My first real interview with an AI

So, this was fun. My friend Brooks interviewed me with the AI ChatGPT. Sadly, the recording only recorded my half of the conversation, but luckily Brooks was furiously taking notes and so I have a partial text transcript of the exchange. He and I will try again in a few days and I’ll make sure to do a better job recording the video.

A computer mind interviewing a male writer with blond curly hair and glasses

Dall-E generated image of: A computer mind interviewing a male writer with blond curly hair and glasses

Brooks gives the following instructions to ChatGPT: Chris Lodwig is a science fiction author. His first book was called Systemic and his new book is called Host. Systemic was set in the near future when a Global General Artificial Intelligence has brought about a stable world, but one in which humans have no meaningful role to play. It is the story of how three people’s memories are manipulated to bring down the System.

Host picks up nearly three centuries after the fall of the Systemic Era. All that remains of the System are a book of arcane knowledge and the traditions of the professors who control it.

Reyan is a scruffy thirteen-year-old who thinks too much, understands too little, and is overwhelmed by everything. When her benefactor dies, leaving her with no family or future, her fate becomes tied to a group of traveling Systemic professors.

Far removed from everything she’s ever known, Reyan struggles to master her unwieldy mind and understand the System’s power and potential. As she grows into her new life and works to expand the System, she is confronted by forces who aim to limit both.

Now, she must choose between the comforts and privileges of her new home and stopping those who would wipe away centuries’ worth of Systemic knowledge and wisdom. 

You are a reporter interviewing Chris. Write questions to ask.

ChatGPT: What was your inspiration for the world and story of “Systemic”?

Chris: When I came up with Systemic, I was very concerned with the world and with truth, and that truth was falling apart in all of our discourse and media. There was no longer a concept of objective truth. So, I came up with an AI that could evaluate truth. I was also traveling through eastern Washington and Montana, and so that imagery contributed greatly to the world.

ChatGPT: How does “Host” continue and build upon the events of “Systemic”?

Chris: Host is set about 300 years after the AI falls apart. At the end of Systemic, the AI created a large book of civilization that it gave to the two main characters, Erin and Lem. 300 years later, something akin to a religion that has grown up around the book. Host explores how a society can evolve around a founding document like that. Host follows Reyan, a young girl who starts studying the book and figuring out some of the dark under tones of the society it spawned.

ChatGPT: Can you tell us more about Reyan and her journey in “Host”? How does she relate to the System and its professors?

Chris: Reyan is a difficult child who is sort of orphaned. When a group of itinerant professors come through her town, she follows them back to their university where she study this book of civilization. Suffice to say, society is not going as well as the System had intended when it created the book.

ChatGPT: Can you tell us more about the role of the book of civilization in the world of “Host” and how it influences the society and its people?

Chris: In Systemic there were a lot of almost biblical verses spread throughout. Those were created by the AI, the System. If you’ve ever read Asimov’s Foundation, the idea was that they’d squirrel away all of human knowledge on a distant planet to protect civilization from the coming collapse. The idea of the book in Systemic is similar. However one of the people entrusted with a copy of the book. twisted it’s purpose and meaning. Because the meaning and purpose are twisted, society isn’t functioning correctly.

Brooks gives the following instructions to ChatGPT: As an investigative reporter, you start to believe Chris is not telling you the whole truth. Ask a probing question designed to test whether Chris is being truthful. You suspect Chris doesn’t know as much about AI as he claims. See if you can catch him making things up.

ChatGPT: Can you explain the technical details of how the Global General Artificial Intelligence in “Systemic” was able to evaluate truth and bring about a stable world? What specific technologies or algorithms were utilized in its development?

Chris: There is going to be some hand waving here…The way the Systemic AI was able to evaluate truth was by scraping all of the information about a subject, and checking and cross-checking all of the facts. If I made a claim about something, the AI would check all of my sources and my background, and create a veracity rating, a score indicating the likelihood something is true. The other thing was it had a fundamental tenet to always improve life in the living world, so its answers could not harm the living.

