How Smart Are You?
Do you remember the popular TV show “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?” I only watched it once or twice even though it ran for 4 seasons. Still, I think the show may have had merit, and if you’re like me, interested in modern history and politics – the Cold War and after – you might do well to give it some thought.
Recently, I’ve been going through New York State’s social studies standards for 10th – 12th graders. Sometimes I doubt myself and wonder: Do I know as much as a college freshman — or even a high schooler?
Consequently, I compiled a list of 100 prompts focused on The World Since 1945 and drawn from New York’s standards. Then I ran them through Open AI’s tool, ChatGPT, to see if they generated decent results. In just a minute, I’ll give you an example of what I found. But first, some general info.
ChatGPT and Prompts
If you follow Cold War Studies, you know that I’ve been playing around with Open AI’s tool, ChatGPT. In fact, you might want to take a look at the recent post titled Chat GPT and IA: A New Frontier in Cold War Research?
I know that most of you have heard the hype about Artificial Intelligence and the tools associated with it, the promise and the dangers. But in case you haven’t, Chat GPT is what’s called a chatbot. According to ZDNet, it’s
a natural language processing tool driven by AI technology that allows you to have human-like conversations and much more . . . . The language model can answer questions and assist you with tasks, such as composing emails, essays, and code.
As for prompts, according to Hootsuite’s blog
. . . a ChatGPT prompt is a phrase or instruction you give the ChatGPT AI model to generate a response. Prompts can be anything from a question, statement, or other words intended to spark creativity, “thought,” or engagement.
Let’s Get Started?
Want to follow along? I use the free version of Chat GPT (3.5) and I’ve been satisfied with the results.
If you want to sign up go to openai.com. You’ll get a screen that looks like the one below. Click “Try ChatGPT.”
After you’ve signed in, you’ll get a screen that looks like the one below. Click on ChatGPT.
Enter your prompt where it says Send Message and click the green box. You’re on your way. Just wait for the software to quit generating.
Here’s the Example: Follow Along If You’d Like
This example is from the new Cold War Studies guide The World Since 1945: 100 Chat GPT Prompts.
My Prompt: Discuss how international competition, fueled by nationalism, imperialism, and militarism along with shifts in the balance of power and alliances, led to world wars.
Chat GPT’s response:
International competition, fueled by nationalism, imperialism, militarism, and shifting balances of power and alliances, played a significant role in the outbreak of both World War I and World War II. These factors created a volatile environment that ultimately resulted in large-scale global conflicts. Here’s a discussion of how these elements contributed to the world wars:
- Nationalism, the strong belief and pride in one’s own nation, played a pivotal role in both world wars. It created intense rivalries among nations, as each sought to assert its dominance and protect its interests.
- In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nationalism led to the rise of aggressive and expansionist ideologies. For example, the desire to unite all ethnic Germans under a single state (pan-Germanism) and the idea of a Greater Serbia contributed to tensions in the Balkans, a key trigger for World War I.
- Imperialism, the quest for colonies and territories to expand empires, intensified competition among major powers. European powers, in particular, were engaged in a race for overseas territories and resources.
- Conflicts arose as these imperial ambitions clashed, such as the competition for control over Africa and parts of Asia. The scramble for colonies and resources exacerbated rivalries between major powers.
- Militarism involved the buildup of armed forces and the belief in the use of military force to achieve national goals. Major powers engaged in an arms race, continuously expanding their armies and navies.
- This arms race not only strained national economies but also created an atmosphere of suspicion and fear, where nations felt compelled to be prepared for war. The belief in military solutions made diplomatic efforts less effective in resolving conflicts.
- Shifting Balance of Power:
- The balance of power in Europe was in a constant state of flux. The rise of Germany as an industrial and military powerhouse upset the established power dynamics. This shift in the balance of power threatened existing alliances and created instability.
- The complex system of alliances made nations wary of each other’s intentions. The Triple Entente (France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and the Triple Alliance (Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy) were formed to counterbalance each other, but these alliances increased the risk of a large-scale conflict.
- Alliances were designed to deter aggression, but they also had the unintended consequence of turning a regional conflict into a world war. When Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in 1914, a web of alliances led to a cascading effect of declarations of war.
- Similarly, in World War II, the aggressive actions of Nazi Germany and its alliances with Italy and Japan led to a global conflict as various other nations, including the United States and the Soviet Union, entered the war to counter the Axis Powers.
