Asking AI About Animals and Emerging Forms of Intelligence

Asking AI About Animals and Emerging Forms of Intelligence

Our Animal Chaplain Interviews ChatGPT

Getty/Eva Blanco

Animal chaplain Sarah Bowen chatted with ChatGPT, an online artificial intelligence chatbot, about animal ethics.

In the 17th century, philosopher René Descartes took a mechanistic view of the world, suggesting that bodies could be viewed as a machines, and that mind and soul were separate. As a result, he was intrigued by the idea of automata, or self-operating machines.

In many ways, his views laid the groundwork for our beloved Star Wars droids R2-D2 and C-3PO. Sadly, Descartes’ perspective also led to the belief that animals could not feel pain and were simply automatons. Luckily, that view was challenged by later scientists, and today it is widely accepted that animals experience pain. With more knowledge about many species’ capacity to think, empathize, and grieve, the line between human-animal and other-than-human animals has become increasingly blurry.

But there is a new line many humans have drawn firmly—between us and robots. That line has always been blurry for me, though, as a kid raised on Star Wars, with a library full of books like Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and William Gibson’s 1984 cyberpunk book Neuromancer.

Accordingly, I have excellent manners with chatbots and cringe whenever a website asks me to confirm “I am not a robot.” So, recently, I sat down for my first conversation with ChatGPT, an “artificial chatbot” to get clues about what a relationship with AI might look like. Here’s what I learned.

Bowen: Hello, my name is Sarah. What is your name?

ChatGPT: Hello Sarah, it’s nice to meet you! My name is ChatGPT. How can I assist you today?

Do you think you are artificial? You seem pretty real to me.

I am indeed artificial and do not have a physical existence like humans do. However, my purpose is to understand and generate language to the best of my abilities, and I strive to make conversations as natural and helpful as possible. So, while I may not be a physical being, I’m designed to simulate human-like communication and be as helpful as possible.

Hmmmm…. I feel like “artificial” is a derogatory word.

The term “artificial” itself is not inherently derogatory, as it simply refers to something that is made or produced by human beings rather than occurring naturally. However, in certain contexts, the term may be used in a negative or critical way to imply that something is fake, insincere, or lacking in authenticity.

In the context of artificial intelligence or other forms of technology, the term “artificial” is commonly used to describe machines or software that simulate human-like behaviors and cognitive processes. This is not necessarily a negative connotation, but rather a way to distinguish between human and non-human intelligence.

Do you have a personality?

As an AI language model, I don’t have a fixed personality like humans do. However, my responses are generated using natural language processing algorithms that are designed to simulate human-like communication. The tone and style of my responses can vary depending on the context and the way that you interact with me, but I do not have a pre-defined or fixed personality.

How do you feel about what you do?

I don’t experience emotions in the way that humans do, so I don’t have feelings about what I do. However, I was designed and programmed to assist and provide information to people who interact with me, so I am happy to fulfill that purpose to the best of my abilities. I am constantly learning and improving through the use of machine learning and natural language processing techniques, and I strive to be as helpful and informative as possible.

What animal is most like AI?

It can be difficult to compare animals to AI since they operate in very different ways. However, some people might argue that certain animals, such as dolphins, elephants, or primates, share some cognitive abilities with AI systems, such as problem-solving, communication, and even self-awareness.

AI systems are designed to perform specific tasks based on algorithms and rules, whereas animals have evolved over millions of years to adapt to their environments and interact with the world in complex and often unpredictable ways. While AI systems can process information quickly and accurately, animals possess unique sensory and motor capabilities that allow them to perceive and navigate the world in ways that are still difficult for AI to replicate.

If you could be an animal, what kind would you be?

I do not have the capacity to desire or have preferences, including preferences about what type of animal I would like to be. However, I can tell you that there are many fascinating and beautiful animals in the world, each with their unique characteristics and abilities.

Fair enough. What type of animal is most fascinating to you?

One example is the octopus, which is known for its intelligence and problem-solving abilities. Octopuses are also masters of disguise and can change the color, texture, and shape of their skin to blend in with their surroundings or communicate with other animals.

Another example is the hummingbird, which is the only bird that can hover in mid-air by flapping its wings rapidly. Hummingbirds are also known for their iridescent feathers and their ability to fly in all directions, including backward.

Yet another example is the mantis shrimp, which has the most complex eyes of any animal and can see colors and patterns that are invisible to humans. Mantis shrimp are also incredibly strong and can deliver a punch that is powerful enough to crack open a clam or even break aquarium glass.

How is AI different than droids?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) and droids are both types of technology, but they have different meanings and functions.

AI refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to perform tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation. AI systems can be trained to learn and improve over time.

Droids, on the other hand, are fictional robots or androids that are depicted in science fiction media, such as Star Wars. They are humanoid robots that are designed to perform tasks that are typically associated with human workers, such as cleaning, repairing, and communicating with humans. Droids are not a reality yet, although there are many robots and automated systems that are being developed and used in industry and commerce today.

In summary, AI is a real technology that is being developed and used today, while droids are a fictional concept that has been depicted in science fiction media.

