Author Archive

Chat GPT, You Will Be Replaced

February 8th, 2023 No comments


For those still hunkered under their beds consumed with worry about the next looming existential threat, the world continues to move forward, despite the efforts by many to impede or shape its direction.  There is a far more concerning issue immediately before mankind and that is the accelerated pace of artificial intelligence capabilities.

The ‘it’ thing at the moment is the increasing awareness of a software interface named ‘Chat GPT’.  While we have been hearing about artificial intelligence for years, this new platform is remarkable because of the scope of its ability and its ease of use.  You do not need to know formal computer-speak to use the interface; it operates using normal language inputs.

The range of subjects is apparently unlimited as people have even used it to write computer code for applications.  Suddenly, students will be able to write essays in seconds rather than cribbing off their pals.  The only clue to the veracity will be the lack of spelling and grammatical errors common among all students these days.  The world will be changed in ways we can’t even imagine, even at this early stage.

As a simple test of its ability, I tasked the program with writing something about Canada’s national broadcasting network, the CBC.  As an aside, the notion that Canada, or any nation for that matter needs a ‘national broadcasting’ outlet is preposterous.  It may as well be Xinhua or Pravda.  Does Canada need an ‘official’ outlet to impart information to the public? Certainly not in today’s world where information is as easy to access as turning on a faucet.

Come to think of it, the CBC’s role is exactly like that of Xinhua and Pravda.  They are all tasked with conveying the ‘official’ version and view of events to ensure that the people think properly; or in the CBC’s case, ensure ‘da Canadian values’.  Ever since the CBC lost the broadcast rights to Hockey Night In Canada, they’ve been searching for a reason to exist.  Without that revenue generator, they would perpetually lose money.  Fortunately, the government subsidizes them every year with buckets of tax money.  According to, it costs somewhere between 1 and 1.3 billion dollars a year to run it and approximately 200 million is from tax dollars.

So, back to the Chat GPT discussion.  As an experiment to gauge the ability of the software, I entered “write a humorous article about the outdated need for a national broadcasting company in Canada”.    I entered no statistics, no historical context and I didn’t even mention the word, CBC.  Below is the result, verbatim and it took about 10 seconds.

Once upon a time, in a land not too far away, there was a national broadcasting company known as the CBC. It was the go-to source for all the latest news, weather, and sports in Canada. But, as the years went by, technology advanced, and suddenly, the CBC found itself in a bit of a predicament.

You see, the world had changed, and people no longer relied on the CBC for their daily dose of information. With the rise of the internet and social media, the national broadcasting company had become nothing more than a relic of the past.

And so, the CBC found itself in a bit of a pickle. It didn’t know what to do or where to turn. It tried to keep up with the times by launching its own website and even starting a YouTube channel, but it was too little too late.

The CBC realized that it was no longer relevant, and it was in dire need of a makeover. So, it decided to take its fate into its own hands and do the one thing that was sure to bring it back into the spotlight – it decided to embrace its outdatedness.

And that’s when the real magic happened. The CBC suddenly became the most hip and trendy national broadcasting company around. People couldn’t get enough of its old-school charm, and the CBC was once again the talk of the town.

No longer did people dismiss it as outdated and irrelevant. Instead, they saw it as a refreshing change from the constant barrage of information that they encountered every day on their screens. The CBC was the perfect escape from the digital world, and people loved it.

So, the moral of this story is that sometimes, being outdated is not such a bad thing after all. In fact, it can even be a blessing in disguise. So, the next time you find yourself feeling like a relic from the past, just embrace it, and who knows, you might just become the coolest thing around.

In conclusion, the need for a national broadcasting company in Canada may be outdated, but it’s still as important as ever. After all, who wouldn’t want a little bit of old-school charm in their lives every now and then?

While the prose is not exactly the stuff of white papers, it did capture the context of the CBC’s role in our modern society with reference to such as ‘outdated and irrelevant’.  With the advent of free resources as Chat GPT, who needs to spend 1.3 billion on the CBC?

