Garlic chicken without garlic? Critics think Amazon recipe book was cooked up by AI

Twitter tipster points to suspicious signs from author producing thousands of recipes

Updated Late last year, Sam Altman, the optimistic CEO of chatbot manufacturer OpenAI, predicted artificial general intelligence would be with us in five years, give or take.

But as fans of William Gibson will know, the future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed, and Amazon has already given us a glimpse of what is in store.

Eagle-eyed journalist Matthew Kupfer has pointed to a few worrying and suspicious signs in a cookbook he received from his parents.

In a thread on Twitter (more recently renamed X), the book, The Complete Crockpot Cookbook for Beginners, 2024 edition, looks reasonable at first glance, but further consideration reveals a number of tell-tale signs of AI generated content. (In other parts of the world, a crockpot is known as a slow-cooker.)

For a start, the author's picture looks suspect, like the kind of image from a generative adversarial network's stock library of people who do not exist, her mismatched earring being a possible giveaway, as is the missing part of the shoulder.

Turning attention to her biography on the Amazon website, the text is strange. We're told Luisa Florence is "the author of various recipe books, some of which are bestsellers."

Despite writing bestsellers, though, the only evidence of her online is the Amazon profile: no website, publisher, LinkedIn or Facebook profile. ISBN numbers for the books say they are published independently.

Nonetheless, she is a busy person. "Air Fryer and Ninja Foodi, Crock Pot, [sic] are perfect examples of help to prepare fast dishes, but nevertheless tasty and original. In this way, Luisa can manage her time, between home and work," her biog says. Yet we never get to learn what her work is, other than writing cookbooks.

The text also says: "Her dream is to dedicate herself completely to the kitchen," as if she has not already done so.

She's certainly been busy writing books. As well as Complete Crockpot Cookbook for Beginners for 2024 — which boasts recipes that stretch out over, er, 2,000 days, there is a 2023 edition of the same title boasting 1,001 Easy and Foolproof Recipes.

Clearly, Florence's repertoire of crockpot recipes — and the audience's appetite for them — warrants 3,000 recipes, enough for a new crockpot meal every day for eight years.

But all is not what it seems. Reviews point out that "far from 1,001 recipes, the book does not even contain 500."

And that is just the two books with one theme. Florence's Amazon page lists 25 titles, ranging from canning and preserving guides and recipe books on the fatty liver diet, renal diet, anti-inflammatory diet, and Mediterranean diet, to cooking with air-fryers and so on.

Many of these books boast on their covers that they contain more than a thousand recipes or more. And all were written within the last three years. One wonders how she has the time: it is no surprise she cooks at home with a crockpot, given the day job and all.

While many of the books appear very well reviewed on Amazon, with generic, if quirky, praise such as, "I liked that the cookbook has a whole meal plan for a moth (sic). Also, the author separates the recipes by time: breakfast, lunch and dinner, which makes it easier to find different recipes."

Negative reviews are quite specific: the books do not contain the number of recipes advertised on the cover, garlic chicken recipes have no garlic, contain obscure ingredients, there is no beef section even though beef is pictured on the front cover, and so on.

The Register has been in touch with Amazon asking whether it can clear up two issues.

1. Is the book(s) content generated by AI and is that made known to the buyers.

2. Are some or all of the positive reviews generated by AI, creating a misleading impression of their content.

We're waiting for an answer.

If it is AI-generated, it's not an isolated incident. Amazon has recently had to update its Kindle guidelines, requiring authors to inform Amazon "of AI-generated content (text, images, or translations) when you publish a new book or make edits to and republish an existing book through KDP. AI-generated images include cover and interior images and artwork. You are not required to disclose AI-assisted content."

Of course the onus is on the author to "verify that all AI-generated and/or AI-assisted content adheres to all content guidelines, including by complying with all applicable intellectual property rights."

Last year, Amazon gave "authors" who crank out books a license to "write" and publish only up to three books every day via its platform, even if they use AI, and claimed that this limit protects customers.

In the meantime, if there is a real Luisa Florence writing these books, we can only apologize and commend you and your dedication to your crockpot. ®

Updated to add on March 21:

James Drummond, Amazon spokesperson, told us: "We aim to provide the best possible shopping, reading, and publishing experience, and we are constantly evaluating developments that impact that experience, which includes the rapid evolution and expansion of generative AI tools.

"We have a robust set of methods that help us proactively detect content that violates our guidelines, whether AI-generated or not. We both proactively prevent books from being listed as well as remove books that do not adhere to those guidelines, including content that creates a poor customer experience.

"Anyone can use the 'Report an Issue' link on a book's detail page on Amazon to report content they believe is inappropriate for sale. We are committed to reviewing everything that is referred to us."

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