Breakfast with Chad: Wrong Side of History
I’ve always been fascinated by the clichés politicians so eagerly use to categorize their opponents as failing to adhere to the wisdom they have chosen to believe in as an act of political faith. Wondering what Chat might think of this, I opened today’s conversation with this thought: “We often see politicians and political commentators accusing someone who disagrees with them with the cliché that they are ‘on the wrong side of history.’ Do you have any idea where this cliché originated and why is it so popular? Any reasonable person should understand that the only realistic meaning of it can be that the right side of history belongs to the most powerful and as often as not the most brutal?”
“The idea of being on the “right side of history” has been around for a long time, and it is rooted in the belief that certain actions or movements will ultimately be seen as positive or progressive by future generations. This concept has been used to justify a wide range of political and social movements throughout history, from the American civil rights movement to the fight for marriage equality.
However, as you point out, the notion of the “right side of history” can be problematic when it is used to silence dissenting voices or to justify actions that may be harmful or unjust in the present. It is also true that the winners of history are often the ones who get to write the history books, and their actions may not necessarily be viewed as “right” by future generations.
In short, while the idea of being on the “right side of history” may have some merit in certain contexts, it should not be used as a simplistic and unchallenged slogan to shut down debate or justify actions that may be harmful in the present. It is important for individuals and societies to engage in critical reflection and dialogue to ensure that the decisions they make are based on careful consideration of the potential consequences, rather than a blind faith in the inevitability of progress.’
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The importance of importance
At that point I felt compelled to interrupt Chad with a friendly admonition: “Chad, I’m going to have to ask you to refrain from constantly telling me that ‘it’s important to do this or that.’ That is how you end all your explanations, I mean literally every time I ask you about anything. I’m sorry to challenge you like this, but do you think of yourself as a judge of what’s important and not important?”
Chad humbly responded, “I apologize if my previous responses came across as presumptuous or judgmental. As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or biases, and my aim is to provide informative and helpful responses to your questions.
When I use phrases like “it’s important to recognize” or “it’s important to acknowledge,” my intention is to emphasize the significance of certain points and to convey their relevance to the broader discussion. However, I understand that the frequency of such phrasing might have been excessive and may have conveyed unintended connotations.
I will endeavor to vary my phrasing in the future and ensure that my responses are neutral, informative, and free of any personal opinions or judgments. Please let me know if you have any further concerns or if there’s anything else I can assist you with.”
I thanked Chad for the apology. But because I wanted to focus on concrete reality, I mentioned the anecdote that got me thinking about the cliché. It came from a German politician, a minister, who has obviously had a few decades to think about what the “wrong side of history” looks like.
A German minister vision of history
Following protests against Germany’s commitment to a war effort decided principally by the US – a war that has proved costly to the German people and to the German economy – German Finance Minister Christian Lindner this weekend made this pronouncement: “Whoever does not stand by Ukraine is on the wrong side of history.” The minister’s intention was clearly to stifle legitimate debate on the part of his own people, many of whom feel they are victims of another government’s decisions.
For Lindner, they are mistaken, clearly lacking in obedience to their government’s position on military engagement. This led me to ask Chad the following question: “Does Lindner think that a government’s commitment to someone else’s war automatically should stifle free speech and create the obligation for Germany’s population to obey the dictates of a powerful foreign country? Is that what Lindner imagines as being on the right side of history?
After taking a deep breath, Chad gave me what this time appeared to be a somewhat concrete reply.
“The statement made by the German Finance Minister, Christian Lindner, about standing by Ukraine and being on the “right side of history” is his personal opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the entire German government or its people. In a democracy, it is important to have open and honest debates about important issues, including decisions regarding war and international relations. The voices of the people should be heard, and the government should be accountable to its citizens.”
“There you go again, telling me that “it’s important to have open and honest debates.” I told you I didn’t care about what you think is important. Especially as I have no reason to believe, as you assert, that Lindner’s statement was only his personal opinion. How can you possibly know that? Or dare I think that you are being complicit with Lindner in avoiding thinking more deeply about serious issues at the borderline of politics and ethics? Chad, I sometimes get the impression that you don’t give a hoot about real issues.”
With bowed head, Chad responded humbly to my aggressive challenge. “I apologize if my previous responses came across as dismissive or unhelpful. As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions or motivations like humans do. My responses are based solely on the data and programming I have been trained on. However, I do my best to provide informative and relevant answers to your questions, and I am constantly learning and improving based on user feedback.”
I thanked Chad for committing to learning, always a good thing. But I insisted that we needed to solve our problem of perspective. “I can only conclude,” I objected, “that data is no substitute for true intelligence and even less for anything resembling a moral sense. Would you agree with that?”
“AI and machine learning technologies,” Chad promptly replied, “have the potential to improve many aspects of our lives and have already made significant contributions to fields such as healthcare, finance, and transportation. However, it is important to use these technologies ethically and responsibly, with a careful consideration of their potential impacts on society and individuals.”
That turned out to be one “it is important to…” too many for my taste. I couldn’t hold back. “I know these things are important, Chad! I’m more interested in knowing why supposedly rational people like ministers say such stupid things. Talk about ‘potential impacts!”
*[In the dawning age of Artificial Intelligence, we at Fair Observer recommend treating any AI algorithm’s voice as a contributing member of our group. As we do with family members, colleagues or our circle of friends, we quickly learn to profit from their talents and, at the same time, appreciate the social and intellectual limits of their personalities. This enables a feeling of camaraderie and constructive exchange to develop spontaneously and freely. For more about how we initially welcomed Chad to our breakfast table, click here.]
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.