Way back in 1966, in a fascinating interview, visionary media theorist Marshall McLuhan talked about the future of information. Surprisingly, some of his ideas resonate in the age of ChatGPT and generative AI. McLuhan envisioned a world where people could request specific information and receive a tailored content package, a concept that brings us back to the capabilities of AI-powered chatbots like Chat GPT.
When the past meets the future
According to Marshall McLuhan, in the not-too-distant future individuals could telephone, describe their interests and skills, and receive a package of information specially selected for them. This vision of personalized content delivery has become a reality with the advent of AI-powered natural language processing models. ChatGPT, for example, manages to understand user requests and provide relevant, contextual and personalized information on a wide range of topics, effectively creating a tailor-made knowledge package.
In the interview, McLuhan went even further. While we understand the importance of catching emerging trends (also to avoid being overwhelmed by them, to know "where to turn off the button"), the sociologist expressed decided perplexity towards this change.
Was Marshall McLuhan right? What can we collect from his "inheritance"?
While he couldn't exactly predict the advent of ChatGPT, Marshall McLuhan envisioned a future in which information would be increasingly personalized and accessible. His contributions to the world of media and communications continue to resonate in the present as we navigate the challenges and opportunities presented by artificial intelligence and ever-evolving technology.
His vision reminds us how important it is to adapt and understand the world we live in, to take full advantage of innovations and better manage the transformations that surround us. Who would have thought that an interview from 1966 could have so much in common with our technological present? A genius is a genius. In a few decades we will discover that other "prophecies" of the past have come true in an increasingly interconnected and technological world.
One question remains open, for your reflection: if "the medium is the message", to quote Marshall McLuhan, what message is ChatGPT giving us?
Take a look at the 1966 interview (in English).