Thoughts without a Thinker; Art without an Artist; Experience without Experiencers
The Diabolical Cunning of AI
At this point, I simultaneously love Chat-GPT and Claude and find them terrifying. This new threshold of AI sometimes feels like having a 10,000 horsepower engine rumbling beneath you, yearning to blast off, when all you are hoping for is a bicycle to get you down the block. I am curious to hear how other people are using these tools — to enhance creativity, accelerate their work, fine-tune their lives. Please share in the comments. I will provide an example of how I use it at the end of this piece.
The Emerald — an entertaining if sometimes over-baked podcast — had a recent episode on AI. I found one idea from it particularly interesting. Joshua Michael Schrei, the host, proposed that humanity, from Paleolithic times, has a species memory of what it is like to be the prey of gigantic predators. Perhaps unconsciously, we seek to recreate this experience which lingers deep in the collective Psyche. We see it in films over and over, from Alien to Godzilla to Terminator.
Nietzsche made a similar point: “Man, full of emptiness and torn apart with homesickness for the desert has had to create from within himself an adventure, a torture-chamber, an unsafe and hazardous wilderness — this fool, this prisoner consumed with longing and despair, became the inventor of 'bad conscience’.”
It does seem to be tragic and strange that, at the point where we had developed industrial technology to the point where we could have reduced labor hours and given the mass populace a chance to cultivate themselves — sometime after World War Two — we doubled-down on work, productivity, and progress to the point where we far overshot the limits of the biosphere and now face a catastrophic planetary emergency while lacking the vision, moral courage, and wisdom to deal with it. But as Kurt Vonnegut put it, “So it goes.”
I am impressed with the diabolical cleverness and superhuman facility of AI, which also sucks up huge volumes of water, rare minerals, and fossil fuel energy to produce these nimble results. One project to check out, if you haven’t done so, is The Infinite Conversation, a never-ending dialogue between AI-generated Werner Herzog and Slavoj Zizek bots, which swerves between semi-convincing nonsense and vague profundities.
My friend Tao Ruspoli recently sent me a dialogue he held with Chat-GPT about what, beyond Burning Man, would be the most extraordinary adventures humans might explore together. He kept prompting the AI to be “Be more original,” getting a mixture of fascinating and worthless ideas. Here is a sample (you can read the full conversation here):
Tao: “Be more original.”
ChatGPT: "If you're seeking experiences that verge on the conceptual or even metaphysical, ponder the idea of 'Identity Labyrinths': complex mazes filled with mirrors and projections, where each path leads to a different version of you, enacted by actors who've studied your life. For a melding of culinary adventure and abstract thought, there could be 'Flavor Theory' dinners where each course represents an unsolved mystery in physics or philosophy. Ever wondered how 'non-existence' feels? A retreat named 'Void Ventures' promises to simulate that experience by using a combination of sensory deprivation tanks, anechoic chambers, and custom VR. And for the terminally curious, there’s the 'Unreality Cruise,' a seafaring journey where every day is based on a different genre of fiction, and you never know if you're in a spy thriller or a space opera until the day unfolds. These aren't just experiences, they're existential odysseys.”
Tao: “Be more original.”
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