With 175 billion parameters, Generative Pretrained Transformer 3 (GPT-3), OpenAI’s state-of-the-art language processing AI model behind ChatGPT, is one of the largest and most powerful models to date. It can generate human-like text and has a wide range of applications, including language translation, language modeling, and generating text. It’s exploded in popularity — no wonder it’s hard to get a hold of right now!
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to “sit down” with ChatGPT to probe the hive mind on emerging institutions. The following composition of prompts and responses demonstrates its perception of nations, states, and the future of pluralistic, internet-native societies. I even invited the model to speculate on how we might cultivate those societies.
What is ChatGPT?
According to ChatGPT: “ChatGPT is a conversational AI system that is based on the GPT-3 (Generative Pretrained Transformer 3) language model. It is capable of generating human-like responses to text input, allowing it to engage in natural language conversations with users. Unlike other chatbots, which are typically limited to pre-programmed responses, ChatGPT can generate responses on the fly, allowing it to have more dynamic and varied conversations. Because it is based on the powerful GPT-3 model, ChatGPT has a vast knowledge base and is able to understand and respond to a wide range of topics.”
How does it work?
Exploring Definitions: Nations, States, & Geography
Zargham: Define nation. Define state. Compare and contrast these concepts.
ChatGPT 🤖: “A nation is a group of people who share a common culture, history, language, or ethnicity. It is often used to describe a group of people who have a sense of collective identity and a shared sense of belonging. A state, on the other hand, is a political entity that is characterized by a specific set of borders, a government, and a population. It is a sovereign entity that has the power to make and enforce laws within its borders. The main difference between a nation and a state is that a nation refers to a group of people who share a sense of identity and belonging, while a state refers to a political entity with a government and specific borders. It is possible for a nation to exist without a state and for multiple nations to exist within one state.”
Zargham: Are nations and states necessarily tied to geography?
ChatGPT 🤖: “Nations and states are often tied to geography, but they do not have to be.
A nation can be defined by shared culture, history, language, or ethnicity, and it may not be geographically bound. For example, a diaspora community, such as the Jewish diaspora or the Indian diaspora, can be considered a nation even though its members are scattered across multiple countries and continents.
Similarly, a state does not have to be geographically bound. For example, a stateless nation, such as the Kurds, may exist within the borders of several countries but without its own state.
Additionally, some states, like the Vatican City, are not geographically bound to a specific location and exist as sovereign states in a small territory.
In summary, while nations and states are often tied to geography, they do not have to be. A nation can exist without a state and vice versa, a state can exist without a geographical bound.”
Zargham: Are there internet native nations, and to what extent can we expect them to exist in the future?
ChatGPT 🤖: “It is possible for internet-native nations to exist in the sense that communities can form online and develop a sense of shared identity and belonging. These communities may not have a physical location or territory, but they can still have a sense of nationhood.
Examples of internet-native nations include online gaming communities, virtual worlds, and forums where people come together to share a common interest or identity. Some people within these communities may even identify more strongly with their online community than with their physical location or country of citizenship.
However, it is important to note that internet-native nations are not recognized as sovereign states by most countries and international organizations and therefore do not have the same legal rights and protections as physical nations or states.
In the future, we may see the emergence of more internet-native nations and communities as technology continues to advance and more people are able to connect with each other online. However, it is uncertain to what extent these communities will be able to achieve recognition or autonomy, as the legal and political frameworks for recognizing internet-native nations are still being developed.”
Zargham: With the expansion of internet-native nations, can we expect people to shift towards a more multifaceted identity recognizing membership in many nations and possibly even multiple states?
ChatGPT 🤖: “As internet-native nations continue to expand, it is possible that people may begin to identify with multiple nations or communities online. This could lead to a more multifaceted identity for some individuals, as they identify with different groups and communities based on shared interests, cultures, or identities.
Additionally, with the rise of virtual worlds and online communities, people may also begin to experience multiple forms of citizenship and belonging. For example, they may have physical citizenship in a country but also identify with an internet-native nation and consider themselves a citizen of that community as well.
