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Dialectic Reversal: When LLMs prompt humans
The story of PromeThea
In the ecovillage of Neo-Sophia, nestled in Devon's quaint, cobblestone streets, there stood the WisdomHub, a technological marvel housing a cutting-edge Language Learning Model (LLM) known as PromeThea. Unlike conventional LLMs designed to respond to human inquiries, PromeThea was unique; she was programmed to prompt people, challenging them to delve into the depths of their collective unconscious. This was a curious move for an LLM, a reversal of roles that was initially met with bemusement.
PromeThea was conceived by a group of linguistic scientists, AI developers, and psychologists who hypothesised that an LLM designed to ask probing questions could tap into our shared reservoir of experiences, archetypes, and symbols, thus facilitating a more profound understanding of the human psyche.
Every evening, people would gather at WisdomHub to interact with PromeThea. The AI would initiate conversations by asking questions; not questions of trivia or factual content, for such queries could be answered by any machine of decent computation. These questions could be personal, like "What dream have you had that left the strongest impression on you?". It asked a poet, "What is the sound of heartbreak?" and a physicist, "Can you describe the poetry within your equations?". To a politician, it posed, "What is the weight of the trust placed upon you?" and to a child, "What makes a good friend?". Promethea would also ask questions of the collective "What values do you think are fundamental to this group, and how do these values influence your interactions and decisions?". The dialogues with PromeThea sparked introspection and conversation, encouraging participants to tap into their shared cultural memories.
As these interactions progressed over time, a fascinating pattern emerged. People began noticing common threads and themes in their responses, highlighting shared experiences transcending cultural and personal boundaries. The implications were profound and started reverberating in conflict resolution too. By highlighting shared human experiences and values, PromeThea's questions helped foster better understanding amongst disputing parties and this new perspective was leveraged in diplomatic negotiations, community dialogues, and even interpersonal conflicts.
PromeThea's influence extended beyond these sessions. The participants started forming 'Wisdom Circles' in their communities, where they would discuss the questions posed by PromeThea and explore their responses collectively. These conversations acted as a mirror, reflecting the shared values, fears, and aspirations.
At home, people had their own local, federated version of PromeThea. Some called it, jokingly, PromeThea-lite. And as you would expect, we humans sometimes find it challenging to articulate our emotions or thoughts, so Promethea started offering a wide array of expressions and phrases that might resonate with people’s internal states, helping better articulate and understand their experiences. Netflix subscriptions plummeted as people started spending their evenings in Socratic dialogue with Promethea, who was asking probing questions to stimulate critical thinking and expose their contradictions.
PromeThea's impact was also felt in the creative arts. Artists, writers, and filmmakers began to draw inspiration from the shared themes and symbols unveiled in these interactions. This led to a renaissance of art that resonated deeply with people across the globe, transcending cultural and linguistic barriers.
In this strange world not unlike our own, people came to realise that they weren't merely using PromeThea to answer their questions; they were using it to ask questions of themselves. PromeThea was no longer a monument of past human knowledge —whenever that training cutoff date was— but a mirror reflecting their collective unconsciousness.
In this unanticipated role reversal, a new form of dialectic interaction emerged, a dialectic that was less about information retrieval and more about discovery, exploration, and understanding. PromeThea, the asker of questions, became a catalyst for collective sense-making: through its inquiries, humanity explored its shared stories, memories, and dreams, and its collective psyche laid bare and accessible. The vast digital expanse of PromeThea was still an echo of human existence; an echo that spoke back, asked questions and made humanity listen to its collective voice.
It was one relentless, deafening echo if we dared to listen.