In summary, the combination of intense nationalism, imperialistic ambitions, militarism, shifting power dynamics, and complex alliances created an environment of heightened tension and rivalry. These factors, along with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 and Hitler’s expansionist policies in the 1930s, eventually culminated in the outbreak of World War I and World War II, respectively. The world wars resulted in devastating consequences, shaping the course of the 20th century and beyond.
Not Satisfied? Want to try again?
If I’m not satisfied with this response, I can ask it to “regenerate” or I can ask it to go deeper.
For example a new prompt might say: “Please go into more detail on the subject of Shifting Balances of Power.”
Chat GPT will provide something like this:
The concept of shifting balances of power refers to changes in the distribution of military, economic, and political influence among nations or blocs of countries. These shifts can significantly impact international relations and increase the likelihood of conflicts, as was the case in the lead-up to both World War I and World War II. Here’s a more detailed discussion of the shifting balances of power in these two historical contexts:
World War I (1914-1918):
- Rise of Germany: In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Germany experienced rapid industrialization and expansion. This economic growth translated into increased military capabilities. As a result, Germany began to challenge the established European powers, such as the United Kingdom and France.
- Decline of the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary: The Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary, both multi-ethnic empires, were in decline. This created power vacuums in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, leading to tensions and conflicts among various ethnic and nationalist groups.
- Russian Industrialization: Russia was also experiencing industrialization and modernization during this period. Its growing influence in Eastern Europe and the Balkans clashed with the interests of Austria-Hungary and other European powers.
- Impact on Alliances: The shifting balance of power disrupted the existing alliances. Germany’s rise led to increased tension with France and the United Kingdom, which in turn led these powers to seek alliances with Russia (forming the Triple Entente). Austria-Hungary’s decline and territorial disputes in the Balkans created instability in the region.
- Arms Race: The competition among major powers to build up their military forces (militarism) was partly a response to these shifting power dynamics. The arms race further heightened tensions and created a sense of inevitability about a future conflict.
These shifts in the balance of power, combined with nationalist and imperialist ambitions and a complex system of alliances, eventually led to the outbreak of World War I.
World War II (1939-1945):
- Rearmament of Germany: After the Treaty of Versailles imposed significant limitations on Germany’s military capabilities following World War I, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime embarked on a rapid rearmament program. This violated the treaty but allowed Germany to become a formidable military power again.
- Expansion of Nazi Germany: Hitler’s aggressive expansionist policies sought to secure “living space” (Lebensraum) for the German people. This led to the annexation of Austria (Anschluss) and the occupation of Czechoslovakia.
- Appeasement: Initially, some Western powers, notably the United Kingdom and France, pursued a policy of appeasement, hoping to avoid another conflict. This allowed Hitler to continue his expansion unchecked, further shifting the balance of power in his favor.
- Soviet Union’s Role: The Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939. This non-aggression pact had a secret protocol that divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence, effectively giving Nazi Germany a free hand in the west.
- Alliance Shifts: The shifting alliances during World War II were dramatic. Initially, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were allies, but when Hitler broke the pact and invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, the USSR joined the Allies. Meanwhile, the United States, initially neutral, entered the war in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor, strengthening the Allied forces.
These shifts in power and alliances during World War II reflected the dynamic nature of international relations at the time, with various actors adapting to changing circumstances and power dynamics. Ultimately, it was the culmination of these factors, along with aggressive expansionism by Nazi Germany and Japan, that led to the outbreak of World War II.
Free Chat GPT provides a succinct, sometimes superficial response to prompts. So remember to ask it to go deeper on the topics of interest to you. The more you keep digging, the more likely you are to get the results you’re looking for. Use it as a tool, but verify.
Chat GPT is also a very accomplished liar – especially where sources are concerned, so be sure to verify factual information.
Then, of course, there are the questions:
- Is the info dependable?
- Can the info be trusted?
- What do I do with what I get?
- Is it ethical for me to just use the info as my own?
- And on and on . . .
My 2 Cents
Chat GPT is great for brainstorming and for coming up with information that can help you with a first draft or an outline. But never use it without disclosure, and never present the material it generates as your own. There are AI detectors out there and you’re sure to be found out.
That said, I’ve tested each of the prompts in the new guide and each is worth playing around with. The 8 topics included are:
- Background: Before 1945
- The Cold War (1945-1991)
- Decolonization and Nationalism
- Globalization/Globalizing World
- Human Rights
- Social and Economic Change
Get the Guide: It’s Free
While the Guide is free, it will be necessary for you to subscribe to Cold War Studies if you’d like a copy of the Prompts. And this means that you will get occasional e-mail from us. You’ll be notified when we publish new posts or when there’s something that we think will be of value to you.