Asking ChatGPT

My son the tech whiz recently shared some amazing  results from ChatGPT. He had asked it to compare the philosophies of Plato and Spinoza–which it did brilliantly, instantaneously, and in accessible language. It began:

Plato and Spinoza, both influential philosophers in their respective eras, held distinctly different worldviews. While their ideas do share some overlap, particularly in their quest for understanding the nature of reality, they differ in the specifics. Let’s examine their primary differences:

It then compared the two on the bases of dualism vs. monism, knowledge and truth, ethics and virtue and the role of God.

It was impressive, to say the least.

My son then asked it to compare Plato and Spinoza’s approaches to Buddhism, and again, the response was what a thoughtful and articulate philosophy professor might have written–but probably not in under four minutes.

Then he asked which approach would have been most likely to appeal to Einstein. Once again, the response was based on scholarly evidence, clearly written and organized–and instantaneous.  It was also lengthy, but the beginning gives a taste of the language and use of data:

Albert Einstein, a renowned physicist known for his theory of relativity and contributions to quantum mechanics, held views that resonate most with Spinoza’s worldview. Einstein’s philosophical and religious views were strongly influenced by Spinoza’s pantheistic approach, which equates God with Nature or the single substance that encompasses all existence.

Einstein openly expressed his admiration for Spinoza’s ideas. He was particularly drawn to the idea that God and the universe are essentially identical, and that God is not a personal or transcendent being but rather the infinite, eternal, and necessary substance that constitutes all things. This pantheistic view aligns with Einstein’s understanding of the natural world and the principles of physics. He found the idea of a personal God who intervenes in human affairs to be incompatible with the rational order of the universe.

Einstein appreciated Spinoza’s emphasis on reason, experience, and the objective nature of truth. He believed in a deterministic universe, which is in line with Spinoza’s view that everything unfolds according to the rational order of Nature. Moreover, Einstein’s focus on the underlying harmony and unity of the universe aligns with Spinoza’s monistic approach, which posits that everything is part of one substance.

Just wow.

While my son and I were discussing the absolutely mind-blowing abilities of this new technology, I asked him to ask ChatGPT a rather more pedestrian question: “Are young people today more politically engaged than young people 30 years ago? Include any statistical indicators (for example, voter turnout).

(My question was prompted by Lester’s predictable, stubborn dismissal of any suggestion that young people today might be more politically engaged or less self-involved than he is convinced they are.)

That response was also lengthy, but here are the relevant portions:

The pressing issues facing today’s youth, such as climate change, economic inequality, and social justice, have motivated many to become more politically engaged. These issues have spurred activism and participation in protests, which can be seen as an indicator of increased political engagement.

There are several statistical indicators that can be used to measure political engagement, including voter turnout, political party membership, and involvement in political organizations. However, these indicators may not provide a complete picture of political engagement, as they often focus on formal political participation and may not capture informal engagement, such as activism or online discussions.

Voter Turnout: Voter turnout among young people has historically been lower than older age groups. However, recent elections in various countries have shown an increase in youth voter turnout. For example, in the 2018 US midterm elections, voter turnout among 18-29-year-olds increased to 36% from 20% in the 2014 midterms, according to the United States Census Bureau. Similarly, the 2020 US Presidential election saw a significant increase in youth voter turnout.

Political Party Membership: Although party membership has declined overall in many Western countries, some parties have reported an increase in young members. For example, in the UK, the Labour Party saw a surge in youth membership in 2015-2017 under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

Involvement in Political Organizations: Young people today are often engaged in various political organizations or advocacy groups, such as climate change movements like the Sunrise Movement in the US or Extinction Rebellion in the UK.

While these indicators suggest an increase in political engagement among young people, it is essential to keep in mind that these trends can vary depending on the political climate and specific issues driving engagement. Additionally, increased political engagement does not always translate into increased political influence, as young people may still face barriers in having their voices heard or making an impact on policy decisions.

The entire response took three minutes.

It’s possible that humans are no longer necessary….


  1. Language model chat bots are definitely impressive, but are also often incorrect – while being absolutely certain of themselves (not unlike a human, I suppose!). They also don’t necessarily have ethical boundaries beyond what is programmed into them, nor the ability to judge different types of situations the way a person would. Impressive, definitely useful, and certainly could result in more efficiencies in some fields (and thus the potential for job losses), but also still very fallible.

