The Man the Horse and the Wolf

The Wolf was the deadly enemy of Man and Horse. The Man could easily kill the Wolf with his spear, but he could never run fast enough to catch it. The Horse could easily outrun the Wolf but had no weapons. So Man and Horse made a tactical alliance. The Horse agreed to carry the Man on its back while they hunted together. The speed of the Horse overtook the Wolf. The Man then killed it with his spear. When the deed was done, Horse said: “thank you Man, we can go our separate ways now”“Not so fast” replied the Man. “I have a cart that needs pulling, a field that needs plowing and I have a good mind to stick my spear up some guys I don’t like in the next village“.  He smiled as he dug in his spurs. “Giddy-up, Dobbin”, he said*.

The man the horse and the wolf v2

I translate this fable for the modern world thus: Man, with roles reversed, is now the Horse. The rider is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Together they can do great things, but eventually, who will become the Master, and who the Slave?

Interrogatable large-language-model search engines such as ChatGPT are a recent form of open access AI increasingly being used as a prop by those who possess little of the real thing.  An easy way to present misinformation as deep research. But will its language output always be as stilted, pompous and patronising as it is today?

The moral is – beware unequal partnerships.

The same moral can be taken from the dreadful fate that befell a certain naive young woman from the West African Republic of Niger (pronounced Nigh Ger):

There was a young lady from Niger

Who smiled as she rode on a tiger;

They returned from the ride

With the lady inside,

And the smile on the face of the tiger. **

Smiling Tiger

* I read this fable many decades ago in the novel “Foundation” by the 20th Century Science Fiction writer Isaac Asimov. I had never come across it before and have never since so I presume (guess) that it is a retelling by Asimov of an old Russian folk tale remembered from his childhood. He could, of course, have thought it up for himself. He was good at that.

** Ascribed by some to William Cosmo Monkhouse, a prolific writer of limericks.


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