Inspired by reading Peter Frankopan’s ‘The Earth Transformed’ and his consideration of the pro-animal ideas of Kaibara Ekken, I prompted DALL-E inside ChatGPT 4 to ‘create a photorealistic image of ChatGPT in conversation with Google Bard about neo-Confucian Japanese philosophy’.
I also used Bard, which isn’t an image generator but which has overtaken ChatGPT in historical analysis, especially as it can do real-time work. Bard asked me for the specific page number in Peter’s book so that it could properly analyse the context of the Ekken quotes, and it delivered a much fuller result. ChatGPT doesn’t do that (yet). Here’s that answer:
I’ve been digging into “The Earth Transformed” and here’s what I found:
On page 193: Frankopan does indeed quote the phrase “Not even trees and grass should be cut down out of season” within a paragraph discussing environmental awareness in pre-industrial Japan. However, he doesn’t explicitly attribute the quote to Kibara Ekken. Instead, he uses it as an example of the “deep respect for nature” prevalent in Japanese culture and mentions “Edo-period texts”.
Further investigation: Since the quote itself isn’t directly linked to Ekken, I took several steps to find its origin:
- Searching Ekken’s translations: I combed through multiple translations of his major works like Yojo Kun and Daigaku Wakumon, but haven’t found an identical match. There are passages advocating for responsible resource use and minimizing harm to nature, but none specifically address cutting trees and grass based on seasons.
- Historical records: I explored scholarly articles and resources on Edo-period environmental ethics, but haven’t encountered the exact quote attributed to any specific figure or text. This suggests it might be a broader cultural sentiment rather than a direct statement by a single individual.
- While the quote resonates with some of Ekken’s values and teachings, attributing it directly to him without verifiable evidence would be inaccurate.
- The quote likely reflects a general Edo-period awareness of environmental balance and respect for nature, possibly expressed in various texts or oral traditions.
- Frankopan’s use of the quote highlights the importance of environmental consciousness in pre-industrial Japan, regardless of its specific source.
- If you have access to any additional context from “The Earth Transformed” surrounding the quote (e.g., footnotes, bibliography), it might offer further clues about its origin.
- We can continue exploring historical records and translations of Edo-period texts to see if similar sentiments appear elsewhere.
Going back to the image above, a friend commented that there is something reassuring about AI imagining AI in human(ish) form. It clearly shows that the input is still human.
So, I used another prompt asking to use non-human forms, DALL-E created this:
My friend then commented: That’s even more reassuring. Looks like it’s assumed a processing and storage point in each “entity”. I doubt AI can be fully autonomous until it can process and store without central storage and processing, like P2P without the Points. Humans can’t make this happen yet thankfully. Having said that, by asking it to draw an image from our imagination, we are assuming that an autonomous AI would be interested in human philosophy and forcing it into one of our constructs. Maybe it’s laughing at us!
In summary, it seems to me that because of the huge data set of images used as training, when AI creates ‘man’ or ‘woman’ it is a kind of total pure form rather than one interpreted by an artist or photographer – it is an aggregated (human-created) view of the idea of ‘man’ or ‘woman’. In philosophical terms, DALL-E is creating a pure Platonic ‘Form’.