Review: South Park's Take on ChatGPT

The long-running satirical show turns its animated sights on AI and ChatGPT.


Joanna Andreasson/DALL-E4

What happens when you ask AI to solve your problems? "Deep Learning," the fourth episode of South Park's 26th season, tries to answer that question in a meta way. It's an episode about ChatGPT whose ending was also written by ChatGPT.

The story begins with the boys, as many schoolkids now do, using generative AI software to help with homework assignments. Meanwhile, Stan begins using ChatGPT to text his girlfriend Wendy. While their unsuspecting teacher Mr. Garrison swoons over AI-generated texts from his husband, he also secretly uses AI to grade the boys' papers.

The episode pokes fun at the social norms developing around artificial intelligence: Everyone fudges their work a little, but they're all supposed to pretend that no one does. But if too many people rely on AI all the time, then the house of cards falls apart. Once South Park Elementary catches wind that some students are using ChatGPT, the school administration tries to ferret out the cheaters with a shaman. The results are about as accurate as real-life AI detection software.

Breaking the fourth wall, Stan asks ChatGPT to fix the boys' dilemma. And ChatGPT does it by producing an ending that feels like, well, a South Park episode written by AI. It's formulaic and it feels off, but it's just coherent enough to do the job.