The Information Review
Information, Technology & Systemic Change

Can AI Dream of a Social System?

Apr 15, 2023

I fed the following prompt to the OpenAI Playground text generator: 

"Write an essay justifying the need for creating an actual, material social system." 

In response, it generated the following text.

The need for creating an actual, material social system is essential for a healthy and functioning society. A social system is a complex network of interdependent relationships between institutions, organizations, individuals, and groups. It is a way to connect and organize different parts of society in order to provide a structure for how it operates. The creation of a material social system is essential for many reasons, including the ability to provide equal access to resources, support social mobility, and promote social cohesion.

The most important reason for creating a material social system is to ensure equal access to resources. All members of society should have equal access to education, healthcare, housing, and other resources. In a material social system, these resources can be distributed more fairly, as individuals and organizations can be held accountable for how resources are shared. Additionally, material social systems can be designed to reduce economic inequality, as resources can be allocated based on need rather than income. This will help to ensure that everyone in society has an equal opportunity to succeed and reach their full potential.

A material social system also supports social mobility, which is the ability of individuals to move between different social classes. In an effective material social system, individuals can access higher education, job training, and other opportunities to move up the social ladder. This will help to create a more equitable society, as individuals have the opportunity to improve their social and economic standing. Additionally, it can help to reduce inequality, as individuals are no longer confined to a single class or status.

Finally, a material social system can promote social cohesion, which is the maintenance of a shared sense of identity and purpose within a society. A material social system can help to create a sense of unity by providing a platform for people to connect and collaborate. This will help to bridge the divide between different classes and backgrounds, as individuals can come together to share their experiences and work towards a common goal. Additionally, it can provide a platform for dialogue and discussion, as individuals can engage in meaningful conversations about important issues.

In conclusion, the need for creating an actual, material social system is essential for a healthy and functioning society. Such a system will ensure equal access to resources, support social mobility, and promote social cohesion. By creating a material social system, society can become more equitable, more connected, and more unified.

To go along with this text, I prompted Night Cafe to generate an image using Stable Diffusion with the prompt - "Can AI Dream of a Social System?", an obvious play on the well-known classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  The following image was generated:

For these, the first set of prompts in our AI-generated series, I deliberately kept the prompts simple, without much fine-tuning. The results from the text generator were surprisingly interesting. The idea behind the prompt - "justifying the need for creating an actual, material social system" - is an attempt to reconcile two common tropes in human thought - 1) conceptualising social systems in the abstract, as if they do not have a real, material nature, and 2) imagining AI as a robotic, inanimate thing of mysteriously life-like characteristics. It seems to me that there is a need to look at AGI as a possible material manifestation of everything good we expect our social systems to be/do. "A distributed AI, embedded everywhere that electricity goes, becomes ai- a low-level background intelligence," as Kevin Kelly has put it. I have already discussed this idea before here. And it was a welcome surprise to see that OpenAI's text generator - not ChatGPT, it is important to note, but the one that has been around much longer - was not totally stumped by the idea behind the prompt.

The Night Cafe image generator did something expected. It returned an image that vaguely looks like a city out of a sci-fi/steampunk/fantasy world. And to be fair, the prompt was very simplistic, with hardly any meaningful weights attached. Even so, the image represents a larger problem with "futuristic" conceptions of society - grand-looking city-scapes such as the one seen in the image above have come to represent technocratic cities of the future without any clear idea of how or why society would get there and how will this make life any better or worse than it is now.

This is exactly why this series was launched, to develop more thought-out visions of technological change in society, with the aid of AI.

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