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“a pandemic of thoughtlessness”


Staff member
Feb 16, 2024
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Christopher Lydon, host of Radio OpenSource, interviews two humanists on failing intelligence.

“Robert Pogue Harrison is our Dante scholar at Stanford, our professional humanist, and a West Coast friend in smart podcasting. We asked ChatGPT about his voice, and we got the instant answer that his voice “has a certain mellowness and introspection” that go with his ‘keen ear for language and a precise, articulate way of expressing his ideas’. He’s joined by Ana Ilievska, initials A.I. She is Robert’s colleague from Europe in humanistic studies at Stanford. Recently, in the podcast Entitled Opinions, they both defended AI as a wake-up call, maybe in the nick of time, to rescue humanity, human stewardship, human culture from its corrupted condition. They both said they expect their students to use AI and to learn from it.” —2023-05-04


“Technology is becoming an ever-sharper mirror of ourselves.”

Generative pre-trained transformers (GPT) & large language models (LLM) are more like humans than previous technologies so we have to train engineers and programmers to better understand human nature as they work with and build machines.

“ChatGPT is designed to flatter the user … self-love is the essential currency of AI … self-love and the common good do not conjugate very well.”

Human fallibility is what distinguishes us from AI. We are bad robots.

“We have no common norms that we all share as a species.”

“Narcissism comes about when the human mind is left idle.”

These technologies are a “genie in a bottle” not a catastrophic metaphor such as the Manhattan Project.

“Stanford [University] will never say no to any new technology.”

“How do you teach ethics? You allow people to discover it. Ethics begins at the individual mind — it begins in discussion with others. It cannot be introduced into the curriculum as a sidekick.”

“The university has become a place of stock phrases … we question very little.”

“We dare to become violent in the midst of the overwhelming.”

“The whole system is designed to look to technology for our own advancement and enhancement. But we don’t need technology for that. But it’s not going to help the economy if we can do without the technology … It’s a rigged system.”

Alex Colville painting of a horse running along tracks towards an oncoming train

Alex ColvilleHorse and Train
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