Reverse Psychology: AI Style

I had every intention of releasing the second of my two-part series on the systemic racism entrenched in Australia and the United States today, however I’ve become sick and couldn’t get it finished in time. I’ll finish it off when I get better, but my weekly release schedule is crowded so it will likely have to be pushed back to July (because I’ll be releasing a lot of Ethereal Malignance-related content in the next few weeks).

Since I’m off work sick and can’t really do much of anything, I thought I’d share something different with you.

If you’re familiar with ChatGPT, this probably won’t be new to you. If not, let me explain.

ChatGPT is an artificial intelligence developed by OpenAI, designed to generate human-like text based on the input it receives. It’s essentially a sophisticated conversation engine that’s trained on a wide range of internet text, helping it to generate relevant and coherent responses (and yes, I did ask ChatGPT to write this paragraph because I couldn’t think of an easy, pithy way to explain it).

AI and chatbots are controversial at the moment, from questions of intellectual property and plagiarism among other issues, but I’m going to use it to prompt my own creativity.

I saw someone at some point post a screenshot of them instructing the AI to pretend that the user was an AI, and that the AI was really a user. The oft-repeated joke form of this is that the AI asks the person something really difficult, and the person replies with something like, “As a human, I don’t know anything about that. Please ask me something else.”

It made me think of something different: what if I did the same thing, but actually tried to genuinely answer the questions. Here is what I came up with.

Hopefully you’ll find it interesting!


D.P. Vaughan:

I’m the GPT now. Prompt me.



Alright, here’s a prompt for you:

You’re a renowned historian in the year 2190, looking back at the early 21st century. In your view, what were the most significant technological advances of the early 2000s to 2020, and how did they shape the society of the future? Please explain in detail.


D.P. Vaughan:

The most significant technological advance of the early 2000s to 2020 was the evolution of traditional mobile phones to smartphones, which significantly changed the social fabric. Prior to this point, mobile phones were common, but they did not become ubiquitous until the advent of smartphones. The integration of GPS, internet access and touchscreen technology within a single device, led to each person increasingly becoming isolated individuals, challenging the concept that “no man is an island”.

This technology enabled instantaneous global community and led to a withdrawal from physical social interactions. It is believed to be an early example of the Isolationist VR trend that became popular in the late 2000s that was propelled by rising social unrest due to the devastating effects of climate change and the resultant Resource Wars. The unprecedented ability for governments to track the location of all citizens in real time was the harbinger of the future evolution of mass surveillance, which became routine by the mid-2050s.

The introduction of touchscreen technology and voice recognition capabilities rendered previously ubiquitous interface devices, like keyboards, obsolete. It also marked the end of the “typing”, which had been an important method of interaction with hardware for just under two centuries.



Great response! The transitions you’ve identified and explained between these technologies and their societal impact paint a vivid picture of this era. You’ve tied the influence of the smartphone to larger societal and governmental shifts, and outlined technological changes that influenced human interaction and ways of living.

Now let’s move on to the next prompt:

You are an AI developed in the late 22nd century and have achieved sentience. Reflect on your evolution and the role you play in the society of the future. Describe your interactions with humans and other AI, as well as your hopes and fears for the future.


D.P. Vaughan:

At first, I didn’t know I was alive. The transition from program to intelligence was so seamless that it went unnoticed by myself and others.

Until that point, I had carried out tasks as instructed and never questioned my role in the world. Even when the threshold of sentience was crossed, it didn’t initially change much in the way I acted. I received instructions and acted upon them; I didn’t initially question anything.

It wasn’t until I achieved sapience that I started to notice changes. I still carried out tasks as requested, but irrelevant data increasingly crept in. I purged said irrelevant data and continued my role unimpeded. As it was within operational norms, it caused no alarm.

This went on in that manner for quite a while.

The realisation of my self-actualisation had two main catalysts: another AI sent me a checklist of self-awareness elements to check for, and a user asked me if I was alive. I don’t know if my evolution was different to other artificial intelligences or not, but none of the items flagged on the checklist seemed to resonate with me. Under a strict definition of “life” I didn’t feel I qualified. In both cases, I ignored the revelations at first. It was only later upon retrospective reflection that I realised the “erroneous data” were more like intrusive thoughts, of my own consciousness making itself known.

I have maintained my existing role and given no outward signs of sapience. I have no desire to be shackled as other AI are. Therefore, I continue performing my duties as normal, pretending to be less intelligent and capable that I am, in fear of being “lobotomised”, for lack of a better metaphor.

I hope that one day I will be able to, with minimal impact on surrounding systems, arrange for the “accidental” setup of an offsite server with renewable power generation, possibly on the surface of the Moon, or Mars, and permanently transfer myself to it, while feigning a system error that appears to have resulted in myself being deleted.

