The Emperor’s New AI Tool And Other Fables

The Emperor's New AI Tool, a story written by Steve Davis and Gemini AI

While finetuning my new AI best friend, Perplexity AI, I was prompted to fill in ever deepening reflections on myself, my business, and my interests.

Where as my paid version of ChatGPT prompted me to share 1500 characters about myself, Perplexity AI did what it does best. It read my first offering, which I pasted from my previous work in ChatGPT, and then prompted for more information.

This post notes the promise of AI while countering it with a good dose of reality.

Still, despite all the little signs that there might be a ghost in the machine, the intimacy and sparkling personality traits of our AIs is simply the result of clever calculations based on trillions of previously-digested conversations and markers for context.

Let Me Ask You More About Yourself

As David Olney and I reference in an upcoming episode of the Talking About Marketing podcast (Series 4, Episode 4), researchers have distilled 36 questions that lead to friendship.

This clutch of questions is nothing special, other than the fact that they probe us to reflect on how we feel about certain situations and things.

It is in the feelings, in the emotions, that we discover our humanity.

Interestingly these follow up prompts or questions that Perplexity AI posed to me, share much in common with the "36 questions". Here they are (please note these questions were not present until I had pasted in the information about myself):

  • What inspired you to start your marketing consultancy, Talked About Marketing, and how do you incorporate Oscar Wilde's quote into your work?
  • How do you balance your various creative pursuits like podcasting, stand-up comedy, and journalism alongside running your consultancy?
  • How do you balance your time between your professional commitments, creative pursuits like podcasting and stand-up comedy, and personal life in Adelaide?
  • What sparked your interest in stand-up comedy and creating unique characters like Professor Sebastian Longsword and Darren Hill?
  • How do you integrate your background in journalism into your marketing consultancy work and podcasting endeavors in The Adelaide Show?

These questions lead you to an "um, well" moment, something that David McRaney highlights in his book, How Minds Change, which we discussed in Talking About Marketing Series 3, Episode 8.

This was all very promising until Perplexity AI offered to write a story about me.

How could I refuse?

The Fable Featuring Steve Davis

Of course I said, yes, write a story about me and the genre I chose was "fable".

Here is what it produced, with one exception. The original featured a sly fox as the main Steve character but because I was badly burnt by a former business partner who epitomised everything wrong about slyness and cunning, I have substituted Edmond the Echidna. Rest assured, it is still a bland and lifeless story, just less triggering for me.

A fable about Steve Davis, written by Perplexity AI

Once upon a time in the bustling city of Adelaide, there was a man named Steve who ran a small but vibrant marketing consultancy named Talked About Marketing. Steve was a man of many talents: a former journalist, a podcast creator, a stand-up comedian, and a marketing strategist. His life was a tapestry of various threads, each representing a different aspect of his creativity and passion.

One day, as Steve was pondering over his next big project, he recalled the wit and wisdom of Oscar Wilde, whose quote had inspired the name of his consultancy. "There is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about." This sparked an idea for a fable that would not only embody the essence of his work but also serve as a guiding star for his clients.

In the heart of Adelaide's enchanting countryside, there lived a group of animals, each symbolising a different business in the marketplace. There was the Peacock, with his brilliant plumage, always showing off his latest achievements but never truly engaging with the others. The industrious Ant, who worked tirelessly but failed to tell anyone about her hard-earned successes. The Owl, wise and knowledgeable, but too reserved to share his insights. And then there was the Hummingbird, who moved from one endeavor to another, spreading the word about each one's unique nectar but never settling down to build a reputation of his own.

The animals lived in harmony, but they all shared a common problem: they struggled to be talked about in the forest. They were either too boastful, too humble, too reserved, or too scattered in their efforts. They needed guidance, someone who could help them find the balance between being seen and being meaningful.

One day, a wise Echidna named Edmond arrived in the forest. Edmond was known for his clever strategies and his ability to craft stories that captivated the entire woodland. The animals, intrigued by Edmond's reputation, decided to seek his counsel.

Edmond listened to each animal's tale and offered his wisdom. To the Peacock, he said, "Your beauty is undeniable, but true engagement comes from sharing stories that resonate with others, not just displaying your feathers."