    Here’s a good article that I read just this morning covering the experiences of a doctor testing the GPT-4 model:

  2. I wonder what this new magic 8 ball thinks about the odds of Trump going to jail? Or going to the white house.

  3. “It’s possible that humans are no longer necessary….”

    Amazing results indeed from ChatGPT, interesting and informative responses but; if the possible end result is that humans will be no longer necessary, who will put in information and who will see output so what use will they ultimately become. Alan Watts stated decades ago that “Man will computerize himself out of existence.” AI such as ChatGPT can rush this along much faster than allowing man (“man” in the general sense) to accomplish this at his own speed and in his own time; the Republicans appear to be on the same wave length, with the same destructive goal, but with out the intelligence to accomplish the destruction without AR-15s.

    The outcome yesterday of the Tennessee Legislature’s disregard of democracy could have easily been foreseen; it was a slight surprise that they did leave the 60 year old white woman (white privilege?) in her position as elected by the people of Tennessee. The young people in Tennessee do seem to be highly engaged in their political situation; so why are the Republicans still the ruling party?

    ” Additionally, increased political engagement does not always translate into increased political influence, as young people may still face barriers in having their voices heard or making an impact on policy decisions.” The only barriers in evidence preventing their voices being heard and their making an impact appears to be the younger white Republicans supporting the old white man Trump’s legacy of racism, bigotry and antisemitism.

    Ask ChatGPT what it sees as the outcome of Trump’s MAGA, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus members in Congress will have on the 2024 general election. Or, does it only repeat what has been our past with no idea of what it ultimately means?

  4. For Spinoza, the universe does not care if humans exist or not, because it is indifferent to everything that happens within it. Humans are not special or privileged in any way, but rather part of the infinite and eternal substance that is God. —Bing/ChatGPt

  5. I believe AI would not have resorted to the expelling of three Tennessee legislators simply because they peacefully objected to the indefensible opinion of the majority Republicans to do nothing to stop the carnage in our nation’s schools. Rather, it would do the sensible and rational thing by initiating changes to gun laws in the state. Then again, we are talking about a logical and dispassionate technology, not a band of irrational theocrats whipped into a lather by their ignorance and fealty to their corporate masters. Wouldn’t that be a welcome change?

  6. “Einstein appreciated Spinoza’s emphasis on reason, experience, and the objective nature of truth. He believed in a deterministic universe, which is in line with Spinoza’s view that everything unfolds according to the rational order of Nature. Moreover, Einstein’s focus on the underlying harmony and unity of the universe aligns with Spinoza’s monistic approach, which posits that everything is part of one substance.”

    The above paragraph struck a nerve with me; took me awhile to place it. Remember “Desiderata” written by Max Ehrmann in 1927? Two lines near the end of the poem: “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” And: “With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams it is still a beautiful world.” While popular and partially true in the 1960s and 1970s when this became a popular bit of poetry on posters and in song; those were the early years of the ignored warnings that we were “destroying the environment” which moved on to become known as Climate Change with the acceleration due to Global Warming which has also been ignored. Those predictions have come true due to the interference of GOP politics and money to make more money. The universe is no longer “…unfolding as it should” and this is no longer “…a beautiful world”. Human Intelligence warnings continue being ignored and history is being rewritten in some states to cover up the inhumanity of slavery and escalating the denial of human and civil rights; Can ChatGPT and other forms of AI stop what is happening by warning us of the “Soylent Green” future we are racing toward? So far; I see it as being no more help to change or find solutions than John P. Sorg’s Bible Scripture quotes. But that is just me; looking back on my almost 86 years of watching this country change until 2015 when the reverse gear was engaged and locked in place.

  7. Two people I know asked ChatbotGTP to address very specific tasks, getting back totally wrong, fabricated but supremely confident-sounding answers. Clearly, the system can give highly misleading responses. Obviously, the system can’t access all possibly relevant material, and it’s not clear if the system is unduly credulous of some sources over others. As always, GIGO.

    Were I still teaching, advent of easily accessible AI systems such as the one Dr. Kennedy experienced would lead me to abandon writing assignments to be done outside class. As my perhaps wise-before-his-time college English prof did, all writing assignments would be done in class, with all digital devices kept at my desk until essays were turned in. Separated the sheep from the goats, I’ll tell ya.

