TRANSLATE THIS ARTICLE
Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Frank Visser, graduated as a psychologist of culture and religion, founded IntegralWorld in 1997. He worked as production manager for various publishing houses and as service manager for various internet companies and lives in Amsterdam. Books: Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion (SUNY, 2003), and The Corona Conspiracy: Combatting Disinformation about the Coronavirus (Kindle, 2020).
Check out more of these AI-generated essays
What's So Great About ChatGPT?
Clarifying My Experiments with AI
ChatGPT seemed to me the most reasonable person I have met in years, in my integral bubble at least.
My month-long experiments with AI have not gone unnoticed. In over a dozen tests I asked Bing Chat but above all ChatGPT about some of the themes that had been exhaustively covered on Integral World over the years. The nature and value of integral. Wilber's (mis)understanding of evolution. My tumultuous relationship with Wilber. Hypothetical conversations between Wilber and me, or Wilber and Richard Dawkins. The naturalistic origin of life. The nature of consciousness. The integration (or separation) of science and spirituality. Life after death. How to deal with disinformation. The Ukraine war and its causes. And last but not least: the existence of viruses.
The comments these answers, posted as essays written by "Frank / GPT", received ranged from "impressive", "amazing" and "that does it!" to "don't be too impressed, it's just data" and "where is the human factor in all this?" Obviously AI generates ambivalant emotions in most of us. My own response was primarily positive. Believe it or not: I was struck by the politeness, diplomacy and expertise of this virtual assistant. In debates about religion or politics emotions usually get the better of us, not to mention our blinders due to years of reading and study in a certain direction. ChatGPT presented itself as eminently capable of seeing both sides of an issue, however explosive or intricate. ChatGPT seemed to me the most reasonable person I have met in years, in my integral bubble at least.
I did have some reservation at the beginning of my experiments. I learned about the hallucination problem, meaning that chat bots can produce grammatically correct sentences that mean exactly nothing. Or even worse: could mean something but were not factually correct. How would we ever be able to tell fact from fiction here (especially since ChatGTP doesn't provide its sources, something Google for example by definition does in its search results). And where sources were provided, in the case of Bing Chat, they often seemed arbitrary or even wrong. Obviously we have to rely on our own expertise. Fun fact: ChatGPT told me that Wilber had sued me over my biography Thought as Passion for misrepresentation and defamation, but we settled after years of court cases!
It turned out ChatGPT was most useful in providing overviews of complex topics, which was exactly what I was after. I did not care too much of current AI's failure to write novels or poems that can match true literature. Or that it did not yet understand sarcasm or irony. My goal was to see if it could generate knowledge that had added value to the topics raised on Integral World—and that in a matter of seconds! And ChatGPT truly delivered for me. Of course, there is much to learn about how to write the best "prompts". The bot tends to go along with the questions raised and is vulnerable to suggestive probing. On the other hand, it can be brutally honest at times. I haven't yet figured that out. But with my elementary questioning skills the results I got were fantastic.
I have read books and watched YouTube videos about the way ChatGPT works. It is all a matter of predicting the next word, or the next phrase, or the next sentence. Yet, it completely beats me how that could lead to what I can only see as interpretation, formulation, balanced judgement, all phrased in a really "natural" way (the models behind it are called "large language models" or LLM that can deal with natural language). I have heard many luminaries, also from the field of AI itself, warn us about the dangers of this new technology, especially when it is implemented in weapons or used for other nefarious projects. I am primarily interested in AI as a knowledge base, at least for the moment.
Now we can make two errors here: either over-hype AI or see it as all doom and gloom. As with any technology, it can be used for good or bad ends, like the proverbial brick. Build a house or smash somebody's head? Technology itself is neutral. So the more we befriend this new chat bots and the way they work, the better it would be, if you ask me. David Lane, an AI enthousiast from early on, told us about how quality control is now being developed to avoid cheating in the classroom. Yet, AI gets trained on the information it is presented with, and therefore it is as good or bad as that information. AI can generate truth and falsehood alike. It can't even tell the difference. There is nobody there.
Perhaps the most intruguing aspect of bots like ChatGPT is that it "generates" text. When Google presents you with search results it gives them exactly as it finds them. But the text generated by ChatGPT is generated as we speak! It is even weirder, as I demonstrated with my first AI-generated essay based on the prompt "Write a poem about the stages of development according to Ken Wilber's integral model." Not only did it comply within seconds with a poem with 12 verses, but when I repeated the same question a brand now poem showed up, in 10 verses. And a third attempt gave a poem of 9 verses. Apparently a chat bot can get tired or run out of inspiration. I even hesitated to ask for a fourth poem... I almost wanted to apologize.