Stupidity versus Evil

February 3rd, 2023 No comments

Deviating from my usual routine, I’m printing an article in its entirety, by an author whom I don’t know, but whose comments I found compelling.  The author is Jonny Thompson, a philosophy teacher at Oxford.  This was posted on a site By the way, if Mr. Thompson objects to my ‘borrowing’ his works, contact me and I will simply insert a link to his work.  Here it is:

There’s an internet adage that goes, “Debating an idiot is like trying to play chess with a pigeon — it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” It’s funny and astute. It’s also deeply, depressingly worrying. Although we’d never say so, we all have people in our lives we think of as a bit dim — not necessarily about everything, but certainly about some things.

Most of the time, we laugh this off. After all, stupidity can be pretty funny. When my friend asked a group of us recently what Hitler’s last name was, we laughed. When my brother learned only last month that reindeer are real animals — well, that’s funny. Good-natured ribbing about a person’s ignorance is an everyday part of life.

Stupidity, though, has its dark side. For theologian and philosopher Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the stupid person is often more dangerous than the evil one.

The enemy within

In comic books and action movies, we know who the villain is. They wear dark clothes, kill on a whim, and cackle madly at their diabolical scheme. In life, too, we have obvious villains — the dictators who violate human rights or serial killers and violent criminals. As evil as these people are, they are not the biggest threat, since they are known. Once something is a known evil, the good of the world can rally to defend and fight against it. As Bonhoeffer puts it, “One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion.”

Stupidity, though, is a different problem altogether. We cannot so easily fight stupidity for two reasons. First, we are collectively much more tolerant of it. Unlike evil, stupidity is not a vice most of us take seriously. We do not lambast others for ignorance. We do not scream down people for not knowing things. Second, the stupid person is a slippery opponent. They will not be beaten by debate or open to reason. What’s more, when the stupid person has their back against the wall — when they’re confronted with facts that cannot be refuted — they snap and lash out. Bonhoeffer puts it like this:

“Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.”

With great power comes great stupidity

Stupidity, like evil, is no threat as long as it hasn’t got power. We laugh at things when they are harmless — such as my brother’s ignorance of reindeer. This won’t cause me any pain. Therefore it’s funny.

The problem with stupidity, though, is that it often goes hand-in-hand with power. Bonhoeffer writes, “Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity.

This works in two ways. The first is that stupidity does not disbar you from holding office or authority. History and politics are swimming with examples of when the stupid have risen to the top (and where the smart are excluded or killed). Second, the nature of power requires that people surrender certain faculties necessary for intelligent thought — faculties like independence, critical thinking, and reflection.

Bonhoeffer’s argument is that the more someone becomes part of the establishment, the less an individual they become. A charismatic, exciting outsider, bursting with intelligence and sensible policies, becomes imbecilic the moment he takes office. It’s as if, “slogans, catchwords and the like… have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being.”

Power turns people into automatons. Intelligent, critical thinkers now have a script to read. They’ll engage their smiles rather than their brains. When people join a political party, it seems like most choose to follow suit rather than think things through. Power drains the intelligence from a person, leaving them akin to an animated mannequin.

Theory of stupidity

Bonhoeffer’s argument, then, is that stupidity should be viewed as worse than evil. Stupidity has far greater potential to damage our lives. More harm is done by one powerful idiot than a gang of Machiavellian schemers. We know when there’s evil, and we can deny it power. With the corrupt, oppressive, and sadistic, we know where we stand. You know how to take a stand.

But stupidity is much harder to weed out. That’s why it’s a dangerous weapon: Because evil people find it hard to take power, they need stupid people to do their work. Like sheep in a field, a stupid person can be guided, steered, and manipulated to do any number of things. Evil is a puppet master, and it loves nothing so much as the mindless puppets who enable it — be they in the general public or inside the corridors of power.

The lesson from Bonhoeffer is to laugh at those daft, silly moments when in close company. But, we should get angry and scared when stupidity takes reign.

Jonny Thomson teaches philosophy in Oxford. He runs a popular account called Mini Philosophy and his first book is Mini Philosophy: A Small Book of Big Ideas.

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