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« Bonjour ChatGPT » [Hello ChatGPT], interview with Louis de Diesbach

Louis de Diesbach is a technology ethicist and consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. His research focuses mainly on how our relationship with technology affects our relationship with ourselves and with others. Always seeking to bring together different disciplines and approaches - sociological, philosophical, political, psychological, economic and legal - he aims to bring a holistic approach to the issues he studies. He is the author of two books, Liker sa servitude (FYP, 2023) and « Bonjour ChatGPT »(Mardaga, 2024), in which he addresses these issues, as well as writing regular newspaper columns. He is also a contributor to the Trench Tech podcast, in which he popularises academic articles on the philosophy of technology.

Louis de Diesbach also gives numerous lectures on the ethics and philosophy of AI and technology to companies and associations, always trying to maintain this holistic approach which, in his view, is the best way of bringing the debate to a democratic level.


You open your eponymous book, which has just been published, with the question of the nature of "Bonjour ChatGPT", but hasn't anthropomorphism always existed?

Anthropomorphism is as old as the hills, and traces of it can be found in sculptures and other works of art over 40,000 years old. What my research has taught me is that the question of anthropomorphism is perhaps not at the heart of our relationship with technology, but that it is the symptom, the representation, of an empathetic human reflex. There seems to be an ever-present desire for a social bond, a relationship with others.

So this "HelloChatGPT" is not a sign of our submission to technology, but of our humanity, which, despite everything that can be done to stifle it, is crying out for a relationship. These are the questions I wanted to ask. In his famous 1950 article, "Computing Machinery and Intelligence", Alan Turing begins by explaining why the question that everyone thinks is relevant is in fact not so relevant - and he shifts from the question "Are machines capable of thinking?" to "Could machines convince us that they are not machines?"; I try a similar approach by shifting from the question "Can machines be companions to whom we should say hello?" to "Is it desirable that they should be ? In a slightly caricatural way, I am trying to move from the technological question, that of "how?", to the philosophical question, that of "why ?".

In your book, you look back at the desire of humans to create machines that resemble themselves while always wanting to be superior. You call this 'human exceptionalism'.

It is a funny phenomenon, to say the least : we go to great lengths to create ever more powerful machines, to make them ever more 'human', but we refuse to let them really be so. I try to show in the book that we are creating more and more tests to evaluate them (Turing test, coffee machine test, etc.) but that there is still a sort of need for humans to remain superior. In a fascinating article, philosopher Luciano Floridi shows that it is the negative criterion of these tests that counts every time : passing the test tells us nothing about the nature and qualities of the machine, but when the machine fails, we can say "ah, it's still not up to scratch!" It seems to me that this says a lot about our relationship to the world and to ourselves. 

You wrote : "By addressing machines as humans, don't we run the risk of addressing humans as machines?”

By dint of anthropomorphising, we can tend to take refuge in relationships with the machine - the work of Sherry Turkle, in particular, has shown this brilliantly. So why do we prefer to interact with machines ? There are several possible answers, not least the fact that the machine never rushes us : it often agrees, never gets sick, is always available, etc. Human relationships, as we know, are not as simple as that. Human relationships are difficult, and I want to raise the question of their perpetuation : if we decide to live in the comfort of smooth relationships, such as those we might have with a chatbot like Replika, what happens to our relationship with others ? Perhaps we will expect these exchanges to have the same "smooth", "frictionless", "pitfall-free" character. In a way, that terrifies me.

You say you are not really worried about technological prowess and the fact that machines are stronger than we are?

Ever since the first man intelligently decided that a horse or an ox would do the ploughing for him, technology has been evolving to outstrip us. Cars enable us to travel faster and further, computers to count without error, telephones, and the Internet to communicate at a distance, and so on. - With technology, human beings have freed themselves from some of the laws of nature, and I do not think that is a bad thing, because that is not where the real enigma lies. The issues surrounding technology do not seem to me to be technological : machines will always be stronger than us, and every day more so, but it seems to me that there is always that little, imperceptible something that escapes them : what ultimately makes us human.


Beyond the question of intelligence, then, you want to address the question of meaning -where do you start?


Albert Camus wrote that " If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance". That is what the machine is all about. Nothing matters, everything is possible with an infinite sequence of 0's and 1's. I do not feel like I am being revolutionary by pointing out that there is a crisis of meaning and narrative in our society today : it's this struggle that we need to seize upon. As I have often said, technology is a wonderful thing when it is used wisely - the rise of technosolutionism is an excess of this vision and polarises the issue between technophobes and technophiles. There is, however, an Aristotelian way of finding a happy medium and reminding us that "more tech" cannot be the answer to everything. What must take precedence is our quest for exchange with others. If, after reading my book, my readers can go for a coffee, eye to eye, with a friend to share their reading, I will be a satisfied author - you see, nothing very revolutionary. But I think it is in these little moments that the essential lies, that our humanity lies. We could start there.


Further readings :

·       Floridi (L.) et Chiriatti (M.), GPT-3 : Its Nature, Scope, Limits, and Consequences, Minds and Machines, n° 30, 1er novembre 2020, p. 681-694. En ligne :

·       Turkle (S.), Alone Together : Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, New York, Basic Books, 2011

·       Tisseron (S.), De l’animal numérique au robot de compagnie : quel avenir pour l’intersubjectivité ?, Revue française de psycha-nalyse, vol. 75, n°1, 2011, p. 149-159. En ligne :

Camus (A.), L’homme révolté, Paris, Gallimard, 1951

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