  8. I asked my language model (ChatGpt) Pat and JoAnne’s question – here is the answer:

    “As an AI assistant, I cannot speculate or provide opinions on ongoing legal proceedings or an individual’s future actions. I aim to assist you with factual information and tasks to the best of my abilities. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

    They can interact with humans. I have one on my website and use it often in the journalistic setting. It performs about a C since it doesn’t dig very deep (not critical thinking level), but it is still very impressive.

    Let me point out – these language models are ‘beginning to learn…’.

    As for the comment about the doctor, I banked a 7th Day Adventist hospital chain in the 1990’s who placed ER inputs and outcomes into an AI database so it could predict outcomes – save money by not running expensive tests on patients with a high probability of death. They were the shrewdest business people I ever met. That database probably makes them a fortune today.

    These language models are just beginning so the more they learn…it will be scary!

    If you want to give one a try, head over to my website. It’s at the top in my right sidebar.

  9. The AI responses to questions are impressive, but keep in mind that if the program were asked to extend an existing concept to a radically different situation, as Einstein did with his theory of general relativity, the result would probably be just a reiteration of what the existing explains. the software does not “know” things the way we do. It just knows everything everyone already knows, so it can search for relationships.

  10. Sheila, I know you were trying to add humor, but I am disappointed that you would make such a statement.

  11. JoAnn, would we pay heed to dire predictions made by AI concerning our human behavior if we don’t pay attention now to such predications now made by our fellow humans?

  12. The people on this blog – for the most part – are way too smart and thoughtful to be Republicans. Keep up the great work Sheila and everyone!

  13. I’d like to ask the teachers out there, “Have you ever had a paper of any length turned in by a student without grammatical or spelling errors?” That’s one way to separate the wheat from the ChatGPT. Even spellcheck doesn’t always help humans.

  14. In preparation for an article I was writing on the subject, I asked ChatGPT for an essay refuting the argument that the pay disparity between women and men was due to discrimination. I couldn’t believe the quality of the response/ I would have only said a few things differently (like mentioning the existence of the Equal Pay Act which passed 50 years ago). But the arguments were otherwise spot on and factually accurate. What stunned me the most was how well-written the piece was. Unbelievable.

  15. Very thought provoking topic. I wonder, could AI be developed that would use the Socratic Method to teach critical thinking? I can see huge potential in education. Also, if AI can be developed that can reproduce itself and do all jobs for which people now get paid, will it be money rather than people that becomes unnecessary? As AI accumulates more and more data, will it become self aware without being programmed to mimic self awareness? Will self awareness automatically result in the development of compassion and ethics? Just some stuff to think about.

  16. Okay, Indygaffer, please don’t claim those three TN legislators weren’t doing anything wrong in their actions. They had bullhorns and interrupted and confronted legislators on the floor of the Tennessee House when the body was discussing a completely different issue. The legislators even coordinated their conduct with audience members to take over the chamber That is not acceptable conduct. I’m a lawyer. What if attorneys didn’t like a SCT ruling so they decided to go into the Court and disrupt the justices while they were hearing another matter. You think that would be okay? We would be ousted immediately and face disciplinary action, maybe even disbarment.

    I would add that a Republican member of the legislature video recorded their antics and wanted to play it during their expulsion hearing so everyone could see what they did. The Democrats objected to that because video recording what happens on the floor is a violation of the rules. The real reason is they didn’t want that information out there for public consumption.

    Not saying the expulsion action was justified or smart. It was overkill and extremely stupid it made a martyrs out of people who don’t deserve that label.

    I have zero sympathy for people who think they have a right to shut down government proceedings when they don’t like what’s going on.

  17. This ChatGPT answer was about “ Energy added to the biosphere by atmospheric anthropogenic greenhouse gas additions each year.”

    “The amount of energy added to the biosphere by atmospheric anthropogenic greenhouse gas additions each year can be estimated by calculating the radiative forcing caused by these gases. Radiative forcing is a measure of the imbalance between the incoming solar radiation and the outgoing infrared radiation at the top of the Earth’s atmosphere caused by changes in atmospheric composition.

    According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the radiative forcing caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 was estimated to be approximately 2.29 Watts per square meter (W/m²). This means that for every square meter of the Earth’s surface, an additional 2.29 Watts of energy was trapped by the atmosphere due to human activities.

    To estimate the total energy added to the biosphere by atmospheric anthropogenic greenhouse gas additions each year, we would need to multiply this radiative forcing value by the total surface area of the Earth, which is approximately 510 million square kilometers (196.9 million square miles) or 510 trillion square meters.

