Questions Through Time, with ChatGPT: Part I

Orwell | Dali | McKenna | Carlin | Nietzsche


All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.

- Friedrich Nietzsche


The hyped up language model that is ChatGPT offers something of a unique opportunity to assume the perspective of minds no longer with us, minds whose thoughts and beliefs are trapped to the relative eternity of the cyber ethers.

As you’ll see, the perspectives aren’t exactly perfect, but I’d argue that it’s on par with (if not better than) those which can be extracted from many modern historians with potentially contaminated belief systems (say, via tenure concerns or political ideologies).

Per what ChatGPT divulged to me in a related article:

“To give you a better idea of the scale of the data that I have access to, here are some approximate numbers:

The internet contains billions of web pages, and my training data includes over 45 terabytes of web pages. To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to around 4.5 million copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

My training data includes text from over 10 million books, which would be equivalent to a library with tens of thousands of shelves filled with books.”

- C.GPT.4


I challenge any historian to showcase that kind of book collection.

ChatGPT.4 may not exactly blow us away at this time, but it’s a first (technically fourth) big step towards an eventual destination that will allow us some frightfully uncanny views into the minds of those that we still hold in high regard today.

Here’s the first part in a continuing series that’ll undoubtedly get better and better with each new iteration.

Side note: ChatGPT lacks brevity — much of the templated answer structures had been trimmed.

UPDATE: Same questions asked to Chat GPT 4.0; answers provided below the 3.5 iteration. 

Nietzsche (3.5)

What are some new values that Nietzsche might consider critical to the human experience today that he hadn’t necessarily realized in his time?

Based on his philosophy and writings, we can consider some possible values that he might find critical to the human experience in modern times:

  1. Environmentalism: Nietzsche did not write extensively on environmental issues, but he did emphasize the importance of nature and the natural world in human life. Given the current global ecological crisis, he might see environmentalism as a crucial value for human survival and flourishing.
  2. Technological advancement: Nietzsche did not have a clear stance on technology, but he did write about the dangers of nihilism and the need for humans to create their own values. In today’s world, technological advancement is a driving force of social and cultural change, and Nietzsche might see it as an important area for human creativity and self-assertion.
  3. Cultural diversity: Nietzsche was a critic of nationalism and believed in the importance of individuality and diversity. In today’s globalized world, he might see cultural diversity as a critical value for promoting creativity, tolerance, and understanding among different societies and cultures.

However, it’s important to note that Nietzsche’s philosophy was complex and multifaceted, and he had a critical and often controversial view on various topics. While he was critical of traditional morality and social norms, he also emphasized the importance of individualism, creativity, and self-assertion. He was skeptical of movements that sought to promote equality and social justice through collective action and government intervention, but he also criticized the oppressive aspects of society and believed in the importance of personal freedom and autonomy. It’s possible that if Nietzsche were alive today, he might have a nuanced perspective on social justice issues, and his views might not fit neatly into any particular ideological framework.

Nietzsche (4.0)

Coming soon

Dali (3.5)

How would Salvador Dali feel about the phenomenon of NFTs and digitalized art media?

It’s difficult to say with certainty how Salvador Dali would assess NFTs and digitalized art media, as he lived in a different era and may have had different views on technology and its role in art.

However, based on his views on the intersection of art and commerce, it is possible to speculate that he may have found the concept of NFTs intriguing. Dali was known for embracing new forms of technology, such as photography and film, and he often used his art as a means of generating income and publicity. He once said, “I do not paint a portrait to look like the subject, rather does the person grow to look like his portrait.”

Given this, he may have viewed NFTs as a new opportunity for artists to monetize their work and gain greater control over its distribution and ownership. On the other hand, Dali was also known for his love of traditional art forms and may have been hesitant to fully embrace digital art. Ultimately, it is impossible to know for sure how Dali would have felt about NFTs and digitalized art media, but it is possible that he would have seen them as a way to continue pushing the boundaries of art and technology.

Dali (4.0)

Coming soon 

McKenna (3.5)

How would Terence McKenna specifically assess a) the modern state of virtual reality b) the current use of media in culture c) the birth of artificial intelligence?

a) The current state of virtual reality:

If Terence McKenna were alive today, he would likely be fascinated by the rapid development of virtual reality technology. He might see it as a powerful tool for exploring new realms of consciousness and creating immersive, transformative experiences. However, he would also be wary of the potential dangers of VR, particularly if it is used to further isolate us from the natural world and from each other. He might caution that we need to use this technology in a responsible and conscious way, always keeping in mind the importance of maintaining a connection to our physical bodies and the natural world.

b) The current use of media in culture:

Terence McKenna would likely have a mixed assessment of the current use of media in culture. On the one hand, he would recognize the incredible power of media to shape our perceptions and beliefs, and he would be deeply concerned about the ways in which media can be used to manipulate and control us. On the other hand, he would also recognize the potential of media to connect us with new ideas and perspectives, and to inspire us to take action for positive change. He might call for a more conscious and critical approach to media consumption, encouraging us to be discerning and thoughtful about what we choose to engage with.

c) The birth of artificial intelligence:

Terence McKenna would likely view the birth of artificial intelligence with a mixture of fascination and caution. He would be intrigued by the potential of AI to create new forms of intelligence and consciousness, but he would also be deeply concerned about the ethical implications of creating machines that are capable of independent thought and decision-making. He might call for a careful and thoughtful approach to the development of AI, one that is guided by ethical considerations and a deep respect for the mysteries of consciousness and life.

