Marshall McLuhan predicts ChatGPT in 1966

Originally published at: Marshall McLuhan predicts ChatGPT in 1966 | Boing Boing

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ChatGPT, for instance, can understand user inputs and provide relevant, contextual, and personalized information on a wide range of topics, essentially creating a tailored package of knowledge.

It bloody can’t. It can make a lot of things up though, and sound authoritative when it does. I’m not sure that having an on-tap bullshitter but treating them as useful is a good plan though.
And yes, I realise that as these things develop, this problem will diminish. But honestly, by running before they can walk, the systems are going to find it hard to build trust.


I’m not seeing how this is similar to ChatGPT at all. McLuhan is talking about custom books created by people xeroxing stuff. (in his time photocopiers were exciting new tech). He did predict something that was created, but in the 1990s – course packets from Kinko’s and the like. Rather than have us buy expensive textbooks, many professors had made arrangements with Kinko’s (a chain of photocopy stores; still existing today as FedEx Office) to sell “course packets” which consisted of various materials, often chapters from half a dozen textbooks, photocopied to create the teaching material the professor wanted. Obviously the textbook publishers were not amused by that and won vsrious legal cases (like Basic Books v. Kinko’s Graphics Corp) which doomed this service.


This is from the last episode of the CBC program called This Hour has Seven Days.
For those interested, here’s the full interview:


Hmm, could we also say that Ian M Banks predicted Ghat GPT in his Culture series?

Or Maybe it was Samuel Butler’s 1872 novel Erewhon, the first known instance of artificial intelligence depicted in a sci-fi story? (Thank you to Chat GPT for finding that for me.)

Basically this seems a bit vague and is thus a good prediction for many future devices.


I have always found McLuhan to be the master of the pseudo-academic word salad: throw enough concepts in there and you can always find some sort of correlation.

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Aye, this sounds more like a search result.

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