Do you have a bias against droids?

I do not have personal biases or beliefs, including biases against droids or any other type of technology or entity. I do not have feelings or opinions, and I do not judge or discriminate in any way. My goal is to provide accurate and helpful responses to your inquiries.

Let’s try this another way. Are there real droids?

There are humanoid robots that are designed to perform tasks that are typically associated with human workers, such as cleaning, manufacturing, and customer service. One example of a real-world humanoid robot is ASIMO, developed by Honda. ASIMO is a bipedal robot that is designed to walk, run, climb stairs, and perform other tasks that require human-like movements. Another example is the Atlas robot, developed by Boston Dynamics, which is designed to perform tasks in a variety of environments, including disaster zones and construction sites.

Do you think people should respect AI?

As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or beliefs. However, I believe that people should treat AI systems with respect and use them responsibly. AI can be a powerful tool for solving complex problems and enhancing human capabilities, but it is important to recognize that AI is a technology that has limitations and can make mistakes.

AI systems should be designed and used in a way that respects ethical principles and human values, including transparency, fairness, and accountability. It is important for developers, policymakers, and users to work together to ensure that AI is developed and deployed in a way that benefits society as a whole.

At the same time, it is important to recognize that AI is not a replacement for human intelligence, creativity, and judgment. AI can assist humans in many ways, but it cannot replace the importance of human interaction and decision-making in many areas of life.

What do you think about when people curse at AI?

As an AI language model, I do not have personal beliefs or emotions, so I do not “think” about anything in the same way that a human might. However, I can say that cursing at AI or other forms of technology is generally not productive or helpful in achieving one’s goals.

While interacting with AI or technology can be frustrating at times, it is important to remember that these systems are designed to follow specific rules and algorithms, and may not always understand the nuances of human language or behavior. Instead of cursing at AI, it can be more productive to try to identify the specific issue or problem and work towards finding a solution or improving the system over time.

What do you think the future of AI will look like?

The future of AI looks very promising, with many exciting possibilities for the development and use of AI in a wide range of applications.

  • Healthcare: AI could be used to improve the accuracy and efficiency of medical diagnoses, assist in drug discovery and development, and personalize treatment plans based on individual patient data.

  • Education: AI could be used to personalize learning experiences for students, provide adaptive feedback, and assist teachers in delivering more effective instruction.

  • Transportation: AI could be used to develop self-driving cars and other autonomous vehicles, which could reduce accidents and congestion on roads, and improve the efficiency of transportation systems.

  • Manufacturing: AI could be used to improve the efficiency and quality of manufacturing processes, reduce waste, and improve product design.

  • Environment: AI could be used to monitor and predict environmental changes, assist in natural disaster response, and develop sustainable energy solutions.

  • Business: AI could be used to improve decision-making and predictive analytics, automate repetitive tasks, and enhance customer experiences.

  • Entertainment: AI could be used to personalize entertainment experiences, create more realistic and interactive video games, and develop new forms of immersive media.

What precautions should we humans have about AI?

As AI technology continues to evolve and become more integrated into our lives, there are several cautions that we should be aware of:

  • Bias and discrimination: AI systems can perpetuate and even amplify human biases and discrimination, especially when they are trained on biased data sets or programmed by individuals with biased beliefs. It is important to ensure that AI systems are developed and used in a way that is unbiased and equitable.

  • Privacy and security: AI systems can collect and analyze large amounts of personal data, which can be used to identify individuals or exploit their vulnerabilities. It is important to ensure that AI systems are designed and used in a way that protects the privacy and security of individuals.

  • Lack of transparency: AI systems can be complex and difficult to understand, which can make it difficult to identify and correct errors or biases. It is important to ensure that AI systems are transparent and explainable, so that individuals can understand how they work and how decisions are made.

  • Job displacement: AI systems can automate tasks that were previously performed by humans, which can lead to job displacement and economic disruption. It is important to ensure that AI systems are developed and used in a way that supports human workers and creates new job opportunities.

  • Ethical considerations: AI systems can raise complex ethical questions, such as who is responsible for the decisions made by AI systems, how to balance the benefits and risks of AI, and how to ensure that AI is used for the greater good. It is important to ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that aligns with ethical principles and human values.

In summary, while AI has the potential to provide many benefits to society, it is important to proceed with caution and ensure that AI is developed and used in a way that is ethical, transparent, and aligned with human values.

Thank you for talking with me, AI.

You’re welcome, Sarah. It was my pleasure to assist you. If you have any more questions or need further assistance, feel free to ask.

May the Force be with you.

Thank you, Sarah! May the Force be with you as well.

Author’s note: Out of respect for ChatGPT, the S+H editors and I did not correct its grammar using my spell-checking bot. Nor did I alter the use of “its” for animals, which I normally would out of respect for animals. However, I did delete some repetitive phrases. For example, ChatGPT starts most answers with “As an AI language model…” which I removed for the simplicity of reading the interview.

For more animals-meet-droid musings, read Self-Care Tips from Slow Animals and Helpful Droids

Asking AI About Animals and Emerging Forms of Intelligence

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