Old and New Oracles

ChatGPT is one of the most advanced and powerful natural language models available today and continues to improve progressively. It was created by OpenAI, a technology company founded in 2015 to develop artificial intelligence safely and beneficially for humanity¹. ChatGPT uses artificial intelligence to process and interpret texts in natural language. This model has been trained with a large amount of textual data, allowing it to generate satisfactory answers to various questions. The power and consequences of this new technology and how it participates and will participate socially in the modern era remind us of the old myths of magical items capable of making requests and the oracles holding divine wisdom responsible for answering the questions of men. 

Oracles are a constitutive part of human history and are always used as a source of knowledge and foresee. Although it is a common practice in various civilizations, one can cite the famous Oracle of Delphi in Ancient Greece as the most relevant to us Westerners. The same oracle who, when asked by Querofonte about who would be the wisest man in Athens, claimed to be Socrates, beginning the philosophical research journey of Socrates in the public environment. This sanctuary existed between the 8 B.C e 2 B.C. centuries. And it was a space dedicated to consulting wisdom when asking questions to the priestess. Ordinary citizens and political leaders attended the shrine. They received prophecies to guide their governments and believed that the answers and predictions given by the priestess came from the gods and could offer guidance to make crucial decisions in their lives, such as wars, alliances, business, and marriage. 

The human practice of consulting wisdom is man’s natural inclination since it is our nature to seek to understand the world. Oracles then appear, as these priests, who enable, in a certain way, space and moment dedicated to the materialization of this nature will. 

Similar to the rite of questioning the oracle and waiting for a source of wisdom and power in the book Thousand and One Nights, there is the story of Aladdin’s wonderful lamp, which allowed the keeper to make three requests to the genius and attain wisdom, power, and riches. Today we have access to technologies like the capabilities of Aladdin’s wonderful lamp and the advice and solutions of the oracles. ChatGPT works ritualistically as a modern oracle, where artificial intelligence participates socially with a priestly function, with diverse knowledge and capable of understanding human language and talking, offering accurate and relevant answers to various questions. 

Both ChatGPT and Aladdin’s magic lamp have the power to fulfill desires and offer solutions to the challenges and problems people face. However, while Aladdin’s magic lamp is a mystical object that relies on a genius to fulfill the owner’s wishes, ChatGPT is an advanced technology that uses complex algorithms to process and interpret the information users provide.

ChatGPT’s current features include assistance in academic research; problem-solving and problems in specific areas; translating texts into other languages; creating content for social networks; online therapies; assisting in writing texts and seeking information on health and leisure; contributing significantly to strategic business decisions; among several other possibilities. 

Unlike the Oracle of Delphi priests, who relied on deities or supernatural forces to offer their predictions and counsel, these new priests used complex algorithms and a vast database to process information and provide relevant answers. The similarity is that the ChatGPT also serves as a source of wisdom and advice for people in this modern era, for being used to ask questions, seek information on various subjects, and help solve complex problems. 

Finally, this reflection of how these new technologies participate in society, in a position similar to priests of old and with powers of enrichment identical to that of magical objects of ancient myths. Although the means used are different, the essence of the service provided is the same: to help people find guidance and wisdom to face life’s adversities. 

One of the main advantages of ChatGPT over the old oracles is that it can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as you have access to the internet. In addition, ChatGPT is able to learn and evolve constantly, which means that your responses tend to be increasingly accurate and relevant over time. 

However, of course, this is only a metaphorical reflection of how these technologies participate ritualistically, similar to the traditional priestly class in which divine inspiration existed. The limitation of the metaphor is that ChatGPT does not entirely replace the ancient oracles and other forms of wisdom and counseling. Artificial intelligence can provide accurate and quick answers to specific questions. Still, it cannot yet fully understand the vast horizon of the complexity of human emotions and experiences. Therefore, the importance of using it sparingly and having a critical approach concerning the answers offered is evident. 

Although it significantly satisfies most of the questions that are relevant and a priority for modern man, several themes are out of the reach of this new technology, and one can cite: questions that require abstract reasoning and critical thinking skills, such as logic problems or complex puzzles; questions that need specific knowledge in highly specialized areas such as advanced science, medicine, and law; questions that depend on the context or that involve subtle nuances of language, such as jokes, puns, or sarcasm; questions that involve highly confidential information or that require privacy, such as sensitive personal or financial information and, of course, in the most profound ethical and existential issues, typically in the philosophical and theological sphere². 

Finally, another reflection departing from the metaphor of oracles is to realize that in any traditional civilization. Those responsible for the space of wisdom and transmission of education had a specific modulation in their convictions to have a different spectrum of certainty and response, enabling a more extraordinary conceptual richness and possibilities and antagonizing a locality. Now, the world is progressively centralizing questions to a single source of education. In this sense, the materialized situation shows a single speaker, even though it is an artificial intelligence, that can persuade and convince not 100 people from his community of a specific answer or path but 1 billion. Thus, a hierarchy of priorities has been defined, and finally, the same agenda for all. 

  1. https://openai.com/about
  2. https://www.makeuseof.com/openai-chatgpt-biggest-problems/
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