I tested out AI pick-up lines and it went better than expected

ChatGPT may be able to generate ‘original’ pick-up lines, but guess what? They’re still a bit sad. That said, when I tried them out in a couple of bars – purely for research purposes, of course – the reaction, quite surprisingly, wasn’t entirely negative.

Now, I’m not saying I’m Casanova here, but honestly, I’ve always thought that using pick-up lines is a bit rubbish. If you have anything of interest to say (to a person of any sex), you shouldn’t need a pre-rehearsed come-on of excruciating predictability to strike up a conversation.

But when the team at Cybernews started enthusing about ChatGPT’s ability to generate custom-made pick-up lines, looking suggestively in my direction (I’ve just recently emerged from a long-term relationship), I could see where things were going.

“Oh, go on then,” I said. “Let’s generate a few lines, and I’ll test ‘em out on Friday.” I’ve always been a good sport, and my (currently untapped) cojones are the size of footballs – so, I thought, why the hell not?

The lines were, predictably, dreadful. But the question that was playing on my mind was: would a line written by a machine be distinguishable from a human-generated one? In other words, would my unsuspecting victims – likely mostly Millennials and therefore tech-savvy – realize I was relying on OpenAI, or would they be surprised to learn this after I pointed it out?

My colleague Niamh spent the afternoon working closely with ChatGPT to generate pick-up lines to feed to me one at a time on our little soiree – in between plying me with enough drink to do something so daft – and then take notes on the reactions among the game girls of Vilnius, where we both live and work. And, of course, she’d be on hand to arrange urgent medical treatment should things go south (luckily for me, they didn’t).

If looks could kill

We decided to test out Line No.1 on the unsuspecting bartender at Bix bar, an old rocker’s pub around the corner from where we work. Looking the twentysomething square in the eye and doing my best to muster a charming smile, I said:

“Is your name Medusa? Because looking into your eyes feels like a strategic move, and I’m ready to face the consequences.”

Listen, I did say they were awful, OK?

The barmaid’s reaction could best be described as shock or confusion. When Niamh and I subsequently tried to explain what we were up to, she appeared even more baffled. Oh well, it was just a dry run.

We waited a short while before two more suitable targets, erm, I mean subjects, arrived: a couple of drinkers, both young women around the same age as the bartender. My confidence somewhat inflated by a couple of beers plus a tequila shot some random local had bought me, I waltzed up to the more attractive of the two and said (Pick-Up Line No. 2):

“Are you a bank loan? Because you have my interest, and I’m willing to manipulate the terms to ensure a favorable outcome.”

Honestly, I’d like to say my delivery was good – but it’s hard to deliver well when you’re being force-fed this kind of tripe by a machine. You might just as well try to play Jimi Hendrix licks on a beat-up acoustic with three strings and a broken truss-rod.

My potential amour clearly felt the same way. Her reaction was oscillating somewhere between, Niamh and I agreed, bemusement and disgust. Frankly, I could only applaud her taste.

After that, we decided to get out of there. Clearly, my cyber-mojo wasn’t going down too well at Bix, and besides that, the local punter I mentioned earlier had apparently decided to try to kill me with free tequila shots. Perhaps he just felt sorry for me. Anyways, after the third or fourth, I begged for mercy, and we bade him good night.

Onwards and upwards!

Stepping out onto the hoarfrost-lined cobblestones of the Old Town of Vilnius, I felt the excitement of a brewing misadventure pumping through my veins: what frolics would we get up to at our next venue? By now, Niamh’s significant other had decided to join us, clearly curious to see what digitally generated idiocy I would next be the conduit to.

Our next port of call was Piano Man bar, a popular spot with locals and tourists alike, not far from Bix in central Vilnius, it promised to be a happy hunting ground.

This time, we decided to take it up a notch. Because Piano Man was already packed, there were quite a few tables full of young women – easy pickings, we thought.

And sure enough, AI Pick-Up Line No.3 went a little better than the others:

“Are you a bar? Because when I’m around you, I never want to leave.”

Giedrė and Gintarė seemed fairly amused and were at least happy to talk to me. Did they see any difference between man and machine, though?

Apparently not – theoretically, in their eyes, I could easily have come up with a chat-up line as cheesy as that all by myself. I’m not sure if that speaks dimly of how I came across to them or if it’s a measure of the typical come-ons they have to endure from the local menfolk. Perhaps it’s better not to know.

In any case, at least one of them thought the line, AI-generated or not, was effective: after all, it got me talking to her. I still wouldn’t feel comfortable using this as a tactic to meet single young women, but it does suggest that when it comes to laying the groundwork, confidence and delivery are more important than what you are actually saying. Well, within reason, I suppose.

So, one half-decent result for the AI pick-up artist. But was it just a flash in the pan? I wanted to find out, so I crossed the bar to another table of women, having been programmed by Niamh en route with Pick-Up Line No.4:

“Are you a password? Because you’re hard to crack but totally worth it.”

Were they surprised to learn this line was fed to me by a machine, and did it make any difference to how they perceived it? Once again, most of the women were in my camp here – artificially generated or not, pick-up lines are pretty sad. But one woman in the group was an outlier – she said she thought the concept was pretty cool and seemed quite receptive to the idea. She also happened to be, by happy coincidence, the most attractive girl in the group – in the eye of this beholder, at least.

So, does that inspire me to change my mind about pick-up lines, AI-generated or not? Nope, sorry. Guess I’m a creature of habit and set in my ways, break-up or no break-up.

The final clincher

And it has to be said, I think the last experiment of the night did really vindicate my position on this one. Niamh and I settled on two attractive women drinking at the bar. I think these were a bit older, perhaps late twenties to early thirties, and therefore a bit closer to my age range.

So here went nothing, Pick-Up Line No.5:

“If looks could kill, you’d definitely be a weapon of mass seduction.”

Thanks, Niamh, thanks for that.

Well, as you might have guessed, their reaction was quite indifferent, but what they said rang true, for me at least: it’s not what the guy says, it’s how he looks and carries himself that counts. I think this really clinches the point for me: machine-learning stuff can be fun and kooky to try out, but when it comes to the ancient arts of courting and seduction, as humans, we’re inevitably going to key off of the more visceral elements of physical attraction.

With the fun part of the experiment over, there just remained one last bit of research to cover: just how ‘original’ were these so-called pick-up lines my partner in crime had generated for me to use? Because they looked – and felt, when I was delivering them – pretty formulaic to me. Sure enough, a Google search revealed that the lines I tried out have been in circulation for years, predating the advent of ChatGPT.

Despite that, ChatGPT tried to claim otherwise. Does AI just regurgitate information that humans give it, we asked? Its reply was that AI “processes and synthesizes information based on the data it is trained on” as provided by humans – however, “it can also generate new insights, patterns, and solutions beyond what humans input [...] sometimes creating new knowledge based on its understanding of the data.”

Its response to our follow-up question – is AI therefore able to generate pick-up lines that have never been used before – was as follows: “Yes, AI can generate new pick-up lines by analyzing existing ones and generating versions of entirely new ones based on patterns it identifies in the language. These lines may be unique and creative, potentially offering new approaches to flirting.”

I’m not sure if I agree with the last statement, and I don’t think many of the women I talked to that evening would either.

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