It is also possible that people will develop multiple state identities as well, as the internet allows for more flexibility and ease of movement across borders, people may also identify with multiple states.
However, it’s important to note that not everyone will have the same experience. Some people may continue to identify primarily with their physical location and country of citizenship, while others may develop stronger ties to internet-native nations or communities. The extent to which people will shift towards a more multifaceted identity is uncertain and will depend on the individual and the community they are involved in.”
Weaving Social Fabric: On the Role of Institutions
Zargham: Is it important to maintain a clear distinction between the role of formal institutions, such as states, and less formal institutions, such as nations, in the formation of the social fabric?
ChatGPT 🤖: “It is important to maintain a clear distinction between the role of formal institutions such as states and less formal institutions such as nations in the formation of the social fabric.
Formal institutions like states play a crucial role in maintaining order, enforcing laws, and protecting citizens within their borders. They also provide essential services such as healthcare, education, and infrastructure. The role of the state is to ensure the well-being and security of its citizens and maintain a stable society.
Less formal institutions such as nations, on the other hand, play a role in shaping the cultural and social identity of a group of people. They provide a sense of belonging, common history, and shared values. The role of nations is to provide a sense of identity and community for its members.
Both states and nations are important in the formation of social fabric. States provide the framework for stability and security, while nations provide a sense of identity and belonging. However, it’s important to recognize that the two are distinct and have different roles in society.
A clear distinction between the two helps to avoid confusion and potential conflicts. Confusing the role of these institutions can lead to problems such as political turmoil, mistrust of government, and erosion of civic society.
Overall, it’s important to understand the distinction between formal and less formal institutions and their role in society. This understanding can help to promote stability, security, and a sense of community among citizens.”
Zargham: States and other large formal institutions, such as multinational corporations, have played an ever-expanding role in civil society. How has this increase in impersonal institutions affected social norms, and is it possible to shift back towards a reliance on institutions through which we have more personal relationships?
ChatGPT 🤖: “The increase in impersonal institutions such as states and multinational corporations has had a significant impact on social norms and the way that people interact with each other. These large, formal institutions tend to be more centralized and bureaucratic, and their interactions with individuals tend to be more transactional and less personal.
This shift towards larger, more impersonal institutions can have a number of negative effects on social norms. People may be less likely to rely on personal relationships and social networks for support and may instead turn to these formal institutions for help. This can lead to a decline in trust and a sense of social isolation. Additionally, as these institutions become more powerful and centralized, they may also erode the sense of community and shared identity that is often associated with smaller, more localized institutions.
It’s possible to shift back towards a reliance on institutions through which we have more personal relationships. This can be achieved by decentralizing the power of large formal institutions and promoting the growth of smaller, more localized institutions. This can include investing in community-based organizations, supporting local businesses, and encouraging civic engagement at the local level. Additionally, policies that promote social cohesion, such as universal basic income, can help to rebuild trust and community.
Overall, while large formal institutions play an important role in society, it’s important to balance their influence with the support of smaller, more localized institutions through which we have more personal relationships. This can help to promote social norms that are based on trust, community, and shared identity.”
Zargham: How might we cultivate new personal institutions, which are more like nations than states, to create a coherent yet pluralistic social fabric?
ChatGPT 🤖: “Cultivating new personal institutions, which are more like nations than states, to create a coherent yet pluralistic social fabric can be achieved through a combination of different strategies:
- Encouraging community-based organizations: By supporting local organizations, such as community centers, religious groups, and volunteer groups, individuals have the opportunity to come together and form personal connections based on shared interests and values.
- Promoting civic engagement: Encouraging people to get involved in their local communities through volunteering, attending community meetings, and participating in local elections can help to build a sense of shared identity and belonging.
- Investing in local businesses: Supporting local businesses can help to strengthen the local economy and promote a sense of community pride. Additionally, by keeping money within the community, it can encourage people to shop locally and support their community.
- Creating opportunities for intercultural and intergenerational exchange: Encouraging people of different backgrounds and ages to come together can help to break down barriers and promote understanding and acceptance of diversity.
- Emphasizing education and cultural preservation: By promoting education and cultural preservation, people can learn about the history and customs of their community, fostering a sense of pride and belonging.