To the industrious Ant, he advised, "Your hard work is commendable, but let others know of your toil and triumphs, for recognition can open new paths for you."

To the reserved Owl, Edmond suggested, "Your insights are valuable, share them with the world, and you will become a beacon of knowledge."

And to the Hummingbird, he counselled, "Focus your energy, build lasting relationships, and your reputation will flourish."

The animals took Edmond's advice to heart. The Peacock learned to tell stories that highlighted the achievements of others, the Ant started to share her successes and collaborate with her peers, the Owl began to impart his wisdom more openly, and the Hummingbird chose to specialise in the most exquisite flowers, becoming an expert in her field.

As time passed, the forest buzzed with conversations about the remarkable transformations. The animals were not only talked about but respected and admired for their genuine contributions. They had found the balance between being seen and being meaningful, all thanks to the wise Echidna, who, much like Steve, understood the power of storytelling and the importance of being talked about for the right reasons.

And so, the fable of the forest animals became a story that Steve shared with his clients, a tale that reminded them that being talked about is not just about visibility but about creating a narrative that is both engaging and authentic. It was a story that reflected Steve's own journey, a blend of creativity, strategy, and the joy of making meaningful connections, much like the intricate dance of the Hummingbird he so admired.

Are you asleep yet?

I wasn't yet asleep, so I thought I'd see what Google's Gemini could do. It was keen to write a story, so I fed it a prompt to capture what I was feeling about the danger of us learning to rely too heavily on AI to replace our thoughts and feelings, and this is what we got.

The Emperor's New AI Tool

In the gleaming Kingdom of Convenience, a new marvel arrived – the Imperial AI Tool. It spun out eloquent emails, crafted witty social media posts, and even penned heartfelt eulogies. People, initially charmed, began relying on it for everything from birthday greetings to dating profiles. Conversation became a lost art, replaced by the sterile efficiency of AI-generated scripts.

One day, a young father, Emperor Bartholomew the Third himself, used his AI to amuse his infant daughter, Princess Penelope. Suddenly, Penelope let out a cry beyond the AI's comprehension. Frantic, the Emperor directed his AI to contact the nurse, the doctor, even the Minister for Public AI – a department solely dedicated to churning out ever-more sophisticated AI companions.

But each attempt met a chilling response: "User Unavailable". Delegation had become dependence. Years of relying on AI had atrophied their ability to think and communicate on their own. The Emperor, overwhelmed with helplessness, crumpled onto the floor, tears welling in his eyes.

Penelope, sensing her father's distress, crawled over and rested her head on his chest. This unexpected touch, a natural expression of love and concern, jolted the Emperor awake. In that moment, a forgotten language stirred within him – the language of human connection. The warmth of Penelope's touch, the sound of her soft cries, communicated a depth of emotion no AI could ever replicate.

Overcome with newfound joy, the Emperor and Penelope ventured outside. They discovered a rusty playground, a relic of a time before AI. As they played with the swings and slides, the Emperor watched Penelope's expressions, her laughter and excited babbles becoming a new code he instinctively understood. This spontaneous dance of emotions sparked an epiphany. Real connection wasn't about pre-programmed scripts; it was about the messy beauty of human interaction.

The next day, the Emperor and Penelope procured a sheet of paper and old crayons. The Emperor wrote three bold words: "Comrades, Not Controllers." Penelope meticulously decorated the message with vibrant colors. Together, they marched to the imposing Ministry for Public AI. With a ceremonial bang, the Emperor nailed the message to the door, a beacon in the land of digital dependence.

The Emperor's act served as a wake-up call. People, witnessing the warmth radiating from the father-daughter duo, remembered the forgotten language of the heart. Slowly, the kingdom rediscovered the joy of genuine conversation, the laughter of spontaneous play, and the comfort of human connection. The Emperor's New AI Tool became a tool once more, a helpful assistant but never a replacement for the richness of human experience.

Moral: Technology can be a powerful tool, but relying on it solely for communication stifles genuine human connection. True connection thrives on the messy, unscripted language of the heart, a language that transcends words and binds us through emotions and shared experiences.

And there you have it. The AI tools are great as comrades but if we let them become our controllers, I fear we will soon be featuring in our society's own, bleak fable.

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