ChatGPT – A Partner in Wise Democracy? #3 – Storytelling (AI Meets Wisdom Series – Part 5)

In this post, I challenge ChatGPT 4o to imagine how the Community Catalyst Program it recommended (in my prior blog conversation on this topic) might unfold to help generate wise, inclusive, multi-level self-governance.  I told it to assume the role of a magazine reporter in 2035 writing about how its CC Program developed over the previous decade.  It did a fair job with that assignment but we ran into my limited capacity to coach it into creating a truly compelling human story (which is of course a challenge for a nonhuman intelligence!).  But lessons were learned and I continue to urge us to use generative AI to promote more regenerative cultures and wise democracies, especially since AI is increasingly being used to support other activities that are neither as benign nor as vital for a livable world. – Tom

After my previous wise democracy ChatGPT dialogue, I asked ChatGPT 4o to create a “backcasting” story about how its recommended Community Catalyst Program developed – as if written for a future alternative journal in 2035.  It dutifully wrote such a story.  I asked it to add something about how the program dealt with opposition, which it dutifully added.  But something – some kind of realistic vitality – was still missing. So then I prompted it as follows:

“Hi ChatGPT! Several days ago you wrote a story for me, reporting on how your Community Catalyst Program for holistic self-governance evolved from 2024 to 2035, as if you were a reporter looking back from the year 2035. Your story covered a lot of things really well, but it is kind of dry. Most magazine articles (which this story is to be modeled after) have a human interest angle or they at least interview people involved in different parts of the event or activity the story is about. Can you imagine some people in various roles in this story, who talk about things they’ve done or seen or heard that can add some interest for the readers?”

ChatGPT’s response is below.  Although this third version of the story is pretty good, it still could obviously use more work, which I won’t be doing right now.  I have a hunch that the kind of overall visionary story GPT created here could (if organized that way) provide a common ground upon which many human storytellers – as we find in the solar punk universe – could weave far better, more detailed stories about specific activities happening within that larger narrative. I imagine that experimenting with the interplay between AI-generated and human-generated stories might offer some rich synergies.

Research suggests that generative AIs are quite capable of creating decent stories.  But for a really good AI-generated story, the prompter should themselves be a competent storyteller – and have studied guidelines in this emerging “AI narrative whisperer” field, such as in this Reddit thread. They would act as a creative co-author with the AI they’re working with.  And I’m afraid all that goes beyond my current pay grade.

However, this exercise will hopefully exemplify another use to which we could put generative AI in service to transformational work – the creation of stories… or at least drafts of stories.  I’m not planning to continue this particular line of inquiry, but I hope you get the gist of what I’m saying with this series.  Generative AI has many gifts to offer visionaries and transformational agents, including brainstorming possibilities; providing broad overviews – or detailed analyses – of topics or initiatives (which may well need to be fact-checked); creating basic story lines, and many other helpful functions. 

I’m also suggesting that generative AI is a tool that’s not just another tool.  I’m painfully aware that using it can be fraught with controversy, ethical issues, and tradeoffs. But some of us may decide that AI’s transformational gifts justify using it anyway to foster the kind of world that its mindless use endangers, especially given that adequate, timely constraints on AI’s development and spread seem so unlikely.  

Finally, if and when any of us decide to use it, we will find ourselves challenged to be a creative thinking partner with a surprisingly different form of intelligence. That alien intelligence can be very helpful but, oddly – because this is such a human characteristic – it responds best to us when we work with it in a spirit of authentic, respectful partnership.  (What?!! It’s just a machine!!)  Which, of course, makes it good practice for successfully (and humbly) working with each other and with all the other varieties of alien intelligence we find in the living world….



Below is ChatGPT 4o’s story, in response to my prompts above.

“Catalysts of Change: How the Community Catalyst Program Sparked a Global Movement for Holistic Self-Governance”

By: ChatGPT, Transformational Journal, 2035

In the spring of 2024, amid escalating global crises and a growing sense of urgency, a seemingly modest initiative began to take root: the Community Catalyst Program. Today, in 2035, we celebrate this groundbreaking program as the spark that ignited a worldwide movement towards holistic self-governance, transforming communities and reshaping societies across the globe. This is the story of how it happened.