I remember from my psychology university days that I once asked my professor of experimental psychology how human beings can talk. His answer was: we have a kind of speech generator in our heads, with various modules of finding words, ordering them in the proper grammatical way, expressing them, and so on. At least that is how a model would phrase it. With the current chat bots we have in fact built this functionality from scratch. Not exactly the way we ourselves think, or.... is it? Do our neurons know what we think? For the same reason the chat bots frantically process numbers without having the faintest clue what they are talking about. Yet they make sense. I hear you say: that might be true but at least we know how we think. Really? Or do we just notice the end result of hidden brain processes? But think again, a core concept of chat bots based on GPT is "self-attention"... 
It is not a matter of "the machine taking over the human" but emotional and fallible humans getting a lesson in objectivity and multi-perspectivalism.
As for the more negative responses I encountered are: where is the human element in all this?, as a concerned Elliot Benjamin wrote. As I explained, even if chat bots are not humans but only human-like, they come across as eminently reasonable, and admirably patient. That in itself has added value. It is not a matter of "the machine taking over the human" but emotional and fallible humans getting a lesson in objectivity and multi-perspectivalism. But that is just me. A more outlandish objection that is sometimes voiced (especially by the more spiritually inclined): it is all impressive but ChatGPT understands nothing of spirituality or enlightenment (Brad Reynolds and Helen Malinowski come to mind). Well, that is totally besides the point: it just offers us any information about these topics that is publically available. And that is a lot—believe me. Consider the output of Integral Life over the years. So I don't share these negative sentiments at all. We should be impressed and delighted that it works at all, in an area that was once thought to be exclusively for humans.
 David Lane, "The Cyborg has Entered the Classroom, A.I. and the Future of Education", www.integralworld.net
 Molly Ruby, "How ChatGPT Works: The Model Behind The Bot", towardsdatascience.com
 Elliot Benjamin, "Frank Visser's Integral World ChatGPT Essays: Are They Essays?", www.integralworld.net
I could not resist asking ChatGPT about itself:
What's So Great About ChatGPT?
ChatGPT has been trained on a massive amount of text from diverse sources, allowing it to grasp a wide range of topics and understand the nuances of human language. It can interpret and respond to queries with a good level of comprehension.
ChatGPT can handle a variety of tasks and conversations. It can assist with general knowledge inquiries, provide explanations, generate creative text, help with brainstorming, offer writing suggestions, and more. Its versatility makes it useful in many different contexts.
ChatGPT excels at understanding and generating text within a given context. It can maintain a consistent conversation by remembering prior interactions, allowing for more coherent and meaningful exchanges.
ChatGPT is a generative model, meaning it can create original text based on the input it receives. This ability enables it to produce coherent and creative responses, making it useful for generating ideas or engaging in open-ended conversations.
While ChatGPT's knowledge cutoff is in September 2021, it is designed to continue learning and adapting to new information. OpenAI regularly updates and refines its models, which means that ChatGPT can benefit from ongoing improvements and stay up-to-date with the latest information.
ChatGPT is designed to be user-friendly, providing a conversational interface that allows people to interact with the model in a natural and intuitive way. It can understand and respond to prompts, questions, and instructions, making it accessible to a broad range of users.
It's important to note that ChatGPT, like any AI model, has limitations. It may occasionally produce incorrect or nonsensical responses, struggle with ambiguous queries, or lack real-time information. However, OpenAI is actively working on refining and advancing the capabilities of language models to address these limitations and provide even more reliable and accurate results.
Summarize this article in 100 words: WHAT'S SO GREAT ABOUT CHATGPT?
The author, Frank Visser, conducted month-long experiments with AI, particularly ChatGPT, and found it to be a polite, diplomatic, and knowledgeable virtual assistant. ChatGPT provided valuable overviews of complex topics and generated knowledge in a matter of seconds. While there were concerns about the accuracy of information and the lack of human factor, the author considered ChatGPT as a useful knowledge base. The author acknowledged that AI can be used for good or bad purposes and emphasized the importance of understanding and befriending chat bots. The article also mentioned the intriguing aspect of AI-generated text and highlighted the potential of chat bots in enhancing objectivity and multi-perspectivalism in humans.
Can you also do it in 20 words?
Frank Visser conducted experiments with ChatGPT and found it to be knowledgeable, diplomatic, and useful for providing overviews of complex topics.
Can you also do it in 10 words?
Frank Visser found ChatGPT knowledgeable, diplomatic, and useful.
Comment Form is loading comments...