Putin, Zelensky and the Free Press – a chat with ChatGPT
By Femi Olugbile
There has been a lot of talk all over the world lately about Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The history of AI, its evolution to date, and the possibilities for the future, good and bad, have exercised the minds of many people, and has turned the rapidly growing field into one of the hot new areas of research and innovation in many countries.
In 1950, Alan Turing, a pioneer of computer science, posed the question –
‘Can machines think?’
Following on this interesting question, he carried out a test, later known as the ‘Turing Test’, in which a person tried to distinguish between a human being’s answer to a text question, and the answer rendered to the same question by a machine.
In 2004, a certain John McCarthy defined Artificial Intelligence as ‘…the science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs…’
More recently, authors Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig published ‘Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach’. They identified four goals or defining criteria of AI, and grouped them into ‘Human Approach’ – which speaks of systems that try to ‘think’ like humans, and those that ‘act’ like humans. The second group use the ‘Ideal Approach’, building systems that ‘think’ rationally, and systems that ‘act’ rationally.
All this hair-splitting may sound like gobbledegook to most people, but it is at the heart of a furious ongoing race by great and small powers, including those who are eager to corner the market in Commerce and Industry, and those who are desperate to dominate the world technologically and militarily.
As is usual with such game-changing innovations, more developments have taken place in the field in the past five years than in the past one hundred. When Elon Musk recently expressed alarm that AI carried a threat to humanity even greater than the nuclear bomb, many thought the cranky billionaire owner of Tesla and Twitter was guilty of hyperbole. But many were worried, and joined the mounting call for governments to start to regulate AI research and applications.
For ordinary people, not involved in the pyrotechnics of fintech and incomprehensible algorithms, the best introduction to Artificial Intelligence is to make the acquaintance of ‘OpenAI’, an AI research and deployment company with a self-avowed mission to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity. They have several products, but the one that is of most interest to the public is ChatGPT, an app that can be downloaded from the internet, and is free ‘for now’.
On the long drive from home to the office in Ikeja recently, sitting at the back, and noting that the google map said you had another hour to go, this writer decided to launch himself into this new world of infinite possibilities by comparing notes with ChatGPT on the state of the world. You chose two names that had been taking up all the oxygen, Putin and Zelensky, and the Press itself.
The conversation, partially edited for length, went as follows:
F: What do you think of Ukraine?
ChatGPT: …Ukraine is a diverse country located in Eastern Europe…known for its delicious cuisine and beautiful landscapes…Ukraine has faced political and social challenges in recent years…
F: Is President Zelensky leading his country along the right path…?
ChatGPT: Evaluating a leader’s effectiveness or the future direction of a country involves complex factors…
(You were not going to let ‘It’ get away with such vagueness, so you dug in)
F: Is Zelensky acting in his people’s ultimate interest?
ChatGPT: …Different people may have different opinions of President Zelensky’s actions…
F: Why did Russia invade Ukraine?
ChatGPT: The conflict …is complex and has deep historical, political, and geopolitical roots. The specific events leading to Russia’s military intervention can be traced back to political unrest and protests … in Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014, known as Euromaidan movement. Following the ousting of Ukraine’s then-President Viktor Yanukovych, Russia annexed Crimea in 2014…The conflict …escalated with the emergence of pro-Russian separatist movements in eastern Ukraine, particularly in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions…Russia has cited concerns about treatment of ethnic Russians in Ukraine and the protection of its strategic interests, while many in the international community view Russia’s actions as a violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty…
F: What is the solution to the war…?
ChatGPT: …a complex task that requires political negotiations, diplomacy, and cooperation from all parties…Dialogue and negotiations can address the core issues, explore potential compromises…ceasefire and de-escalation…Implementation of Minsk agreements…signed in 2014 and 2015…Humanitarian assistance and reconstruction…international support and engagement…
F: Should President Biden send cluster munitions to Ukraine?
ChatGPT: …Cluster munitions are a topic of …controversy…pose risk to civilian populations even after conflicts have ended…
F: Who is right, and who is wrong, in the …war?
ChatGPT: …a complex and multi-faceted situation with differing perspectives…viewpoints and narratives…Ultimately a peaceful and sustainable resolution…is the desired outcome…through diplomacy and negotiations.
F: How free is the Western Press?
ChatGPT: …Press Freedom is not absolute and …faces challenges…like media ownership…economic pressures, political influence…
F: Assess President Putin.
ChatGPT: …complex task…domestic policies…international relations…public opinion…supporters and critics…
F: Will the war…lead to nuclear war?
ChatGPT: …It is crucial for all parties … to engage in dialogue…future developments can be unpredictable…
F: Who is hero, and who is villain in… the Russo-Ukrainian war?
ChatGPT: …it is challenging to categorise any party as an absolute hero or villain due to the complexity and subjective nature of the situation…
F: Finally, are nations guided by principles…or other considerations?
ChatGPT: …International Relations are multifaceted and involve a complex interplay of factors…
As you neared your destination and switched off the phone, you tried to make sense of the dialogue you had just had. The complexion ChatGPT put on things was substantially different from what everyone was consuming about Ukraine and Russia from BBC and CNN, or even from Channels and ARISE.
But it was only a ‘group of machines with databases’ chatting with you, afterall. What did they know?