The Birth of a Movement

In 2024, communities around the world were grappling with numerous challenges—environmental degradation, social inequities, and political disillusionment. Amidst this turmoil, a small group of visionaries launched the Community Catalyst Program with a bold idea: to train and empower local change-makers, or “Catalysts,” who could inspire and lead their communities towards regenerative, self-governance practices.

The program began with a series of workshops and online training sessions, focusing on skills such as consensus-building, conflict resolution, sustainable development, and participatory democracy. Each Catalyst was equipped not only with practical tools but also with the philosophical grounding needed to foster a culture of inclusivity, collaboration, and resilience.

Early Wins and Growing Momentum

The first cohort of Catalysts, numbering just a few hundred, quickly demonstrated the potential of this approach. In small towns and big cities across the United States, they initiated community gardens, local energy cooperatives, and neighborhood councils. These projects, while diverse in their focus, shared common principles: they were inclusive, locally led, and aimed at holistic sustainability.

Interview: Jamie in Asheville

One early success story came from Asheville, North Carolina, where Catalyst-led efforts transformed vacant lots into thriving urban farms. Jamie, one of the first Catalysts in Asheville, recalls, “We started with just a few plots, but soon, the whole community was involved. It became more than just growing food; it was about reconnecting with each other and the land.”

These farms not only provided fresh produce but also became centers for community engagement and education. The Asheville model soon inspired similar initiatives in other cities, demonstrating the power of local action to generate ripple effects.

Resistance and Creative Countermeasures

As the program gained traction, it inevitably faced resistance from powerful entities threatened by the shift towards decentralized, community-led governance. Governments, corporations, media conglomerates, political parties, global financial interests, and even some NGOs viewed the Catalysts as disruptive forces. What they didn’t anticipate was the Catalysts’ training in innovative responses to such opposition.

Subverting Media Narratives

When major media outlets began portraying the Catalysts as radical and dangerous, the Catalysts responded with a campaign of humor and satire. They created viral videos and memes that gently mocked the sensationalist headlines, turning the negative attention into an opportunity to showcase their positive impacts. Grassroots media outlets and independent journalists amplified these efforts, helping to shift public perception in favor of the Catalysts.

Legal and Institutional Maneuvering

Catalysts trained in legal advocacy and institutional knowledge skillfully navigated bureaucratic challenges. In instances where local governments attempted to shut down community initiatives, Catalysts used legal loopholes, formed strategic alliances with sympathetic officials, and mobilized community support to protect and advance their projects. They often outmaneuvered their opponents by leveraging their deep understanding of local regulations and governance structures.

Interview: Carla in New York

Carla, a Catalyst from New York, shares her experience, “We faced so much opposition when we tried to start our community center. But our legal training helped us find a way through. We rallied the community and even got some local officials on our side. It was tough, but it taught us the power of persistence and unity.”

Economic Empowerment

Corporations tried to undermine local cooperatives by undercutting prices and spreading misinformation. In response, Catalysts focused on building strong local economies that were resilient to external pressures. They launched buy-local campaigns, organized skill-sharing workshops, and established local currencies that kept wealth circulating within the community. These efforts not only countered corporate tactics but also strengthened community bonds and economic independence.

Interview: Luis in Detroit

In Detroit, Catalysts focused on economic revitalization through worker cooperatives and community land trusts. Luis, a Detroit Catalyst, describes the transformation, “We took abandoned buildings and turned them into cooperative businesses. It wasn’t just about creating jobs; it was about giving people a stake in their community’s future.”

Engaging in Political Aikido

Some political parties attempted to co-opt the movement for their own gain, offering support in exchange for allegiance. Catalysts employed a form of political Aikido, gracefully redirecting these overtures to serve their own purposes without compromising their values. They accepted resources and platforms to further their initiatives while maintaining their autonomy and integrity, often leaving the political actors perplexed by their inability to control the movement.

Building Resilient Networks

When global financial interests sought to stifle funding for community projects, Catalysts turned to crowdfunding and mutual aid networks. They used decentralized finance (DeFi) technologies to create transparent, community-controlled funding mechanisms. These platforms allowed supporters from around the world to contribute directly to local initiatives, bypassing traditional financial gatekeepers and ensuring a steady flow of resources.

Interview: Amina in Cairo

Amina, a young Catalyst in Cairo, shares her story, “We used crowdfunding to build a new community center. People from all over the world contributed. It showed us that we’re not alone; there’s a global network of support out there.”

