In recent months Artificial Intelligence (AI) generated content has been making quite a splash. This has been lead by the non-profit research laboratory OpenAI, which is at the cutting edge of AI research. OpenAI has a rather ambitious charter that begins with the following:
OpenAI’s mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence (AGI)—by which we mean highly autonomous systems that outperform humans at most economically valuable work—benefits all of humanity. We will attempt to directly build safe and beneficial AGI, but will also consider our mission fulfilled if our work aids others to achieve this outcome.OpenAI Charter
OpenAI and other researchers have developed AI systems that can automatically generate media content in various forms. This includes the ability to generate text and images in response to text based prompts provided by the (presumably) human user.
In particular, OpenAI’s chatbot called ChatGPT is of interest as it can answer questions with highly detailed answers. It has caused significant controversy recently by successfully answering questions for an MBA course exam (Would Chat GPT Get a Wharton MBA?) but could it just as easily answer worldbuilding questions?
The aim wouldn’t necessarily be to completely automate all worldbuilding but perhaps it could act as inspiration to provide a rough framework. I therefore decided to have a short conversation with ChatGPT and here are the results.
Helios: A tidally locked world
I’m interested in science-fiction world building. Can you describe a tidally locked planet orbiting a red dwarf upon which alien life has evolved?
A tidally locked planet orbiting a red dwarf would have one side permanently facing the star, resulting in extremely hot temperatures and high levels of radiation on that side. The other side would be in perpetual darkness and cold. Alien life on this planet would likely have evolved to survive in these extreme conditions. On the hot side, organisms may have developed ways to protect themselves from radiation and heat, such as thick protective skin or the ability to burrow underground. On the cold side, life forms may have evolved to survive in the dark and cold, such as by being able to generate their own heat or light. The boundary between the hot and cold sides, known as the "terminator line," could be a unique and diverse ecosystem in its own right.
Describe several clades of life on the hot side
1. Thermosynthetic organisms: These organisms have developed the ability to convert heat energy into chemical energy, allowing them to survive and even thrive in the scorching temperatures of the hot side. They may have symbiotic relationships with organisms that can tolerate high levels of radiation, such as by living inside of their protective skin. 2. Burrowers: These organisms have evolved to survive the heat by burrowing deep into the ground, where temperatures are cooler. They may have elongated bodies and strong digging appendages to facilitate this lifestyle. 3. Radiation-resistant organisms: These organisms have developed thick, protective skin or exoskeletons to protect them from the intense radiation of the hot side. They may also have evolved to repair DNA damage quickly to survive in this environment. 4. Photosynthetic organisms: These organisms have adapted to the high light levels of the hot side by evolving to photosynthesize efficiently in high light intensities. They may have large, broad leaves, or specially adapted pigments to help them survive in this environment. 5. Desiccated organisms: These organisms have developed the ability to survive in extremely dry conditions by conserving water and being able to survive for long periods without it. They may have waxy skin, or small, reduced leaves to conserve water.
What is the name of this planet and what are the five clades called?
I'm sorry I did not name the planet in my previous response. The name of this planet is 'Helios' and the five clades of life on the hot side that I described are: 1. Thermosynthetic organisms - "Thermoids" 2. Burrowers - "Subterrans" 3. Radiation-resistant organisms - "Radians" 4. Photosynthetic organisms - "Heliophytes" 5.. Desiccated organisms - "Aridians" Please note that this is a fictional planet and the names of the clades are also fictional, they are not based on any scientific research or study.
Describe five clades that live on the dark side
1. Chemosynthetic organisms: These organisms have developed the ability to convert chemical energy into a usable form, such as through the process of chemosynthesis. They may be able to survive in the dark by using energy from sources such as volcanic vents. 2. Bioluminescent organisms: These organisms have evolved to produce their own light, allowing them to survive in the darkness of the cold side. They may have light-emitting organs or pigments that allow them to communicate with other organisms or attract prey. 3. Cavern dwellers: These organisms have adapted to living in underground caves and caverns where the temperatures are warmer than the surface. They may have evolved to navigate the dark, and can have sensitive eyes or other sensory organs that allow them to detect light. 4. Thermoconformers: These organisms have evolved to survive in the cold by regulating their internal body temperatures. They may have a thick layer of blubber, or the ability to slow their metabolism to conserve energy. 5. Subterranean predators: These organisms have evolved to hunt and survive in the complete darkness of the cold side. They may have advanced sensory organs such as echolocation or infrared vision that allow them to locate prey.
What are these five clades called?
The five clades of life on the dark side that I described are: 1. Chemosynthetic organisms - "Chemoids" 2. Bioluminescent organisms - "Luminescents" 3. Cavern dwellers - "Troglobites" 4. Thermoconformers - "Cryovores" 5. Subterranean predators - "Abyssals" Please note that this is a fictional planet and the names of the clades are also fictional, they are not based on any scientific research or study.
Can you describe a few species from the largest clade?
Sure, I can describe a few species from the largest clade on the hot side, the Thermosynthetic organisms, also known as "Thermoids." 1. Thermosynthetic Bacteria: These are small, single-celled organisms that have developed the ability to convert heat energy into chemical energy. They are able to survive in the hottest areas of the hot side, and may form symbiotic relationships with other organisms to aid in their survival. 2. Thermosynthetic Worms: These are long, segmented worms that burrow deep into the ground to escape the heat. They are able to convert heat energy into chemical energy, and may also have symbiotic relationships with other organisms for their survival. 3. Thermosynthetic Crustaceans: These are large, armored crustaceans that are able to survive in the hot, shallow waters near the terminator line. They have a tough exoskeleton that protects them from the heat and radiation, and are able to convert heat energy into chemical energy to survive. 4. Thermosynthetic Insects: These are small, winged insects that are able to survive in the hot and dry areas of the hot side. They have adapted to the high light levels by developing large, broad wings that help to dissipate heat, and are able to convert heat energy into chemical energy. 5. Thermosynthetic Plants: These are large, broad-leaved plants that are able to survive in the hottest areas of the hot side. They have adapted to the high light levels by developing large, broad leaves that help to dissipate heat, and are able to convert heat energy into chemical energy. Please note that this is a fictional planet and the names of the species and their characteristics are also fictional and not based on any scientific research or study.
