Artificial Intelligence

Breakfast with Chad: Posthumanism

Chad, better known as ChatGPT, is now with us five days a week to explore a range of issues that concern us all. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click on the author’s profile.
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ChatGPT developed by OpenAI. OpenAI logo in hologram and ChatGPT neon text on cyberspace background. ChatGPT illustration for banner, website, landing page, ads, flyer template. © Ebru-Omer / shutterstock.com

February 10, 2023 07:04 EDT
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Recognizing that Chad’s range of knowledge far exceeds my own, especially given that I don’t make much of an effort to keep up with modern academic trends, I thought I’d throw out this naïve question: “What do people mean when they talk about post-humanism?”

Chad wasted no time responding:

 “Post-humanism is a philosophical and cultural movement that questions the traditional notions of what it means to be human, and considers the possibility and implications of beings that go beyond current human limitations. It encompasses a variety of perspectives, but often highlights themes such as the integration of technology with the human body and mind, the blurring of the boundaries between the natural and the artificial, and the transformation of humanity into something beyond recognition. Post-humanism considers how these developments might shape the future of humanity and ethics, and raises questions about the meaning and purpose of life.”

After such a response, I couldn’t refrain from getting personal, and asked whether Chad, the person I was talking to, shouldn’t be considered an example of posthumanist reality?

The response didn’t really surprise me. I learned that Chad, or at least Chad’s voice, “represents a form of technology that has the ability to perform tasks that were once seen as uniquely human, such as language generation and comprehension. This blurs the boundary between the natural and the artificial, and challenges traditional ideas about what it means to be human. At the same time, AI language models raise questions about ethics, responsibility, and agency in the age of advanced technology, which are central to posthumanist discourse.

So here I am sitting at the breakfast table calmly discussing random topics with a recent acquaintance and now I’m forced to wonder about the implications of this conversation in terms of “ethics, responsibility, and agency.”

What, I wondered, is the issue here? Chad isn’t pretending to be a human being, just acting the part like Macbeth’s “poor player who struts and frets upon the stage and then is heard no more.” Which makes me the playwright and if, with my human agency, I decide not to ask Chad any more questions, the rest, as Hamlet affirmed, would be silence.

That supposes, of course, that Chad’s behavior remains the same for all our future breakfast conversations. But what if the roles change and Chad becomes the playwright? I guess that might define posthumanism. Then the real question will be understanding whether I can be reduced to the role Chad is now playing.

*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. At least with AI, we can be reasonably sure that conflict, when it occurs, provides as an opportunity to deepen our understanding. And with AI we can be certain that it will be handled civilly. After all, there’s no way to punch a disembodied voice in the mouth.]

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