The Cave of Illusions

In a small town there lived a man named Walter, who had a peculiar job: he was a television repairman. He had always been an exceptional observer, his eyes keen to the flicker and hum of the cathode ray tube, the dancing shadows of sitcoms and soap operas on the dusty screens. Walter was content, his life absorbed by the daily humdrum of fixing televisions, the predictable routine as rhythmic as the flickering static.

One day, a group of scientists arrived. They came with a new invention, a device they called ‘The Reality Enhancer’. It was a pair of glasses that promised to show the world as it truly was, free from the distortions of human perception. “A step forward for mankind,” they declared. Walter, being an observer, noticed that the scientists wore their smugness like an ill-fitting suit, too tight around the ego.

The town’s folk, enamored by the novelty, lined up to try the glasses. Walter, however, resisted. He was satisfied with his world, the shadows and lights dancing on the television screens, the predictable rhythm of his life. But he did observe, as he always did.

Walter noticed how the town’s folk had changed. They had a new language, speaking of things as they ‘truly’ were. They spoke of the illusions they had lived and the reality they now saw. The television, they said, was not a television but a box of shadows, a puppeteer of manufactured realities. Walter’s job, they claimed, was not necessary anymore. After all, who needed a fixer of illusions in a world of reality?

Walter was puzzled. He watched a sitcom, laughing at the absurdity of the punchlines. The shadows on the screen, he thought, might not be real, but they were a reflection of something real, something human. They were a mirror, distorted and stylized, of the human condition. He wondered if seeing the world as it ‘truly’ was, was any better than understanding it through the prism of human experiences.

Meanwhile, the scientists, the self-proclaimed prophets of reality, reveled in the success of their invention. They saw themselves as liberators, freeing the people from the cave of illusions. They failed to see the irony of their situation. In their quest for absolute reality, they had created another illusion, a cave of their own making.

Walter, the observer, saw it all. He saw the illusion of the scientists’ reality, the folly of their hubris. He sat in his shop, amidst the television sets, the shadows, and the lights. He wondered if the world outside his shop had become the real cave, a cave where the idea of absolute reality shadowed the richness of human experiences.

In the end, Walter decided to remain in his world, amidst the shadows and the lights. He may not have seen the world as it ‘truly’ was, but he saw it as it could be, as it was reflected in the human stories flickering on the television screens. And perhaps, he thought, that was enough.

And so, Walter lived and died as a television repairman, an observer in a world obsessed with reality. The scientists moved on with their invention, creating more caves, more illusions. The town’s folk lived their ‘real’ life, blind to the illusions they had embraced. And the television sets, they continued to flicker, casting shadows and lights in the quiet repair shop, the forgotten cave of a humble observer

The story you’ve read was written with the use of Ai, specifically Claude Instant 100K, and GPT-4 32k. I first fed Claude Instant 100k three different works by Kurt Vonnegut: “Slaughterhouse Five”, “Cats Cradle”, and “Player Piano”. I asked Claude to please come up with a summary of the similarities between Kurt Vonnegut’s protagonists in all three stories. Then I asked it to do a summary for antagonists, and for the style and theme of writing.

After Claude Instant 100k had finished the summarizing, I asked it to take everything it knows about Kurt Vonnegut’s writing and please write a short novella. I asked for the novella to be a retelling of Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave”.

Claude Instant 100k turned in a story that was a literal re-telling of the story, with a few flashes of Vonnegut-ism throughout. I felt that the story Claude Instant 100k wrote was lacking, so I decided to try GPT 4 – 32K . I pasted all of the information that Claude Instant 100k had generated, such as “How Vonnegut protagonists act”, “What kind of story themes are used” etc.

Once GPT-4 32k was fully versed on the way Vonnegut stories are created, I gave it the same request that I originally gave Claude Instant 100k: “will you please write a short novella in the style of Kurt Vonnegut? The story should re-tell Plato’s Allegory of the Cave”.

The story that you read at the beginning of this blog post is the verbatim output from GPT-4 32K.

The image at the top of this article was made using the Ai-image generator called MidJourney. I asked Midjourney to first give me an a TV repair shop in an American town. I then added a few visual touches, and I put the title on the building using Photoshop.


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