Artificial Intelligence is taking over the world. The newest generation of tools and chatbots open up incredible opportunities for improved productivity and automation. For some — including myself — it is kind of unnerving how smart these machines are becoming. And how pervasive AI output is becoming in all forms of digital content.

Less than two years ago, ChatGPT (developed by OpenAI) started the AI boom. For a tech geek, it is incredibly fun to play around with the chat interface. Having conversations, asking questions, and really seeing what machine learning can do. There is a certain nuance required, to craft perfect prompts that result in genuinely useful responses. And one has to understand the limitations of the software and the occasional clunkiness of its answers.

So I wondered... Could we use ChatGPT to finally settle some great Jersey debates, once and for all? You know, those questions that all New Jerseyans have an opinion about and fight about regularly. (Of course, these issues often find a home on our radio station's airwaves.)

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Here are the AI overlord's opinions on some classic NJ arguments. Note: ChatGPT often prefers to be indecisive and wishy-washy, so I tried to mold the prompts to force it to give a specific answer with specific reasoning. I am also paraphrasing some responses, edited for brevity and clarity not for content. I will also provide my own notes and commentary ("DZ") as appropriate.

Pork Roll vs. Taylor Ham?

(Photo: Getty Images, istockphoto)
(Photo: Getty Images, istockphoto)

ChatGPT: In the great New Jersey debate over the proper term for the state's beloved breakfast meat, the definitive answer is "Taylor Ham." This term not only reflects the product's historical roots, named after John Taylor who created it in 1856, but also resonates strongly with the cultural identity of North Jersey, where the term is widely used. While "Pork Roll" might be the generic term for similar products, "Taylor Ham" holds a specific, cherished place in the hearts of many New Jerseyans. It’s more than just a name; it’s a tradition that has been passed down through generations, a culinary icon that represents the unique character and rich history of the Garden State.

DZ: Wow, a hot take right out of the gate. (And totally wrong, in my personal opinion.) The machine admits that "Taylor" is the brand and "pork roll" is the product. But goes with the North Jersey answer after all. I'm shocked! (And appalled!)

Which is the worst road in New Jersey?

Google Maps
Google Maps

ChatGPT: New Jersey is known for its extensive highway system, but several highways stand out as particularly challenging for drivers. Here are some of the worst highways in the Garden State:

1. New Jersey Turnpike (I-95): Known for heavy traffic congestion, particularly around major metropolitan areas like Newark and Jersey City. The Turnpike also experiences frequent construction and accidents, adding to the frustration of commuters.

2. Garden State Parkway: A major north-south route that can become extremely congested, especially during peak travel times and summer weekends when beachgoers head to the shore. The narrow lanes and numerous toll booths further complicate travel.

3. Route 22: This highway is notorious for its confusing traffic patterns, numerous traffic lights, and hazardous jughandles. The dense concentration of businesses and shopping centers along Route 22 leads to frequent stop-and-go traffic and high accident rates.

4. Route 1: Running through central New Jersey, Route 1 is plagued by heavy traffic and a plethora of traffic signals. The highway's outdated design, with frequent merges and exits, makes it one of the more frustrating roads for drivers.

5. Route 287: Serving as a major connector between New York and Pennsylvania, Route 287 sees heavy truck traffic and frequent congestion, particularly around interchanges with other major highways. Construction projects and weather-related issues often exacerbate delays.

DZ: While the reasoning is sound, the inclusion of the Turnpike and Parkway as #1 and #2 seems overblown. I think a lot of NJ commuters would argue Route 3, Route 46, and even Route 9 belong on the list. (Personally, I am glad my personal hellscape Route 22 made the cut.)

Does Central Jersey exist?

Twitter: GovMurphy
Twitter: GovMurphy

ChatGPT: Central Jersey absolutely exists. This region is characterized by its own distinct cultural and geographical identity, bridging the gap between North and South Jersey. Towns like Princeton, New Brunswick, and Trenton showcase a unique blend of urban and suburban environments, academic hubs, and historical landmarks that are distinct from the influences of New York City to the north and Philadelphia to the south. Central Jersey also features its own unique landscapes, such as the scenic Delaware River towns and the expansive farmlands of Somerset County, further solidifying its status as a distinct and integral part of the Garden State.

DZ: For this one, I did not "force" ChatGPT to pick a side, just to analyze the question. And check out that first sentence, declaring that Central Jersey "absolutely" is a thing. Boom, mic dropped.

Who are the top five most famous persons to hail from NJ?

Frank Sinatra
Getty Images

ChatGPT: Here are the top five most famous people to hail from New Jersey, showcasing the state's rich cultural and historical influence:
1. Frank Sinatra
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Whitney Houston
4. Thomas Edison
5. Meryl Streep

DZ: Well, three of the top five have a rest stop named after them on the Parkway or Turnpike — clearly the highest honor our state can bestow on someone. Bruce reportedly declined such star treatment, but clearly belongs in this list. But Meryl Streep is an interesting inclusion. I would have thought Jon Bon Jovi, Jack Nicholson, Grover Cleveland, or Buzz Aldrin would be a better choice. I guess ChatGPT really liked Sophie's Choice?

