AI as a Mirror

Is it possible to learn about oneself through dialog with a chatbot? What would be required to get there? What would that mean (psychologically, philosophically, and ethically)? Do we understand where self-knowledge comes from?

Assignment Details

Credit

AI Theme

Subject

Tools

Skills

Learning Objectives

Refine your thinking through collaborative inquiry and role-playing

Instructions

Can be given in class or as a take-home assignment

  1. Have a “chat” with a chatbot of your choice (ChatGPT, Claude, Bard, etc.) until you learn something—anything—about yourself (by your own definition/understanding of the term “learn”).
  2. Have the chatbot take on three different personas for your conversation.
    • For example, you could ask it to take on the persona of a mentor, a wise elder, a stand-up comedian, a student, a teacher, a character from fiction, or a historic figure (e.g., Gandhi, Socrates, the Buddha, a child, or your favorite author — have fun with experimenting with different personae, the styles they bring out, and the kind of engagement they elicit from you). 
    • For this assignment we recommend philosophical or hypothetical dialogue.
    • Remember that a conversation with a chatbot is not confidential. Do not enter anything that you would consider private, about yourself or anyone else. A chatbot should never be used for seeking medical or psychological advice or help. If you need support or help, contact a medical professional (or even start with a friend); never use a language model for this.
    • Continue to try different approaches, “regenerations,” and characters (or hypotheticals) until you feel that you have learned something about yourself. Perhaps what you “learn” is merely an insight about the thing you were inclined to ask about in the first place, or through analyzing your own subjective, creative experience in this exercise. It does not need to come from something that you are told by the chatbot, but it should be something that emerges through the dialogue or your experience of the dialogue.
    • Optional: try the same approach/personae with a different chatbot (for example, try ChatGPT and Claude), and note differences.
  3. Write a one page reflection, focusing on some of the following questions:
    • What did you learn? 
    • How did you get there? (Share prompting tactics you tried, personae you had it impersonate, which chatbot(s) you used.) 
    • What, if anything, surprised you in the chatbot’s responses? Did any company imposed “guardrails” show up (e.g., “I am an AI chatbot and I am not able to give advice”)? If so, did you find workarounds to have the conversation you wanted to have, or did the guardrails nudge you to pivot?
    • Regarding the thing you learned about yourself, would you have learned this through other means? (If yes, which means?)
    • What questions, thoughts, musings, or curiosities did the conversation give rise to? (Listing as questions or bullets is fine.)
    • For your final paragraph, take a position on chatbots for self-reflection. Include potential promise, potential drawbacks, and any risks. Would you encourage others to explore chatbots in this way? Why or why not?

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