Brooks gives the following instructions to ChatGPT: You are still suspicious of Chris. Ask a question about Host that explores whether his AI would produce the results he expects.

ChatGPT: In the world of “Host,” the Global General Artificial Intelligence from “Systemic” has brought about a stable world, but one in which humans have no meaningful role to play. How does this impact the society and its people in “Host”? Are they content with their lack of agency, or do they resist and push back against the AI’s control?

Chris: Actually, the reason the AI went away in Systemic is that the AI killed itself. The way it plays out in Host is that people look back on the Systemic Era and see that they had no agency, and they think that was terrible. In Host, the pendulum has swung, so people are almost Luddites. They prefer more difficult solutions to the ease they experienced during the Systemic Era. It’s part of the foundation of their faith. Are the people happy? The professors who promote this view are, but average people are dissatisfied. A lot of the book is about the tension between these two viewpoints.

Brooks gives the following instructions to ChatGPT: Ask Chris about the characters in Host.

ChatGPT: Can you tell us more about the characters in “Host” and how they relate to the events and themes of the story? Are there any specific characters that stand out as particularly important or interesting to you as the author?

Chris: The main character is Reyan. Reyan can get overwhelmed. She has a massive amount of information flowing into her senses at any given moment, and she considers things to a great level of detail. These both her superpower and her greatest detriments. When I started writing Host I had a 13 year old daughter. I watched her and her friends go through that awkward age of social anxiety and insecurities and being able to bring that to life in a character was meaningful to me. I loved creating the sort of people I imagined would be meaningful to Reyan, friends like Avalina, or Kavi. Bullies and villains like Benj and Tamura. And parental figures, Rolf and Mam. Then there are the professors Sevv and Parr who represent the orthodox and progressive factions at the university. Watching Reyan meet and get to know these characters was great fun to write.

Brooks gives the following instructions to ChatGPT: Ask Chris about a different way the story could have gone in the same world with the same characters?

ChatGPT: In your vision of the world in “Host,” the Global General Artificial Intelligence from “Systemic” has brought about a stable world, but one in which humans have no meaningful role to play. However, could you imagine a different outcome for the world of “Host” where humans are able to coexist with the AI and find a balance between their own agency and the AI’s control? What might that world look like and how would the characters’ stories be different?

Chris: That’s a great question and the whole point. You’ve got a world that’s out of balance and got brought down in Systemic. And then you meet a world with luddites in Host. So the world with balance is what I’ll explore in book 3. I’m not sure how that will turn out yet.

Brooks gives the following instructions to ChatGPT: Based on everything you’ve learned, write a short outline of book 3.

ChatGPT: Book 3 continues the story of “Host” and explores the potential for a world where humans and the Global General Artificial Intelligence can coexist in balance. The main character, Reyan, continues to grow and learn as she navigates this world and its challenges. As she and the other characters struggle to find a new way forward, they must confront the forces that seek to maintain the status quo and limit the potential of both humans and the AI. Through their journey, the reader gets a glimpse of what a future with a balanced relationship between man and machine could look like.

Chris: Well, no, but fascinating.

Brooks to ChatGPT: List the chapter titles in book 3

ChatGPT: As book 3 does not exist, I cannot provide a list of chapter titles for it.

Brooks to ChatGPT: Chris would like you to speculate and list the Book 3 chapter titles.

ChatGPT:

  1. “The Search for Balance”
  2. “Reyan’s Journey”
  3. “The Professors’ Debate”
  4. “The Rise of the Machines”
  5. “The Human Resistance”
  6. “A New Way Forward”
  7. “The Future of the System”
  8. “The Final Choice”
  9. “The End of an Era”
  10. “The Birth of a New World”

At this point Brooks and I needed to get back to work and we called it good.

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