January 9, 2023

We asked ChatGPT to write a Sherlock Holmes mystery. Should human writers be scared?

Scroll down to read the piece by Ai Conan Doyle.

2023 embarks the beginning of a new era. 

The world’s greatest heroin addict, sorry, I meant detective, Sherlock Holmes, is now in the public domain in the US (has been in the UK since 2000.

(Which has caused some legal issues over the past 23 years). 

This means now, in key markets, no one holds the copyright to it. (Arthur Conan Doyle’s heirs, look out, you can’t afford those Rollies anymore.)

Anyone can broadcast, consume or reimagine these works without having to pay royalties. 

As the creator economy is booming. And Sherlock is one most popular literary figures, with over 900 Sherlock Holmes societies around the world.

We predict (and hope) that there will soon be a myriad of Sherlock Holmes stories, TikTok shows, games, etc. 

Especially now, with AI lending a hand in creating. And with social media being an amazing distribution engine. 

So to celebrate it in 2023’s way, we did something every wanna-be writer will soon do. 

We asked our favorite drinking buddy, ChatGPT, to write a Sherlock Holmes story. 

And unlike other writers, it didn’t demand caramel mochaccino vinos. Didn’t claim that it’s reframing how we think of detective stories. 

Nor that it’s the Kanye West of writing (except he likes jews).   

He just wrote it in 2 minutes while we were downing shots. So we took another shot to celebrate the good work done by our old sport. 

How did it do? Here are some thoughts (if you want to read the story, scroll down) 

  • At first, we asked it to write a 5000-word story. A little bravado kicked in, and ChatGPT said “nope, too long.”

    So we asked it to write a 1000-word story. But for some reason, it cut it off mid-sentence about 2/3rds into the story. So we asked it to wrap it up. In the end, it came down to 856 words.  
  • Was it any good? Yeah, the beginning was good. It created the right vibe and scenery. 

    But in the end, when Sherlock started presenting the solution, there were a lot of holes in the plot. Sherlock mentioned things that weren’t mentioned before, and he couldn’t have known. 

    So we asked ChatGPT how he knew that. And it came up with answers. But none of these were hinted in the story and wouldn’t have made any sense to the reader.

    Maybe it was because of the rather compressed length? 

    Nevertheless, this is an opportunity for the human writer to chip in.

    To add his own twist and connect the ties (with the help of ChatGPT)

    A couple of lines about why Sherlock noticed the things he noticed and how he knew that. ChatGPT couldn’t connect all the lines just yet. 
  • But the most important conclusion of them all is this.

    ChatGPT Sherlock would never smoke opium or insult others (or have humanizing faults, if you want to be politically correct). So what’s the point of reading these stories? Ai struggles with personality. It spits out vanilla content.

So in 2033, maybe the writer's main job will be adding personality to otherwise bland AI-generated stories. 

Here’s the story by Ai Conan Doyle, enjoy: 

It was a bleak and foggy night in London, the kind that makes even the bravest of men feel a sense of unease. I, Sherlock Holmes, had been called upon by my dear friend and colleague, Dr. John Watson, to assist him on a case of the utmost importance.

As we made our way through the twisting streets of the city, Watson filled me in on the details of the case.

It seemed that a valuable diamond necklace had gone missing from the home of a wealthy society lady, and all evidence pointed to the lady's maid as the culprit.

Upon arriving at the lady's mansion, we were greeted by the butler and shown into the parlor, where we were introduced to the lady herself, a Mrs. Elizabeth Hastings. She was a tall, imposing woman with piercing blue eyes and a haughty demeanor.

"Mr. Holmes, Dr. Watson, I am so relieved you have come," she said, gesturing for us to sit.

"As I'm sure you can imagine, the theft of my necklace has left me feeling quite distressed. I simply must have it returned to me at once."

I nodded, taking in the opulent surroundings with a keen eye. "Tell me, Mrs. Hastings, when was the last time you saw the necklace?"

"It was last evening, just before I retired for the night. I placed it in its usual spot on my dressing table and noticed nothing amiss when I woke this morning.

But when I went to retrieve it for a morning engagement, it was nowhere to be found."

I exchanged a glance with Watson, knowing that this meant the thief must have entered the room while Mrs. Hastings slept. It was a bold move, but not an uncommon one for a desperate criminal.

"And the maid, Mary, was the only other person in the house at the time?" I asked.

Mrs. Hastings nodded. "Yes, Mary has been with me for many years and I trust her implicitly. But the evidence against her is rather damning, I'm afraid.

The necklace was found hidden in her room, along with a letter from a known fence offering her a large sum for the jewels."

I raised an eyebrow. "May we speak with Mary?""Of course. I shall have her brought to us at once."

A short while later, Mary was brought into the parlor, a meek and timid looking young woman with a pockmarked face and downcast eyes. I could see at once that she was terrified, and it was clear to me that she was not the culprit.

"Mary, did you steal Mrs. Hastings' necklace?" I asked, my voice firm but gentle.

She shook her head vigorously. "No, Mr. Holmes, I swear it. I would never do such a thing. I was fast asleep in my room all night, I swear it."

I believed her, and I could see that Watson did as well. But we needed more than just our instincts to clear her name.

I stood and began pacing the room, my mind racing as I pieced together the clues.

And then it hit me. The letter from the fence had been written in a distinctive purple ink, a type that I had only seen once before.

It was the same ink that had been used to write a threatening letter to a wealthy merchant just a week before.

I turned to Mrs. Hastings, my eyes blazing with excitement.

"I know who the real culprit is, Mrs. Hastings," I announced, my eyes blazing with excitement.

"It is your son, Roger Hastings. He has been in financial difficulty for some time, and the temptation of the valuable necklace was too great for him to resist. The letter from the fence was merely a ruse to throw suspicion onto Mary."

Mrs. Hastings paled at my words, and I could see the guilt written plainly on her face. "How did you know?" she whispered.

"It was the purple ink, Mrs. Hastings. Only a select few individuals have access to it, and your son is one of them.

It was also he who threatened the merchant last week, hoping to extort money from him. It was a desperate act, but one that ultimately led to his downfall."

Watson and I wasted no time in informing the authorities of our findings, and within a day, Roger Hastings was apprehended and the necklace returned to its rightful owner. Mrs. Hastings was overcome with gratitude and remorse, and she vowed to see to it that her son received the help he needed to turn his life around.

And so, another case was solved, thanks to the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes.

As Watson and I made our way back to Baker Street, I couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction at a job well done.

But I knew that there would always be more cases waiting for me, each one presenting its own set of challenges and mysteries to be solved.

And I was ready for them all, for as long as there were mysteries to be unraveled, Sherlock Holmes would be there to solve them.

The end

Vixus is a mediatech content hub covering stories from generative AI to VR and beyond.

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