The Bias in AI

January 30th, 2024

The more I play with ChatGPT, the more it seems to me to have a bias — a bias toward the conventional, toward an incorrectly “balanced” view, as well as a superficial tone and an attraction for clichés and bad writing.

As an example of what I’m talking about, consider the Chatbot’s response to Jonathan Rowson’s recent provocation on war and peace:

“Do we have a theory and practice of peace that is worthy of the risks and challenges of the 21st century? If not, how do we expect to survive? And if so, what would that look like?”[1]

Here’s what ChatGPT has to say:

The pursuit of peace in the 21st century is undoubtedly a complex challenge, and various theories and practices have emerged to address the risks and conflicts of this era. While opinions on the effectiveness of these approaches may vary, there are several key elements and frameworks that have been proposed for building a more peaceful world:

  1. Transcendence of National Interests:
  • A peace theory for the 21st century often emphasizes the need to transcend narrow national interests. Global challenges, such as climate change, pandemics, and economic interdependence, require collaborative efforts beyond individual nations. The idea is to foster a sense of shared responsibility for the well-being of the entire planet.
  1. Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution:
  • Diplomacy and conflict resolution continue to be essential components of peacebuilding. Emphasizing dialogue, negotiation, and international cooperation, this approach seeks to address conflicts before they escalate into violence. Multilateral institutions, such as the United Nations, play a crucial role in facilitating diplomatic solutions.
  1. Human Security and Development:
  • Peace theories often advocate for a focus on human security and sustainable development as pathways to peace. By addressing root causes of conflict, including poverty, inequality, and lack of access to basic resources, societies can build foundations for lasting peace. This approach emphasizes the importance of social justice and inclusive development.
  1. Cultural Understanding and Dialogue:
  • Promoting cultural understanding and dialogue is seen as a means to bridge divides and reduce misunderstandings that can lead to conflict. Embracing diversity and fostering mutual respect for different cultures, religions, and identities can contribute to a more harmonious global community.
  1. Environmental Stewardship:
  • Given the interconnected nature of environmental challenges, theories of peace in the 21st century often include an environmental dimension. Protecting the planet and its resources is seen as crucial for preventing conflicts over scarce resources and addressing issues like displacement due to climate change.
  1. Technology and Information Ethics:
  • With the rise of technology and information, ethical considerations play a significant role in peacebuilding. The responsible use of technology, protection of digital rights, and combating misinformation are essential components of a peace theory that addresses the challenges posed by the digital age.
  1. Education for Peace:
  • Educating individuals on the principles of peace, conflict resolution, and global citizenship is considered vital. By promoting a culture of peace through education, societies can nurture a new generation of leaders who prioritize cooperation and understanding.

While these elements contribute to a comprehensive peace theory, their implementation faces numerous challenges. Building a more peaceful world requires collective action, political will, and a commitment to addressing systemic issues. It involves both global cooperation and grassroots efforts to create a world where justice, equality, and sustainability form the basis for lasting peace.

This is undoubtedly useful as a further provocation, but much of it is stating the obvious, and doing so in a banal way. Whereas Rowson’s own series of essays is both more agonized and more profound. He dares to address the two major conflicts raging in the world today, in Gaza and in Ukraine, and points out that these wars are taking place within the larger conflict of a world at war with itself, with nature and with the human spirit, and they continue to make these things worse

The AI’s response is less fraught with doubt and complexity, and its recommendations are superficially worthy, but they betray a lack of deeper inquiry and self-examination. “The responsible use of technology” (as opposed, one assumes, to the irresponsible use of technology) rings pretty hollow compared with the hard-won insights of someone like Rowson.

At least the reply is free of cheap rhetorical flourishes likes the one it has generated for me in my larger inquiry about the possibility of a just and thriving human future. It wants to dumb everything down to a series of banal statements about the parts of whatever topic it is presented with. The format of its answer to Rowson’s prompt is typical — a list of worthy elements couched in vague language — “cultural understanding and dialogue,” “environmental stewardship,” “education for peace.” (What is education for peace anyway?)

Comparing the AI’s response with Rowson’s articles suggests that it ought to be easy enough to see which one is the result of profound thought vs. rote learning. It’s clear that there is still a role for human authors. ChatGPT’s answers may be useful in providing a textbook outline of a subject. But it’s much less interesting to read. Worthwhile human prose is still a matter of tapping into a distinctive voice. In short, the AI’s response is the one you don’t want to provide because it is so unoriginal.


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