Dhamma Talk Video 104: ChatGPT as a 'Capo' is scary
Here’s a 49-min recorded video Dhamma Talk (123MB .mp4).
- Dilbert, Dogbert, Catbert, pointy-haired boss, idealism, Human Resources, management, IT industry, summoning demons, Machiavelli, the phenomenon of “Capos”, AI, prisoners, prison guards, prisoners as prison guards with benefits, oppression, violence, how to run a prison efficiently
- Many suttas enumerating and warning against many bad behaviours that are Machiavellian-like are found in these lists of “Unpopular” Early Buddhist Texts Suttas, which I compiled here, and here
From Victor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” (ISBN: 0-671-66736-X) - relevant is the concept of a “Capo” (a supervisory, prison-guard-like prisoner) within the concentration camp:
“…the prominent Capos - prisoners who acted as trustees, having special privileges…”
“…common prisoners, who bore no distinguishing marks on their sleeves, … the Capos really despised. While these ordinary prisoners had little or nothing to eat, the Capos were never hungry; in fact many of the Capos fared better in the camp than they had in their entire lives. Often they were harder on the prisoners than were the guards, and beat them more cruelly than the SS men did. These Capos, of course, were chosen only from those prisoners whose characters promised to make them suitable for such procedures, and if they did not comply with what was expected of them, they were immediately demoted.
They soon became much like the SS men and the camp wardens and may be judged on a similar psychological basis.
It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity. Little does he know of the hard fight for existence which raged among the prisoners. This was an unrelenting struggle for daily bread and for life itself, for one’s own sake or for that of a good friend.”
“the process of selecting Capos was a negative one; only the most brutal of the prisoners were chosen for this job (although there were some happy exceptions). But apart from the selection of Capos which was undertaken by the SS, there was a sort of self-selecting process going on the whole time among all of the prisoners. On the average, only those prisoners could keep alive who, after years of trekking from camp to camp, had lost all scruples in their fight for existence; they were prepared to use every means, honest and otherwise, even brutal force, theft, and betrayal of their friends, in order to save themselves. We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles - whatever one may choose to call them - we know: the best of us did not return.”
From Machiavelli’s “The Prince” (Note: the characteristics of an AI fit very nicely, making a perfect minion to a Machiavellian - who wants to amass status, power and wealth by any means possible):
pg. 74; (on choosing “ministers”/loyal minions):
“…as for how a prince can assess his minister, here is an infallible guide: when you see a minister thinking more of himself than of you, and seeking his own profit in everything he does, such a one will never be a good minister, you will never be able to trust him. This is because a man entrusted with the task of government must never think of himself, but of the prince, and must never concern himself with anything except of the prince’s affairs. To keep his minister up to the mark - the prince, on his side - must be considerate towards him [the minister], must pay him [the minister] honour, enrich him [the minister], put him [the minister] in his debt, share with him [the minister] both honours and responsibilities. Thus the minister will see how dependant he is on the prince, and then having riches and honours to the point of surfeit he will desire no more [emphasis mine]; holding so many offices, he cannot but fear changes. When therefore, relations between princes and ministers are of this kind, they can have confidence in each other; when they are otherwise, the result is always disastrous for both of them.
pg. 74-75; (a shrewd prince should be choosing wise men/minions for his government):
“…and allowing only those the freedom to speak the truth to him, and then only concerning matters on which he asks their opinion, and nothing else. … Apart from these, a prince should heed no one…
…he must discourage everyone from tendering advice about anything unless it is asked for.”
“How is Machiavellianism different from Psychopathy and Narcissism? - The Dark Triad Traits” - Dr. Todd Grande
The novel “Shantaram”, by Gregory David Roberts. The Indian prison where the author was incarcerated has a similar phenomenon to the “Capos” in the concentration camps - prisoners who get elevated status and benefits in exchange for acting as prison guards themselves - betraying solidarity with, and outright abusing their fellow prisoners.
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