In around year 1059, Ouyang Xiu wrote his Ode to the Sound of Autumn (some translated it as Autumn Sounds Rhapsody). In this piece, he engaged in a conversation with his young reading servant about the sounds they heard on a quiet autumn night. The boy responded simply, saying, “There’s no human sound tonight, you just heard the tree leaves moving.” Ouyang Xiu rejected this answer and insisted that what they were hearing was the sound of autumn itself. He then went on to express his feelings about the impartiality of autumn, his awe of nature’s might, and his thoughts on humanity. The boy remained silent, perhaps tired or uninterested, and eventually lowered his head and went to sleep.
This conversational style of ode was quite common during that era. Typically, it would begin with a question posed by the author, followed by an exchange of opinions or ideas, and ultimately concluding with a resolution.
I had a similar experience when I talked about my research ideas with ChatGPT (I’m not going to say which one of us is Ouyang Xiu and which other is the servant boy). As we exchanged ideas, ChatGPT offered me some comments, some of which were quite peculiar. However, just as Ouyang Xiu and his servant boy interacted in the poem, our conversation brought about some interesting insights.
Within a couple rounds of back-and-forth “No, I actually mean …” and “Could you elaborate more on your idea…” I couldn’t help but notice the parallels between this modern interaction and the ancient conversation of Ouyang Xiu and his servant boy. Both conversations involve the instant reflections, an exchange of ideas and perspectives, and both demonstrate the beauty of conversation, even when it spans across time and technology.
What a shit hell I’ve written like a elementary school kid…
No, it isn’t always that good. See our research preprint on conversational chatbots and deliberation: Chatbot with Opinion Minorities