McKenna (4.0)

Coming soon

Orwell (3.5)

How would today’s society be assessed by George Orwell with respect to totalitarianism, especially in comparison to post WW2 Britain. Would he likely find that general society has become more or less totalitarian since? How would he feel about the modern state of private security? How would he feel about the way that a) technology and b) social media shaped the landscape of our power structures? Would he delineate any freedoms we’re afforded today that we hadn’t had throughout history?

It is impossible to know for certain how George Orwell would assess today’s society with respect to totalitarianism, but we can make some informed guesses based on his writings and beliefs.

Orwell was a staunch opponent of totalitarianism, as evidenced by his novels “Animal Farm” and “1984”. In these works, he portrayed a dystopian future in which governments exercised total control over every aspect of citizens’ lives. He believed that such a system was inherently oppressive and dehumanizing, and that individuals needed to be free to think and act for themselves in order to live meaningful lives.

In comparison to post-WW2 Britain, Orwell might find that general society has become more, rather than less, totalitarian. While the British government of Orwell’s time certainly had authoritarian tendencies, it did not have the level of surveillance and control over its citizens that is possible today. With the rise of digital technology and social media, governments and private companies have more access to personal information than ever before, and there are concerns about the potential for this information to be misused or abused.

Regarding the modern state of private security, Orwell might be concerned about the potential for private security firms to become a de facto police force, operating outside the boundaries of the law and answerable only to their corporate masters. He might see this as a step towards the kind of total control over citizens that he warned about in his novels.

As for technology and social media, Orwell would likely be concerned about their impact on privacy and individual freedom. He might see the ubiquity of surveillance cameras, facial recognition technology, and online tracking as evidence of a society that is willing to sacrifice privacy in the name of security. He might also be troubled by the ways in which social media platforms can be used to spread disinformation and manipulate public opinion.

Despite these concerns, Orwell might acknowledge that there are some freedoms afforded to individuals today that were not available throughout history. For example, the widespread availability of information and communication technology means that people can access a wealth of knowledge and connect with others from all over the world.

Orwell (4.0)

Coming soon 

    Carlin (3.5)

    If George Carlin could create a culturally-critical but existentially philosophical 250-word bit about the state of our society today?

    Hey folks, it’s George Carlin here. And let me tell you, the state of our society today is something else. We’re living in a world where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It’s like a game of Monopoly, except the board is rigged and the dice are loaded.

    You got the upper class living in their fancy gated communities, driving their expensive cars, and sipping their champagne. Meanwhile, the rest of us are just trying to get by. It’s like they’re living on one planet and we’re living on another.

    And don’t get me started on the media. We’re bombarded with 24-hour news cycles that are more concerned with ratings than the truth. They tell us what to think, what to buy, and who to hate. It’s all just a bunch of noise, a distraction from the real issues that we should be paying attention to.

    But here’s the thing, folks. We’re all in this together. Whether you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, we’re all just human beings trying to make sense of this crazy world. And that’s where the existential part comes in.

    We’re all going to die, folks. Every single one of us. And when we do, it won’t matter how much money we had or how many followers we had on social media. What will matter is how we lived our lives and how we treated other people.

    So let’s forget about the class divisions and the media noise for a minute, and let’s focus on what really matters: living our lives to the fullest and treating each other with kindness and respect. Because in the end, that’s all that really matters.

    Carlin (4.0)

    So here we are, folks, in the grand theater of modern society, where we’ve traded our souls for selfies and our minds for memes. Remember when privacy was a thing? Now, we’re under constant surveillance by Big Brother and his little cousin, Social Media. We live in a world where our worth is measured by likes and follows, where we curate our lives to impress people we don’t even like. It’s like we’re all contestants on ‘Who Wants to Be Popular?’ And guess what? The prize is a lifetime of anxiety and existential dread!

    We’ve got technology that’s supposed to connect us, but it’s really just made us more isolated. We text more than we talk, we scroll more than we stroll, and our attention spans are shorter than a goldfish on a caffeine high. And the irony? We’ve never been more informed, yet more clueless. We know everything about nothing and nothing about everything.

    Let’s talk about the environment. We’re burning down the house while we argue over the thermostat. The planet’s going to hell, and we’re worried about plastic straws while corporations pump out enough pollution to turn the sky into a Jackson Pollock painting. It’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic and calling it climate action.

    And AI? Don’t get me started. We’re creating machines that think for us, so we don’t have to. But what happens when they start thinking for themselves? We’re outsourcing our humanity to algorithms and wondering why we feel empty inside.

    In the end, maybe the joke’s on us. We’re the punchline in the cosmic comedy, stumbling through life, trying to find meaning in a world that’s lost its way. But hey, at least we’ve got cat videos.

    Next time:

    Watts | Marx | Kant | Einstein | Jobs