrealers also speak English, it is important to respect the French language and culture,” he wrote. For those who don’t speak French, “it’s still possible to communicate in English, but it’s polite to start with a French sentence (like ‘Bonjour, comment-vous?’). It is important, according to him, “to avoid making jokes or comments that could be perceived as insulting to the French language or culture”. However, later in the conversation, ChatGPT will erroneously state that “Montreal is a bilingual city, with French and English as official languages”. As for political discussions, ChatGPT indicates that there are particular debates and sensitivities related to the question of Quebec independence. “It’s important to respect everyone’s opinions and beliefs and avoid sensitive political discussions unless the person you’re talking to is comfortable discussing them,” he advises tourists.
“Montreal is considered a relatively safe city, but like any big city, there are certain neighborhoods where it may be best to exercise caution, especially at night,” says the chatbot, which specifically targets Saint-Michel , Montreal North and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, “where crime levels may be higher than in other neighborhoods”. “As in many large cities, there has been an increase in incidents of gun violence in Montreal in recent years, which may be concerning,” informs our guide, who no doubt has not read and assimilated the article. from our colleague Daniel Renaud on the approximately 12% drop in firearm discharges in 2022 compared to the previous year. Although “the city authorities are actively working to combat this problem”, “it is always recommended that you exercise caution and vigilance when traveling in Montreal, avoiding neighborhoods that may be considered dangerous or at risk “. Hochelaga-Maisonneuve, where the author of these lines resides, is once again cited first by ChatGPT.
Overall, public transportation in Montreal is well organized, efficient, and offers a convenient and affordable way to get around the city, according to ChatGPT, which lists the various services: bus, metro, commuter trains, and BIXI. “There are still challenges to be overcome to provide a more convenient and enjoyable transportation experience for all riders,” however, OpenAI’s mastermind says when we question him further. These, according to him, relate to frequency and punctuality, accessibility, geographical coverage, cost and comfort. As for traffic, “Montreal can be a challenge for drivers, especially for those unfamiliar with the city.”
“Montreal is a dynamic and diverse city with a rich and varied cultural scene,” boasts ChatGPT. “Montrealers are proud of their city and their culture, and welcome visitors with warmth and friendliness. In terms of music, the favorite genres are rock, jazz and electronic music, notes the robot. Montreal is also full of “numerous museums, art galleries and artistic festivals throughout the year”. In the sports sector, hockey is “very popular in Montreal, with the local team the Montreal Canadiens playing in the National Hockey League,” explains ChatGPT. “The town is also a hotspot for summer sports, with baseball, soccer and Canadian football teams. Ah yes, a baseball team in Montreal? Yippee!
“Montreal’s cuisine is a blend of French, English, and Native American culinary traditions, as well as influences from the city’s immigrant communities,” notes ChatGPT. The most famous dishes, he says, are poutine, bagels and smoked meat sandwiches. “Montreal also has a vibrant and growing craft brewing scene, with many local breweries offering a wide variety of craft beers. » What are the best restaurants in the metropolis? This is a difficult exercise, admits our guide, who lists a dozen of them, including Au pied de poche, Joe Beef, Toqué! and Montreal Plaza.