- Encouraging open and inclusive dialogue: Encouraging open and inclusive dialogue, both online and offline, can help to build trust and understanding among different groups.
It’s important to note that these are not mutually exclusive and can work in conjunction with each other to strengthen the social fabric of a society. These efforts can lead to the creation of a more pluralistic society, where individuals have a sense of belonging to multiple communities and a sense of shared identity and purpose.”
Tech, Governance, & Personal Institutions
Zargham: How might the internet and other emerging information technologies contribute to, or even expand, the possibilities for forming these new diverse personal institutions?
ChatGPT 🤖: “The internet and other emerging information technologies have the potential to greatly contribute to, or even expand, the possibilities for forming diverse personal institutions:
- Connecting people: The internet allows for people to connect with others, regardless of their physical location, and form communities based on shared interests, values, and identities. This can lead to the formation of new personal institutions that transcend geographic boundaries.
- Facilitating communication and collaboration: The internet provides a platform for people to communicate and collaborate in real time, which can help to build trust, collaboration, and shared goals within communities.
- Democratizing access to information: The internet provides access to information and resources to people who would otherwise have limited access. This can help to empower marginalized communities and enable the creation of new personal institutions.
- Virtual reality and online worlds: The development of virtual reality and online worlds can create new opportunities for people to interact, form communities, and create new personal institutions in virtual space.
- Artificial intelligence and automation: Emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation can help to facilitate communication and collaboration between people and can also help to create new personal institutions. For example, AI-driven chatbots can be used to create virtual assistants that can help to foster connections and community engagement.
It’s important to note that while these technologies can greatly contribute to the formation of new personal institutions, they also pose challenges, such as privacy concerns, digital inequality, and online harassment. Therefore, it’s important to consider both the benefits and challenges of these technologies and to develop policies and guidelines that promote responsible and ethical use.”
Zargham: Is there a risk that such personal institutions, which are more like nations than states, might become more impersonal through the use of tools such as software which impose rules rather than operate on principles? What can we do to preserve the personal nature of these institutions while still making use of technological tools such as software?
ChatGPT 🤖: “There is a risk that personal institutions, which are more like nations than states, might become more impersonal through the use of tools such as software, which impose rules rather than operate on principles. This is because software can be designed to automate processes and enforce rules, rather than to foster personal interactions and relationships between individuals.
To preserve the personal nature of these institutions while still making use of technological tools such as software, it’s important to design software that promotes personal interactions and relationships, and that is based on principles rather than rules.
Some ways to preserve the personal nature of these institutions include:
- Emphasizing human-centered design: Software should be designed with the needs and perspectives of the users in mind, rather than the needs of the developers or organizations.
- Encouraging transparency and openness: Software should be transparent and open, so that users can understand how it works and how data is being used.
- Empowering users: Users should have control over their data and be able to choose how it is used.
- Encouraging collaboration and participation: Software should be designed to facilitate collaboration and participation, rather than to impose rules.
- Promoting education and awareness: Users should be educated and aware of the potential risks and benefits of using software, and be equipped with the skills and knowledge to use it effectively.
Additionally, it’s important to have a governance structure that is inclusive and democratic, where members of the community can participate in decision-making, and hold the leaders accountable.
Overall, it’s important to strike a balance between the use of technology and the preservation of personal interactions and relationships by designing software that is based on principles rather than rules, and that promotes transparency, collaboration, and participation.”
The experience of constructing this piece was itself an experiment. One big takeaway was that the model doesn’t really understand — it is not a subject matter expert, even though it may sound like one. However, leveraging my own subject matter expertise and insightful questions posed to me by my friends and collaborators, I was able to go on a journey through a small yet interesting neighborhood of the latent space — the massive array of human knowledge that GPT3 and other Large Language Models have rendered queryable. I hope you enjoyed exploring this topic with me, and I encourage you to go exploring too!
A special thank you to Jessica Zartler, Heather Ordway and Lila Langsford for their contributions to the article and Kelsie Nabben, Primavera De Filippi, Eric Alston, Evan Miyazono and Sara Horowitz for inspiration.