Chatting about ChatGPT: Some Thoughts on AI's Relevance for Counterfactual History

So I, too, have surrendered to curiosity and played around a bit with Open AI's new ChatGPT application that's been getting so much publicity this past week.  

Needless to say, I wanted to see what its potential might be for counterfactual history.  Can AI compete with the human imagination for speculating about how history might have been different?

As of this writing, I'm not that impressed with the results.  To be fair, it's amazing that any online application can spit out instant answers to counterfactual questions.  

When I typed "If the South won the Civil War, would slavery still exist?" I got the following:

Not bad.  I'm glad to see the disclaimer at the outset ("It's impossible to say....") so that there's' no finality about what follows about the "counterfactual situation."  There's also a welcome degree of provisionality about the "possible" conclusion.

The answer to another question -- "write a counterfactual paragraph showing how history would have been different if Hitler had never been born" -- was less satisfactory.

Here the app spat out a simple negative effect counterfactual with the banal conclusion that "things would have been different."  The AI's imagination was kept in strict limits.

In the effort to inspire more imagination, finally, I asked the app to "write me a counterfactual poem about the Nazis winning World War II."  I got the following reply:

Please stifle your laughs about the poem's literary quality.  It's pretty primitive -- though we should applaud its liberal sentiments and anti-Nazi orientation.  

I imagine the counterfactual and alternate history communities will be experimenting along these lines in the very near future.  Perhaps some writers may choose to use the app for "counter-fact checking" to gauge the plausibility of their ideas.  (I stress the "perhaps").  

But since both communities gravitate to "what iffing" because they love the imaginative exercise, I doubt they will be outsourcing the work to AI.