Mordor request out of scope for ChatGPT

So finally, after 30 years of computer geeks telling lawyers the robots were coming to eliminate the legal profession, the robots have shown up – and apparently they tell lies. There’s a shake-up for the legal profession, hey?

The latest threat to the profession comes in the form of something called ChatGPT; perhaps you have heard of it?

Ha ha! Unless you have spent the last 50 years on board the Nautilus with Harold Holt and Elvis, you’ve heard of it all right. ChatGPT is currently taking over the world, based on the fact that you can ask it anything and through some weird power – scientists think probably by magic – it spits out the correct answer. Or, if it doesn’t know the answer, it just makes something up.

That actually sounds more like a law student than a lawyer to me, so maybe it is law students who are about to be replaced. Given that about two-thirds of the Australian population is currently studying law, I don’t think we are about to run out of law students, so ChatGPT may not be the threat we think it is.

Also, there are things it won’t do. For example, I decided to try it and thought I should start with something simple; so I typed in: Build me an army worthy of Mordor.

It quickly gave this response:


As an AI language model, I’m here to assist with information and provide guidance. However, I must emphasize that promoting or supporting any form of violence or harm, including building an army for a fictional realm like Mordor, goes against my programming principles.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one feel much safer that Artificial Intelligence refuses to build armies for fictional realms, especially as the way things stand in Ukraine I suspect Vladimir Putin’s current options are pretty much limited to asking ChatGPT (or possibly Santa) for help; and let’s face it, Putin’s realm is looking more fictional by the minute. Indeed, right now I’d probably back Mordor against him, fictional or not.

Of course, I did not leave my inquiries there. I asked ChatGPT to explain the Briginshaw standard; straight away it pumped out a wishy-washy, confident-sounding but meaningless and evasive diatribe, which in all fairness is what most lawyers would do with that inquiry, so this software probably does present some form of challenge.

On the plus side, Richard Susskind will be very happy. Richard, for those who do not know of him, is a guy who has made a great living telling law firms how to run themselves; the fact that he has spent almost no time whatsoever working as a lawyer has been no impediment to this.

Richard has been confidently predicting the end of lawyers at the hands of technology for several decades – indeed, so long that he is now handing the role on to his son.

So Richard will be pleased if we are all replaced by ChatGPT, unless he ever finds himself in need of an understanding of the Briginshaw standard, but that means we will all need to find new jobs. I decided to start asking ChatGPT question to which I knew the answer, figuring that my new job will need to be based on something that it doesn’t know.


That means I couldn’t ask it anything basic – this needed to be a big-picture issue, a philosophical question that has vexed great minds for decades, something that is of great import to all humanity. So I asked it, ‘Do Balrogs have wings?’1

ChatGPT confidently stated there is no mention of Balrogs having wings, which is wrong; so I can rest assured that in the future, I will be able to get a job as a Lord of the Rings nerd, which is something I currently do for free. I’m not too sure what that pays, but it is bound to be more than articles.

Now, all the normal people reading this (maybe that should be both, not all) read right through that last sentence, maybe thinking ‘there you go, Balrogs have wings’; but Lord of the Rings nerds are not normal people.2 Even as I type this, they are at their computers bashing out long polemics explaining why Balrogs don’t have wings, and just how stupid I am for thinking otherwise.

Now, normal people who – unlike me – don’t have too much time on their hands and the ability to obsess about arguments over the plot of fantasy novels, might think that there is no call for the work of a Lord of the Rings nerd. But trust me, all around you are people who are far too into this, and a lot of other things like it. People who care deeply about how the spaceships in Star Wars work; people who argue over the alleged plot hole in Raiders of the Lost Ark;3 people who are, let’s face it, just a little crazy.4

For example, in the dot points below I will show why, in Lord of the Rings, Gandalf couldn’t just have the Eagles fly the ring to Mount Doom in the first place, and avoid all the trouble. The people who are in to this will understand (and debate) every word of it; to normal people it will just be gibberish.

Gandalf could not have the Eagles fly the ring to Mordor because:

  • The decision to destroy the ring wasn’t made until the Council of Elrond (Gandalf had no right to arbitrarily decide that question), by which time Sauron knew the ring to be at Rivendell; from that point on stealth was the only option;
  • Gandalf had no way to contact the Eagles in any event – mobile phone coverage was notoriously poor in Middle Earth, and the internet was even worse. The only reason he was able to Escape from Orthanc with the help of the eagle Gwahir was because Radagast had told all the birds to take information to Orthanc;
  • The eagles probably couldn’t have flown that far with even hobbits on their backs, and would likely have succumbed to the evil of the ring had they carried it themselves;
  • The eagles may not have agreed with the decision to destroy the ring;
  • If they did take the ring, it would be a pretty boring book.

As you normal people read this, there are nerds already forming militia to lay siege to my house and drag me off to be thrown into the fires of Mount Doom, or at least the Bremer River, for this heresy.

At the same time, another group of nerds who agree with me about the eagles question are also organising a militia to stop the other nerds, so bottom line, I’ll be safe. The point is, we Lord of the Rings nerds won’t go down to ChatGPT without a fight.

We might now even be ChatGPT’s primary target though. I typed in what is a good plot for a sitcom? The response: “Roommates Rendezvous” is a light-hearted sitcom set in a bustling urban city. The show revolves around the lives and adventures of four diverse individuals who share an apartment and navigate the ups and downs of their personal and professional lives.

That tells me that Hollywood has had access to ChatGPT for longer than we thought, and that on balance I would prefer that it built me an army worthy of Mordor…

© Shane Budden 2023

1 Balrogs are demons of shadow and flame from the Lord of the Rings; but of course you knew that.
2 Trust me, I’m one of them.
3 There isn’t one, but type that into the internet and see what happens.
4 I can say that – like I said, I am one of them.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search by keyword