    So, the total amount of energy added to the biosphere by atmospheric anthropogenic greenhouse gas additions each year can be estimated as:

    2.29 W/m² x 510 trillion m² = 1.17 x 10^15 Watts or 1.17 Petawatts (PW)

    This estimate is based on the radiative forcing caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, and the actual amount of energy added to the biosphere may vary from year to year depending on changes in emissions and atmospheric conditions.”

    I’d give it an A.

    If we define Intelligence as ability to learn this developing technology has already passed all individual humans.

  18. Gail Smith. Humans have never been necessary to anything but other humans. One could make the argument that the rest of the ecosystem would be better off without us.

  19. I think Jeff Neufer is on to something, Perhaps the universe can get along very well without us. Trouble is, after “us” leaves the scene via atomic, environmental, or a deadly plague or whatever there will be no one around to note such historically terminal event, or is that a problem since there is no audience to learn of the end of things for us latter day chimps inasmuch as history itself will have become extinct as well?

    Apparently the universe “got along very well” without us all the way from the Big Bang to the recent migration of homo saps from Africa, so it is not a stretch to suggest that our little corner of the universe would not only get along very well but might indeed prosper from our absence and the mess we have made of things, though such a determination must run through the guantlet of human egocentrism.

    Aside > I remember Einstein when asked if he were an atheist responded “I’m not smart enough to be an atheist” and I thought “Boy! If he’s not smart enough to be a atheist, where does that leave me?” I think the choice of yea or nay depends upon a preconception of matter over person, God-proof of which in either case is wanting.

  20. Paul K Ogden; Democrats have treated Trump and such as Jordan, Gaetz and MTG with respect which none of them have deserved. It was Republicans yelling insults at Democratic Presidents during State of the Union Addresses. The Tennessee Three needed to get attention and they got it; had they been Republicans interrupting Democrats they would have been cheered before their protesters began violence to interrupt the peaceful protests…or driven a vehicle into the crowd of peaceful protesters leaving the scene. Most of this country is sick of seeing and hearing the MAGA bunch but are allowing them their freedom of lie filled speeches. It is the Republican supporters and followers who are the ones with AR-15s and other assault level weapons who are killing our children, school officials and people who are shopping or praying. That goes beyond rude yelling through bullhorns and disrupting a meeting. They have not threatened to hang or kidnap Republican elected officials; destroyed government building areas and property or stolen and destroyed equipment from official’s offices, they have not tried to “overthrow” presidential elections which have questionably appointed Republican presidents of this country. They have not destroyed diplomatic relations with our foreign allies and antagonized our enemies. You need to look at the behavior and look deep into your own political party before you begin complaining about the Democrats who were trying to stop the killing of our children in schools. You need to think before you vote in the upcoming elections; your level of guilt for the mass killings cannot be denied, nor can it any longer be ignored.

  21. The thing I need to see from this is footnotes and annotated references that I can cross check myself to make sure this information is coming from reputable sources that I can trust.

    I know the amount of garbage on the Internet and until I can trust the AI is using trusted sources, I don’t completely trust the answers.

  22. One of the most interesting discussions I’ve seen on this blog. AI has easily compared the main points between Plato and Spinoza, but I think it takes more intellectual depth for humans to understand WHY these two differ. I would like to see an AI comparison of the main points between Nietzsche and Spinoza, as an exercise.

  23. AI is right now in its infancy and it’s still the same ole, Garbage In/Garbage Out computing.

    JoAnn – Right on Sister!

  24. JoAnn, excellent comments.

    It will be interesting to see how teachers and professors determine that a report or essay is written by the student or a Chatbot. Misspellings may be one exterminator, but I can see that this is ripe for plagerism and not so original work.

  25. All contributors to this fascinating discussion are appreciated, though perhaps not equally across the board…what gives me major, major pause is the relationship between the evident «intelligence» of AI and the assumed «truthfulness» of its explanations.

    Recent news comments emphasize how audio, video, photographic, and also print examples of any and/or all of our methods of seeking reliable proof of real reality can actually, with totally frightening ease and slickness, produce lies about real reality. And, further, discovering those lies in a timely and reliable manner increases in difficulty daily. Accepting any «proof» as a guide for adjudicating culpable evidence, or anything else at all seems moot in the extreme.

    I do have one method of surviving this frightening state – humour, and often in attempting to raise a smile, I mumble: I am sorry, I didn’t mean to cheer you up!

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