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Paul Pangaro

The irrational outbursts from researchers and media following the release of ChatGPT and its “large language model” brethren have obscured the fundamental issues of AI algorithms and the dilemmas they coerce. The issues rest in what the algorithms do and do not do. They do produce output that insinuates magical, if not mystical, results, but they do so without “understanding meaning” in the crucial human sense. The difference lies in how humans acquire and enact meaning versus how algorithms acquire a “representation of meaning” that produces a highly captivating yet deceptive “cognitive sleight-of-hand.” This presentation begins with the work of Jill Fain Lehman, who proposes a logic for distinguishing domains in which we can appropriately apply LLMs based on where the difference between human meaning and algorithmic meaning creates peril, whether ethical or practical. Then, building on prior work of the #NewMacy Studio centred on “the pandemic of ‘Today’s AI’”, this presentation argues for differentiating ‘analog’ from ‘digital’ in a way that both leads to paths for understanding what is humane technology and for developing a compendium of examples whereby designers, educators, students, and entrepreneurs may develop and share alternative frameworks to today’s AI.

KEYWORDS: Artificial Intelligence, cybernetics, embodiment, design, interaction design

Paul Pangaro’s work explores the role of conversation in design, innovation, interactions, and organizations. His career spans startups and consulting, research and publishing, teaching and performance. With Kate Doyle he co-organizes #NewMacy, an initiative that spans geographies, generations, and disciplines to catalyze conversations that confront the complex challenges of our time. He is current President of the American Society for Cybernetics and Visiting Scholar in the School of Architecture and School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University, after serving there as Professor of Practice in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute for 3.5 years. His product designs, teaching, writing, and research are grounded in the cybernetic theory and methods of Conversation Theory by Gordon Pask. His presentations, publications, and videos can be found online at

Paul Pangaro, President, American Society for Cybernetics; Visiting Scholar, School of Architecture and School of Design, Carnegie Mellon University. ppangaro@cmu.eduPaul’s website.


Castellanos, C., Fang, X. Z., & Pangaro, P. (2022). Pandemic of ‘Today’s AI.’ #NewMacy.

Pangaro, P. (2021). #NewMacyMeetings Manifesto. #NewMacy.


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Citation Data

Author(s): Paul Pangaro
Year: 2023
Title: On Losing the Meaning of “Meaning”: AI’s pandemic in a post-ChatGPT world
Published in: Proceedings of Relating Systems Thinking and Design
Volume: RSD12
Article No.: pre-release
Host: Georgetown University
Location: Pittsburgh, USA | ONLINE
Symposium Dates: October 6–20, 2023
First published: 13 July 2023
Last update: no update
Publisher Identification: ISSN 2371-8404