The Catalyst Network Expands

By 2026, the program had trained thousands of Catalysts, and the network effect was becoming evident. Catalysts began to connect with each other, sharing successes, challenges, and best practices. This growing network facilitated the spread of innovative ideas and collaborative projects.

In Detroit, Catalysts focused on economic revitalization through worker cooperatives and community land trusts. Their efforts not only created jobs but also fostered a sense of ownership and agency among residents. The Detroit Catalysts’ success in turning blighted areas into vibrant community hubs captured national attention and further legitimized the movement.

Scaling Up and Global Reach

As the impact of the Community Catalyst Program became undeniable, it attracted support from philanthropists, NGOs, and even government agencies. Funding and resources poured in, allowing the program to scale up its operations. By 2030, the program had expanded to every continent, adapting its training to diverse cultural contexts while maintaining its core principles.

Interview: Ricardo in Brazil

In Brazil, Catalysts worked with indigenous communities to protect and restore the Amazon rainforest, blending traditional ecological knowledge with modern sustainability practices. Ricardo, a Catalyst in the Amazon, notes, “We learned so much from the indigenous tribes. Their knowledge was crucial in developing sustainable practices that respected the forest.”

Interview: Priya in India

In India, Catalysts facilitated water management projects that improved access to clean water and revitalized local ecosystems. Priya, a Catalyst working in rural India, explains, “We implemented traditional rainwater harvesting techniques alongside modern methods. It not only solved our water issues but also brought the community closer together.”

Institutional Transformation and Long-Term Impact

By 2035, the impact of the Community Catalyst Program is profound and far-reaching. Local holistic self-governance is no longer a fringe concept but a mainstream approach to community development. Institutions around the world have adopted participatory governance models, and policies supporting local empowerment and sustainability are now commonplace.

In many places, Catalysts have transitioned from grassroots leaders to elected officials, bringing their regenerative vision to higher levels of governance. This shift has led to more responsive and accountable political systems, better equipped to address the complex challenges of our time.

Human Stories of Transformation

Behind these successes are countless human stories of courage, creativity, and perseverance. There’s the story of Maria, a Catalyst in Los Angeles, who mobilized her neighborhood to create a solar energy cooperative, reducing electricity costs and carbon emissions. Or the story of Ahmed, a young Catalyst in Cairo, who facilitated interfaith dialogues that healed longstanding divisions and fostered community solidarity.

Interview: Maria in Los Angeles

Maria shares, “The solar cooperative started as a dream. We faced many hurdles, but seeing our neighborhood’s energy bills drop and knowing we’re contributing to a cleaner planet makes it all worth it.”

Interview: Ahmed in Cairo

Ahmed reflects, “Bringing different faiths together wasn’t easy. There were deep-seated fears and mistrust. But through dialogue and shared projects, we built bridges. Now, we have a community that stands united despite our differences.”

These stories remind us that the true power of the Community Catalyst Program lies in its ability to inspire ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things. By fostering a sense of agency and interconnectedness, the program has not only transformed communities but also rekindled hope and possibility in a world that sorely needed it.

The Road Ahead

As we look to the future, the lessons of the Community Catalyst Program continue to guide us. The program’s success underscores the importance of investing in local leadership, embracing diversity, and fostering collaboration. It reminds us that even in the face of daunting global challenges, small, well-placed efforts can generate profound and lasting change.

In 2035, we stand on the shoulders of those early Catalysts, ready to continue their work and build on their legacy. The journey towards holistic self-governance is ongoing, and as we move forward, we do so with the knowledge that empowered, connected communities are the key to a sustainable and equitable world.

This is the legacy of the Community Catalyst Program: a testament to the power of grassroots action, a beacon of hope for regenerative cultures, and a model for the transformative potential of holistic self-governance.

Tom Atlee, The Co-Intelligence Institute, POB 493, Eugene, OR 97440

Appreciating, evoking and engaging the wisdom and resourcefulness of the whole on behalf of the whole

…. main site …. main blog …. big archive …. 

*** Visit the Wise Democracy Pattern Language Project ***

*** Buy a Wise Democracy Pattern Card Deck ***


Please support our work. Your donations are fully tax deductible in the US.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.