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  • Writer's pictureSteve Davies

Artificial Intelligence (AI) ... and Aberaeron?!

With the prevalence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) coverage in the media I wondered, as a self-confessed 'geek', how accurately it could frame aspects of Aberaeron's history?


I logged on to ChatGPT, one of the most popular websites for generating written AI content, then simply asked the program to "Write a detailed social, economic, geological and geographical history of Aberaeron, Ceredigion, Wales"


The website duly delivered some AI-generated content. It looked interesting so I delved a little deeper and asked for "more detail"; the result was quite impressive, although I cannot attest to the accuracy ...

 

Social History:


Aberaeron's social history is a tapestry of cultural richness and unique traditions. Founded in the late 18th century by the Reverend Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne, the town was meticulously planned with a grid pattern and colorful Georgian-style buildings, which remain a hallmark of Aberaeron's charm. Gwynne's vision was not only focused on urban development but also on cultural preservation.


The coexistence of Welsh and English-speaking communities has been a defining feature of Aberaeron. Gwynne was a strong advocate for Welsh language and culture, and his efforts contributed to the preservation of the Welsh identity within the town. The colorful Georgian buildings were not just for aesthetics; they were intended to symbolize the town's commitment to Welsh creativity and cultural identity.


The town's linguistic diversity has endured, with many residents speaking both Welsh and English. This linguistic richness is celebrated through traditional music, literature, and festivals. The Aberaeron Festival of Welsh Ponies and Cobs, for example, is an annual event that highlights the town's equestrian heritage and strong Welsh cultural ties.


The Welsh Chapel, a historical landmark, stands as a testament to the enduring influence of the Welsh language and culture on the town's social fabric.


Economic History:


Aberaeron's economic history has evolved through time, reflecting its geographic advantages and adaptability to changing economic trends.


Maritime activities played a crucial role in the town's early history. The natural harbor formed by the confluence of the Aeron and Belan Rivers allowed for shipbuilding, fishing, and trade. Shipbuilding was a thriving industry, with vessels constructed in Aberaeron used for local and international commerce.


The 19th century saw a boom in herring fishing, becoming a major economic driver. The herring trade brought wealth and prosperity to Aberaeron, enabling the construction of the colorful Georgian buildings that continue to grace the town.


Agriculture has remained a consistent economic activity in Aberaeron, with the fertile land in the surrounding countryside supporting dairy farming and livestock rearing. The Aberaeron Agricultural Show, established in the early 19th century, remains a significant event, emphasizing the town's agricultural heritage.


In recent times, tourism has emerged as a critical component of Aberaeron's economy. Its coastal location, well-preserved historic architecture, and picturesque beauty have made it a sought-after destination. The hospitality sector, including hotels, restaurants, and shops, has grown to cater to the influx of tourists seeking an authentic Welsh experience.


Geological History:


Aberaeron's geological history is intertwined with the sedimentary rocks of the region, dating back to the Ordovician and Silurian periods. These rocks include mudstones, sandstones, and shales.


The availability of these sedimentary rocks has had a practical impact on Aberaeron's development. They provided the building materials for the town's colorful Georgian buildings, and their unique mineral content has attracted geologists and paleontologists studying the area.


The town's coastal location along Cardigan Bay is a result of millions of years of geological processes, including sediment deposition, tectonic activity, and erosion. The confluence of the Aeron and Belan Rivers created a natural harbor that has been instrumental in Aberaeron's maritime history.


Geographical History:


Aberaeron's geographical history is characterized by its coastal location along Cardigan Bay, with a natural harbor formed by the confluence of the Aeron and Belan Rivers.


The town's grid layout and colorful Georgian architecture, designed by the Rev. Alban Thomas Jones Gwynne, have not only added to its charm but also symbolized its commitment to aesthetics and cultural preservation. These vibrant buildings continue to be one of Aberaeron's defining features.


The Aeron River, along with the scenic countryside, forms a picturesque natural backdrop for the town. Aberaeron's coastal setting on Cardigan Bay provided an ideal location for maritime activities, trade, and, more recently, tourism.


In conclusion, Aberaeron's history is a detailed tapestry of its geographical setting, geological attributes, social dynamics, and evolving economic activities. The town's colorful architecture, linguistic diversity, and transformation into a tourist destination make it a historically rich and thriving community in Ceredigion, Wales.

 

With Aberaron's history swiftly summarised by AI, I was curious as to whether any AI pictures could be generated to complement the written description.


Enter stage left MidJourney, an AI program specifically for image generation. I asked the program to generate an image for "Aberaeron harbour on misty summer morning". A short time later four low-resolution images had been generated for my perusal ...



To be honest, I was rather taken aback, yet pleasantly surprised at what had been generated, particularly the first image which resembles Quay Parade. The AI algorithm clearly searches for hundreds of web-based images of Aberaeron harbour and generates random landscapes to represent the requested scene (misty, summer morning). It's hugely impressive, yet also somewhat scary in terms of the power of AI.


The AI image generation tools are a novelty to play with, although there are real-world concerns about the impact on the livelihood of original artists, specifically where their style can be easily reproduced to recreate new artwork to profit others. For example, a painting of Aberaeron Harbour in the style of Vincent van Gogh. Maybe I should try that given that Vincent's copyright has long since expired?!


Like any new technology there are pros & cons. Whilst it is worryingly easy for AI to generate deep-fake videos of celebrities or to write essays for students, it also makes the analysis of medical scans (CT/MRI) much more accurate and reliable. I guess we'll just have to wait to see whether AI is harnessed "for better or for worse".


Steve Davies Oct 2023






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