Which is the best county in NJ to live?

Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ
Michael Symons/Townsquare Media NJ

ChatGPT: The best county to live in New Jersey is often considered to be Somerset County. Known for its high quality of life, Somerset offers a perfect blend of suburban tranquility and urban convenience. The county boasts top-rated public schools, making it ideal for families. Its proximity to major cities like New York and Philadelphia provides ample job opportunities while allowing residents to enjoy a more relaxed, community-focused lifestyle. Somerset is also rich in parks and recreational areas, such as the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park, offering plenty of outdoor activities. Additionally, the area's diverse dining and cultural options, combined with a strong sense of community, make Somerset County the premier choice for many New Jersey residents.

DZ: Again, a definitive and divisive answer. I like it.

Should the state's nickname "The Garden State" be changed?

New Jersey the garden State, view of license plates in a flower garden
Kathleen Gail GettyImages

ChatGPT: New Jersey's nickname, "The Garden State," is indeed appropriate, reflecting its rich agricultural history and the abundance of farms, gardens, and green spaces throughout the state. However, if we were to consider fresh alternatives that capture other aspects of New Jersey's diverse identity, here are five suggestions:
1. The Crossroads State
2. The Shoreline State
3. The Innovation State
4. The Historic State
5. The Diverse State

DZ: Here's where AI falters, when creativity is involved. Yes, I specifically asked it for suggestions of potential new state nicknames. But they're all pretty terrible and unremarkable.

Are taxes in NJ really that bad?

(Google Maps/Canva)
(Google Maps/Canva)

ChatGPT: New Jersey is often cited as having some of the highest taxes in the United States, which can significantly impact its affordability. New Jersey consistently ranks at the top for the highest property taxes in the nation. The average effective property tax rate is around 2.2%, compared to the national average of about 1.1%. New Jersey also has a progressive income tax system with rates ranging from 1.4% to 10.75%. While the top rate is one of the highest in the country, it only affects high earners. However, even middle-income residents can find the state income tax to be relatively high compared to states with no income tax like Florida or Texas. The state sales tax rate in New Jersey is 6.625%, which is slightly above the national median. However, many necessities such as groceries, clothing, and prescription drugs are exempt from sales tax, which can help mitigate the overall tax burden for residents. On the flip side, New Jersey’s tax burden can be seen as a reflection of the value residents place on quality of life and community amenities. While high, these taxes fund critical services that contribute to making New Jersey a desirable place to live, work, and raise a family.

DZ: This response is a conglomeration of several answers ChatGPT gave, probing different aspects of New Jersey's tax system. The gist is pretty clear though: We pay a lot. And ChatGPT, which is a machine and therefore does not pay taxes, seems to be gloating about it.

Are beach badge fees fair?

Barnegat Light beach badges
Photo uploaded by Reddit user aqua_vit

ChatGPT: Beach badge fees in New Jersey are a practical way to fund the maintenance and upkeep of the state's popular beaches. These fees directly support essential services such as lifeguards, sanitation, and beach replenishment, ensuring a safe and clean environment for all visitors. While some may argue that access to public land should be free, the revenue generated from beach badges helps maintain high standards of safety and cleanliness, benefiting both residents and tourists. This user-pays system ensures that those who use the beaches contribute to their preservation, making it a fair and effective method to cover beach-related expenses.

DZ: You may not like paying to visit public beaches, but this explanation perfectly summarizes the philosophy of every NJ coastal community that sells beach badges.

Are New Jersey drivers really that bad?

An irritated young man driving a vehicle is expressing his road rage.
Photo via arenacreative

ChatGPT: The reputation of New Jersey drivers as being notoriously aggressive may be exaggerated, but it's rooted in the unique challenges they face. With one of the densest populations in the U.S., New Jersey's roads are often congested, leading to stressful driving conditions. The state's complex network of highways, jughandles, and roundabouts requires a high level of skill and assertiveness. Compared to states with more straightforward road systems, this can give the impression of aggressive driving. However, data shows that New Jersey drivers are no more accident-prone than their counterparts in other densely populated regions, such as New York or California. Thus, while New Jersey drivers may seem more assertive, it's largely a response to the demanding driving environment rather than an indicator of poor driving habits.

DZ: You hear that? We're not aggressive. We're assertive!

What's so great about the Garden State?

Don't forget to support local business
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

ChatGPT: New Jersey, known as the Garden State, has a lot to offer that makes it a great place to live and visit. These aspects contribute to the appeal of New Jersey, making it a state with a rich blend of natural beauty, cultural diversity, historical significance, and modern conveniences. Here are some highlights:
1. Diverse Landscapes
2. Proximity to Major Cities
3. Rich History
4. Cultural Diversity
5. Education and Innovation
6. Great Food
7. Entertainment and Sports
8. Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities

DZ: Nothing to argue about there. ChatGPT loves New Jersey!

POP QUIZ: Can you guess these NJ landmarks from Google Earth images?

Gallery Credit: Dan Zarrow

Dan Zarrow is Chief Meteorologist for Townsquare Media New Jersey. Check out Dan's weather blog or follow him on Facebook for your latest weather forecast updates.

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