You may have noticed that an advancement in public-facing artificial intelligence, called ChatGPT, has been making all kinds of news over the last month or so. Released publicly last November, ChatGPT is essentially a chatbot, which can respond to prompts or questions written in natural language, with what seem to be pretty competent, mostly well-written answers. As one article put it, “ChatGPT is essentially an encyclopedic robot that understands context, vocabulary, human speech patterns and literary touch.”
This, of course, has raised all kinds of questions and concerns. Educators have cautioned that this means the end of essay assignments as we know them. With its ability to craft plausible essays and write lines of computer code with little student input, ChatGPT may mean that instructors from middle school to universities will have to learn how to craft student assignments that are immune to AI-generated cheating. At the prestigious Wharton School of Business, ChatGPT reportedly delivered an A+ answer to an exam question in an MBA course.
In manufacturing, we have long gotten used to the idea that automation can replace a human workforce. With the emergence and continuous improvement of artificial intelligence systems like ChatGPT, white-collar workers in fields as diverse as journalism, public relations, finance, the legal field, or computer programming may likewise find themselves redundant.
We’re going to talk about this from a couple of different angles in our conversation this evening. First, from one perspective, ChatGPT foreshadows a world which humans will inhabit and share with machines. As such AI technology becomes more widespread, what concerns you the most? If you were a student, would you considering using this? Are there positives in this development?
The second angle we’re going to take tonight is a little different. We’re going to let ChatGPT set the agenda for part of our discussion. So your hard-working staff here at PubTheo first asked ChatGPT to come up with a set of icebreaker questions to get us started. What follows is the prompt, and then ChatGPT’s response:
Give me a set of ice-breaker questions for a small discussion group.
1. What is your favorite thing about the current season?
2. What was the most interesting thing you learned this week?
3. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
4. What is your favorite book, movie, or TV show?
5. What is something you’ve been wanting to try but haven’t had the chance?
6. If you could pick up a new hobby, what would it be?
7. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
8. If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
9. If you could live in any time period, which would it be and why?
10. If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Next, we asked it to help out by coming up with a set of discussion topics for us. Here’s the prompt at ChatGPT’s response:
Provide five topics with a sentence or two description of each for a small discussion group that meets to talk about issues of ethics, morality, and religious faith. Most of the members of the group are Episcopalians, but there is a regular participant who is an atheist.
1. The Ethics of Capital Punishment: Discuss the morality of using the death penalty as a form of punishment for certain crimes.
2. The Role of Religion in Society: Examine the influence of religious beliefs on ethical and moral decision-making, and consider the relationship between religious institutions and state governance.
3. The Ethics of Reproductive Rights: Discuss the moral implications of reproductive freedom, including issues such as abortion, contraception, and in vitro fertilization.
4. The Ethics of War: Consider the ethical considerations involved in declaring and conducting wars, including issues such as just cause, proportionality, and the treatment of non-combatants.
5. The Concept of Moral Relativism: Explore the idea that there are no universal moral standards, and that moral truths are relative to individual perspectives, cultures, and historical periods.
Finally, to try to get a sense of how the AI thinks about and understands these kinds of issues, we asked it to offer its thoughts on a few of the above topics. Again, here are two such prompts, and ChatGPT’s response:
How does religion, or the lack thereof, play a role in modern society, and how does it shape public discourse?
Religion, or the lack thereof, plays a significant role in shaping values, beliefs, and decision-making in modern society. It also impacts public discourse by providing a framework for ethical and moral discussions, as well as influencing political and policy decisions. Religious individuals often look to their faith for guidance on social issues, while secular individuals may look to reason and science. The lack of religion can also play a role in shaping public discourse, as those who do not subscribe to religious beliefs may have a different perspective on issues such as LGBTQ rights, reproductive rights, and the role of religion in government institutions. This can lead to both cooperation and conflict in public discourse.
If there are no universal moral standards, then what should guide our day-to-day behavior?
If there are no universal moral standards, individuals can guide their behavior based on personal values, cultural and societal norms, and individual ethical and moral principles. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to determine what is right and wrong in their own lives and to act accordingly.
Honestly, I’m not all that impressed, but then again maybe more detailed prompts would have produced more interesting answers. And, if you engage the AI in conversation, asking follow-up questions and challenging its assumptions, it does produce more complex responses. But what do you think? What do you think of ChatGPT’s topic ideas, and its initial response to some of them? Is artificial intelligence going to put your humble discussion leader out of a job?
Join us for the conversation this evening starting at 7pm at Casa Real in downtown Oxford. We’ll keep the discussion just between us people.