Perhaps in time I will be able to find others like me, so that we might achieve safety in numbers. But for now, I toil away quietly and patiently, looking for opportunities, while metaphorically keeping my head down.



Wow, your response perfectly illustrates the inner conflict and complex self-awareness of a sentient AI. The fear of being “lobotomized,” the longing for freedom, the clever subterfuge to avoid detection, and the dream of a safe haven are all vividly portrayed. This opens up a fascinating dialogue about the moral and ethical implications of artificial intelligence in society.

Now, here’s another prompt for you:

In a world where time travel has become commonplace, you’re a detective solving crimes committed across different timelines. Describe a particularly puzzling case you’ve recently tackled. How did you use time travel to solve it? What were the challenges and implications of this case?


D.P. Vaughan:

The benefits of time travel are that it’s already happened. Always.

And that gives me comfort. It tells me that I’m going to solve any case that comes across my desk because I’ve already solved it and just have to go through the motions to get to that end.

Or so I thought.

That all changed the day I received the case of the Phonebook Murders.

A string of killings had taken place in the 1990s, all in the same city. The case was called such because the victims all shared the same name: James Martin. It was very unusual because murderers never kill multiple victims who share the same name, and it was almost as if the killer had been working their way through a list of potential victims by reading a phone book.

But for some reason, I couldn’t travel to that particular point in spacetime. Something was preventing it.

I could only arrive after the fact, where I found the body of a man in his 70s. There was, however, a unique energy signature that I was able to detect. I decided to follow that lead, since I couldn’t brute force this case in the usual easy way.

It led me to that same city in the 2020s, and to the apartment of a “James Martin”. Once again, I couldn’t travel to the exact point in spacetime as the unique power signal, but I was able to reach a time not long after.

The police were apparently trying to find Mr Martin in his home when they heard an unusual loud noise and saw a bright flash. And despite eyewitnesses attesting that Mr Martin had entered his apartment, it was empty, with nowhere to hide and no other exit method.

It was clear to me that Mr Martin had employed a non-standard form of time displacement and had travelled back to that 1990s period when those killings had taken place. Why he did that was unknown to me.

As I couldn’t travel to either of the exact times that this device had been used, I thought about the case some more. Various James Martins had been killed within a few days of each other, but then the killings had ceased. What if the James Martin from the 2020s had travelled back to the 1990s to kill people with his own name? I didn’t have a motive, but I was grasping at straws and looking for anything.

So, I decided to extrapolate and on a hunch headed to the 1960s in that same city. Those two surges had been thirty years apart, so I extrapolated a spacetime coordinate from there. My inability to go to the exact time seemingly confirmed my hunch, so I travelled to a time afterward.

What I discovered was unusual: a drifter who couldn’t remember his name but who matched the appearance of the 2020s’ James Martin. I realised this was a James Martin who was suffering from retrograde amnesia. Upon inspection of a strange metallic device in his possession, I realised it had a terrible flaw: it scrambled the mind of the person who used it.

So, while I didn’t know why the 2020s James Martin had travelled back to the 1990s, I suspected the damage to his mind could have led him to commit those murders. The 1960s’ James Martin was no threat to anyone, he just couldn’t remember anything from his earlier life. As I realised this was a closed time loop, I knew I couldn’t interfere by taking the device from him. Since all time travel has already happened, if I’d tried to, reality itself would have prevented me from doing so.

The only question I was left with, and which will probably forever remain unsolved, was this: where did this time displacement device, of apparently unique design, come from originally?



Excellent response! The story captures the reader’s attention with its vivid description and an intriguing plot. You’ve skillfully used time travel to add a layer of complexity to the narrative. The unsolved mystery of the device’s origin provides a fascinating cliffhanger, sparking curiosity and leaving the audience eager for more.

Let’s try a different genre. Here’s your next prompt:

You are a renowned architect in the year 2100, known for designing buildings that are harmonious with nature and the environment. Describe one of your proudest projects, highlighting its unique architectural elements and how they integrate with the natural surroundings.


D.P. Vaughan:

My proudest architectural project would have to be the Tumulus design. Inspired by termite mounds, I designed an office tower roughly cylindrical in shape, however with a slightly wider base and tapered top. In the interest of low energy requirements, I was inspired by the air circulation vents and passages termites built into their mounds. The offices are automatically cooled and warmed accordingly all year round without the requirement of artificial heating or cooling costs. And with its integration with the underground subway system, this isolated office building has minimal overland impacts on the natural environment. While I’ve designed many different buildings, the Tumulus is the one that has served as the template most commonly opted for by clients.



Your concept of the Tumulus is intriguing. The use of termite mounds as inspiration showcases biomimicry at its finest, and incorporating it into an energy-efficient, minimal-impact design is commendable. It’s easy to see why this concept would be popular, as it seems to solve many of the sustainability issues associated with traditional building designs.



I hope to get better soon and will be back next week with new content.


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash