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November 15, 2023

AI Can Help Deal with Misinformation

You just have to ask.

Screenshot 2023-11-14 174518

Misinformation, false news, lies - what have you- all existed before there was artificial intelligence. Even my dog tries to mislead me sometimes in Doglish. Bloviating congresspeople and others say, with good reason, that they are worried AI will make it even easier to mislead. The AI genie isn’t going back into the bottle. To deal with the dangers of any technology, we must race to assure that the good outweighs the harm.

Turns out that it is very easy to use AI for fact-checking. It can even be made to check its own assertions. To show how that works, I used a new tool released last week by OpenAI, the owners of ChatGPT, to build a specialized GPT named Fact or Fiction, dedicated to fact-checking. You can give it either a simple assertion to check, upload a document, or give it a URL to an accessible webpage. For now, you can only use it if you have a paid ChatGPT Plus account although I think OpenAI will probably make use of GPTs more widely available. I’m making this GPT available free although there will eventually be a GPT store like the ones that dispense iPhone and Android apps. Update: Youcan now use Custom GPTs like Fact or Fiction even with a free ChatGPT account. There is a library of GPTs available from the sidebar of the browser window by clicking "Explore GPTs". You'll find several with Fact or Fiction in their name; mine is the one written by me.

For starters I gave Fact or Fiction a true assertion:

Mary Evslin lives in Vermont.

It answered:

Mary Evslin is indeed associated with Vermont, as evidenced by various sources:

  1. She has been a supporter and contributor to VTDigger, a known Vermont news outlet, and her commentaries and open letters have been published there​ [Link].
  1. She is noted as the founder of the Broadband Equity Now Coalition and has been involved in speaking about broadband and technology issues in Vermont, as reported by ORCA Media​[Link].
  2. A VTDigger editor's note confirms that she lives in Stowe, Vermont, and is a retired high-tech marketing executive and principal at Evslin Consulting​ [Link].


Based on this information, the statement that Mary Evslin lives in Vermont is verified from multiple independent sources, confirming her residence and active involvement in the state's community affairs. If you require a deeper dive into any specific aspect of her activities or background, feel free to ask.

Note that Fact or Fiction is designed to provide links so you can check its fact-checking (it’s not always right) or get more information. You can also ask followup questions.

Next I gave it a false statement:

Tom Evslin lives in North Dakota.

It answered:

The assertion that Tom Evslin lives in North Dakota appears to be incorrect. Based on information from multiple sources, Tom Evslin is predominantly associated with Vermont:

  1. Wikipedia mentions Tom Evslin as an American businessman and politician who was the founder and Chair of NG Advantage LLC and served as Chief Technology Officer for the State of Vermont[Link]​​.
  2. Caledonian Record and VTDigger, in various articles dated from 2022 and 2023, identify Tom Evslin as a resident of Stowe, Vermont. These articles describe him as an entrepreneur, author, and former official in the Douglas administration in Vermont​[Link][Link].
  3. An article from vtcng.com also mentions Tom Evslin of Stowe, Vermont, detailing his role as Vermont's chief technology officer and his retirement from state government​[Link].

These sources consistently associate Tom Evslin with Vermont, specifically Stowe, and there is no indication of him residing in North Dakota. If further information or clarification is needed, please let me know.


Finally I gave it a big job: a commentary I wrote for VTDigger. The answer here is very long so you might just want to skim it. Here’s Fact or Fiction’s answer:


The document titled "GMP undergrounding" discusses Green Mountain Power's (GMP) initiative to improve the resilience of Vermont's power infrastructure by undergrounding power lines and enhancing grid reliability through the "Zero Outages Initiative." This initiative is a response to increased storm activity and aims to add layers of resiliency across Vermont with underground cabling, storm-hardening, and the deployment of energy storage through batteries and microgrids. It details the challenges and benefits of this approach, including costs, technology advances, and regulatory resistance faced by other utility companies like Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E). The text also critiques the current subsidy system for electric vehicles (EVs) and other electric products, suggesting a shift in financial support toward grid reliability improvements.

Salient Points for Fact-Checking

  1. GMP's announcement of the "Zero Outages Initiative" in response to climate change-induced storms in Vermont.
  2. Technological advancements in microelectronics that make undergrounding more feasible and less expensive.
  3. PG&E's initiative to bury its lines due to forest fires and the associated regulatory resistance.
  4. Proposal to finance grid reconstruction by eliminating subsidies for EVs, electric lawnmowers, and heat pumps in Vermont.
  5. The practicality of Tesla Powerwalls and electric heat pumps in rural and remote areas, especially during outages.

Fact-Checking Results

  1. GMP's Zero Outages Initiative: Verification is needed from GMP's official announcements or credible news sources that detail the initiative.
  2. Advancements in Microelectronics: Independent sources are needed to confirm advancements in microelectronics that aid in detecting line weaknesses and breaks.
  3. PG&E's Undergrounding Initiative and Challenges: Searching for recent news articles and regulatory filings will provide context and verification for PG&E's actions and the resistance they face.
  4. Financing of Grid Reconstruction: Analysis of Vermont's current energy policy and subsidy programs is required to ascertain the financial implications of the proposed shift in subsidies.
  5. Tesla Powerwalls and Electric Heat Pumps' Practicality: Technical specifications and performance reports on Tesla Powerwalls and the feasibility studies on the use of electric heat pumps in cold weather conditions can provide evidence.

Next Steps

I will now search for external sources to verify these points and provide links to the sources. Please let me know if you'd like to dig deeper into any specific point.

Here are the results of the fact-checking based on the points mentioned:

  1. GMP's Zero Outages Initiative: The initiative was indeed launched by Green Mountain Power as a first-of-its-kind comprehensive plan in the U.S. to build resilience across Vermont's power infrastructure by proactive undergrounding, storm-hardening of lines, and deploying energy storage solutions[Link][Link][Link][Link].
  2. Advancements in Microelectronics: Significant technological advancements that facilitate the undergrounding of power lines include the development of intelligent monitoring systems, advanced mapping technologies, and improvements in cable insulations, as well as operational enhancements from power electronics, communication devices, and computational technology​[Link][Link][Link][Link].
  3. PG&E's Undergrounding Initiative: PG&E has committed to an extensive project to underground power lines, particularly in high fire threat districts, as a wildfire risk reduction measure. This initiative aligns with the concerns mentioned in your document about forest fires and PG&E's response [Link][Link][Link][Link].
  4. Financing Grid Reconstruction: The document's assertion about financing grid improvements by reallocating EV subsidies would require analysis of Vermont's energy policy and subsidy programs. However, this point was not directly verified with external sources in this search due to the complexity of financial policy and subsidy reallocation mechanisms, which are specific to regional legislation and budget allocations.
  5. Tesla Powerwalls and Electric Heat Pumps' Practicality: For this point, we'd need to consult technical specifications, performance reports, and feasibility studies regarding the use of Tesla Powerwalls and electric heat pumps in rural areas during outages. These would be obtained from product reports, user testimonials, and energy system studies, which were not specifically sourced in this search.

I can provide further detailed research into Vermont's current energy policy, subsidy programs, and more technical specifications for Tesla Powerwalls and heat pumps upon request. Let me know if you'd like to pursue any of these topics further. 

Fact or Fiction is hardly perfect. It can give bad links (just like a human assistant). It can even hallucinate but then the link doesn’t work. However, it only took a couple of hours to build. As a next step, I’ll use AI to recheck the answers before returning them.

If you have a free or ChatGPT Plus account, you can try it here.

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