And on the dark side?
Sure, I can describe a few species from the largest clade on the dark side, the Bioluminescent organisms, also known as "Luminescents": 1. Bioluminescent Fungi: These are small, subterranean fungi that emit light through bioluminescent pigments. They may form symbiotic relationships with other organisms, such as cavern dwellers, and help them navigate the dark. 2. Bioluminescent Fish: These are small, translucent fish that emit light through bioluminescent pigments. They live in underground rivers and caves and use light to communicate and attract prey. 3. Bioluminescent Insects: These are small, winged insects that emit light through bioluminescent pigments. They live in caves and caverns, and use light to navigate and communicate. 4. Bioluminescent worms: These are elongated, segmented worms that emit light through bioluminescent pigments. They burrow deep in the underground and use light to communicate and attract prey. 5. Bioluminescent plants: These are small, subterranean plants that emit light through bioluminescent pigments. They live deep in the underground and use light to communicate and attract pollinators. Please note that this is a fictional planet and the names of the species and their characteristics are also fictional and not based on any scientific research or study.
Describe the food web on Helios
The food web on Helios is likely to be complex and diverse, with different organisms occupying different niches and forming different relationships. On the hot side, the Thermosynthetic organisms (Thermoids) would likely be at the base of the food web, providing energy through the conversion of heat energy into chemical energy. These organisms would be consumed by burrowers (Subterrans) and radiation-resistant organisms (Radians) that would in turn be consumed by photosynthetic organisms (Heliophytes) and desiccated organisms (Aridians). The top predators on the hot side would likely be specialized hunters that can survive the extreme heat, radiation and dryness. On the cold side, the Chemosynthetic organisms (Chemoids) would likely be at the base of the food web, providing energy through the conversion of chemical energy. These organisms would be consumed by bioluminescent organisms (Luminescents), cavern dwellers (Troglobites), thermoconformers (Cryovores), and subterranean predators (Abyssals). The top predators on the cold side would likely be specialized hunters that can survive the extreme cold, darkness and low light conditions. The terminator line, where the hot and cold sides meet, could be a unique and diverse ecosystem in its own right, with organisms from both sides having to adapt to the changing conditions. Please note that this is a fictional planet and the food web is also fictional and not based on any scientific research or study, it is only an idea of how it could be.
Clearly the AI generated content is not perfect but I think those results are not bad. The only information I provided was that I wanted the aliens to live on a tidally locked planet orbiting a red dwarf. ChatGPT came up with everything else “itself”. The output isn’t going to win any awards for originality or accuracy but it isn’t terrible either.
It began well with a general summary of life on a tidally locked world and over the course of the conversation described the following ten clades:
- Thermosynthetic organisms – “Thermoids”
- Burrowers – “Subterrans”
- Radiation-resistant organisms – “Radians”
- Photosynthetic organisms – “Heliophytes”
- Desiccated organisms – “Aridians”
- Chemosynthetic organisms – “Chemoids”
- Bioluminescent organisms – “Luminescents”
- Cavern dwellers – “Troglobites”
- Thermoconformers – “Cryovores”
- Subterranean predators – “Abyssals”
Those clades are a good starting point and while the names are a bit derivative, they fit space opera just fine. I do particularly like the name Troglobites, perhaps it would be a good name for a band?
It’s also interesting that thermosynthesis was mentioned for one of the clades. That’s not something that comes up often in speculative evolution. It would require a thermal gradient between hot and cold but that might be possible somewhere on the day side.
When asked to expand a clade into distinct species it did drift a bit as the example thermoids and luminescents don’t seem to be related as species in a clade should be. There are also a few possible incongruities in the descriptions, especially for the worms as the thermosynthetic worm burrows to avoid heat and the luminescent ones use light to communicate.
There are also a few other issues such as the bioluminescent “plants” that live deep underground on the dark side. It’s also weird that one of the apex predators on the day side are the heliophytes, which have leaves and are photosynthetic! The Aridians are the other apex predators and they have leaves too. Perhaps that’s just good inspiration for a plant-animal hybrid alien though.
Overall, I don’t think this output could be directly used without causing a few giggles in the audience. It isn’t bad as a starting point though as it has included a broad range of relevant concepts which definitely provides inspiration.
Fears that ChatGPT in its current implementation could replace professional writers certainly seem unjustified. However, the technology is continuing to advance at a rapid pace, so it wouldn’t be surprising if in a few years AI generated content was used to build fictional worlds. Perhaps as part of an interactive story or game so the experience would be slightly different for every participant?
What an interesting idea, to use AI for text generation. Coming from computer gaming, I’d rather have expected using it for procedural generation of solar system, planet with atmosphere and all components of a biosphere. But text is before pictures… Did the system mention the specialities of a red dwarf-sun at any time?
It took a bit of prompting, but ChatGPT has decided that the star is called Keltor (though it insisted it was also called Helios until I suggested that might be wrong). Keltor has 10% the mass of the Sun, 15% the radius and is 3500 K. ChatGPT classed this as an M8 star, however, it actually doesn’t fit any class. The mass and radius imply around M6 but the temperature implies M2-M3. This is an example where ChatGPT gives the impression of being correct but it isn’t.