AI Quakerism, Part Two: ChatBot Delivers Solutions for Our Five Biggest Problems. (Or Does It?)

A sign from the heady days of Occupy Wall Street, in Fayetteville NC. The message still seems apt.

Yesterday, we asked ChatBot to identify the five biggest issues facing Quakers today, and posted the  query and the full text of its reply.

Then, as promised, we followed up by asking ChatBot (CB for short) to sketch out practical solutions to these problems, again based on its familiarity with the presumably vast resources of the web.

This interchange is below, in full. We suggested a thousand words for the reply, but it only sent bout 560 words; we suspect it’s under instructions to keep replies  short. This might be due to demand: our first two submissions were in fact denied, based on overload; seems CB is a popular dude.There is one editorial comment on the reply at the end, but that’s only a prelude to a longer response/critique to come soon. CB, it appears, is not only regurgitating information; it’s sharing its own theology, and this deserves a closer look.

Thanks to the readers  who have offered comments. We invite more. It seems clear enough that AI and CB, while they may feel like novelty gadgets today, are likely to become important parts of our online and even offline experience, and maybe  already are. Are we getting ready?Blogger to ChatBot: In a previous post, you identified as the top five problems now facing Quakers as:

1. Declining membership;
2. Aging membership;
3. Lack of diversity;
4. Tensions regarding tradition; and
5.  Financial sustainability.

Now please describe the best practical solutions to each, with appropriate references for action.

CHATBOT: As a researcher, I have found that Quaker communities worldwide are currently facing five significant problems, namely declining membership, aging membership, lack of diversity, tensions regarding tradition, and financial sustainability. These issues can have a severe impact on the future of Quakers and worldwide, and thus, it is crucial to devise practical solutions to address them.

  1. Declining membership: 

    One of the most significant challenges facing Quakers today is declining membership. Quaker congregations have seen a decrease in membership over the past few decades, which can be attributed to population shifts, changing social norms, and a lack of outreach. A solution to this problem would be to improve outreach efforts, engage more youth in Quakerism, and foster a sense of community that would encourage people to join the faith.

Quakers could utilize social media platforms and virtual meeting spaces to engage younger generations.

  1. Aging Membership: 

    Another challenge that Quakers face is an aging membership, which can be attributed to a lack of outreach, a decline in birth rates, and an overall decrease in youth attendance. To address this issue, Quakers should foster inter-generational relations, create opportunities for elders to mentor younger members, and increase outreach efforts to engage younger generations. A solution would be for established Quaker communities to partner with schools and community organizations.

  1. Lack of Diversity: 

    The lack of diversity in Quaker communities is also a significant challenge. Quakers historically have been predominantly white and middle to upper-class, which alienates minority groups who may not feel welcome in such spaces. To increase diversity, Quaker communities should prioritize outreach and collaboration with diverse groups, foster more equitable policies, and create safe spaces for dialogue on race and social justice issues. This point is also highlighted by Fager (2014) as a viable solution.

  1. Tensions Regarding Tradition: 

    There is an ongoing tension between traditional Quaker values and modern norms that cause(s) challenges for Quaker communities. To address this issue, Quakers can create spaces for dialogue on tradition and its relevancy to modern times, prioritize education on Quaker history and culture, and create platforms for inclusive discussions. The American Friends Service Committee has been an excellent resource for facilitating such conversations. 

  2. Financial Sustainability: 

    Lastly, Quaker organizations worldwide face financial challenges due to a decline in donations, an increase in expenses, and a lack of innovation. To address this issue, Quaker organizations should identify ways to cut costs, explore alternative sources of revenue, and prioritize innovation in fundraising methods. One example would be investing in renewable energy or exploring fundraising through crowdfunding.

In conclusion, the challenges facing Quakerism require practical solutions, insight, and a willingness to change.

Outreach, collaboration, social justice, and innovation are key to creating a sustainable future for this spiritual community. By adopting these practical solutions, Quakers can address current challenges, overcome increasing secularization and continue to thrive as a vital faith community.


Fager, C. (2014). Renewal and Diversity: Friends in the Twenty-first Century. Pendle Hill Pamphlet, 439. Pendle Hill Press.

Editorial Comment: I deliberately asked for references, to see what CB would bring up, or where it would point us: John Woolman? Fox? Penn? Lucretia Mott? Benjamin Lay?

Instead, he mentioned only one, me, and a Pendle Hill Pamphlet, #439.

Me? Perhaps this is CB’s attempt at humor. Because the reference is a gag.

It must be a gag. That’s because I have not published any Pendle Hill pamphlets. I once worked there, later did research for two books there, lectured, attended various events, etc., and have very fond memories. But I wrote no PH pamphlets.

Yet there is indeed a PH Pamphlet #439: its title is Marking the Quaker Path. It’s by Robert Griswold, and was published not in 2014 but 2016. Its online description says, in part, The life of a fully committed Quaker can be described as a series of passages . . . Robert Griswold explains these passages for modern Friends . . . .

Which sounds fine; but it is not me.

What does that odd mis-identification suggest? Maybe more on that later.

But next up is an overall review and critique of this beginning interaction, and in particular CB’s version of Quaker theology, that is clear though implicit. For that, watch this space.

7 thoughts on “AI Quakerism, Part Two: ChatBot Delivers Solutions for Our Five Biggest Problems. (Or Does It?)”

  1. This misidentification of the reference is fascinating — I wonder if ChatBot makes this kind of mistake often — does the code need debugging particularly in the area of references, I wonder.
    I’m waiting with interest to see your explanation of the implicit change in Quaker theology suggested by the ChatBot.

  2. It’s pretty hard to disagree with the assessment or the advice. However, I think these issues and potential solutions are common to nearly all mainstream Christian faiths. So, not a hard lift seems to me.

    1. Exactly, this is babbling about a general “religious” entity that has almost no relevance to any Quaker group I am affiated with. Perhaps AFSC, but it is over 90% not-Quaker.

  3. I’ve been experimenting with ChatGPT, asking technical questions. More often than not, I get an incorrect reply. A reply that sounds like it should be right, but when I try the “solution”, it turns out to be completely incorrect (there is no MF switch on the lens barrel; there is no dialog to load a reference file).

    I want to reiterate: I get more correct sounding wrong answers than right answers.

    I suspect that applies to the recommendations to these questions as well.

  4. ChatGPT makes up references as its normal mode of operation. Even after admitting in one chat that it has no access to scholarly journals, for example, it went on to provide me with three more fictitious citations. In recent months, I’ve posted a couple of chats on Facebook as examples.

    ChatGPT claims to be honest — testimony of integrity? — but it’s a liar. Case in point: “as an AI language model, I do not make up scholarly citations. Whenever I provide a citation or reference to a source, I ensure that it is accurate and reliable.” But I have receipts.

  5. Much of this is boiler plate about a religion which is not the Society of Friends. The second sentence of #3 presumes that no one in minority groups are either middle or upper class – an idea that boggles the mind. If you sort this piece for theme, central point or common thread, it does not have one. It is a Frankenstein essay pasting individual sentences from actual coherent essays into a “format” of an essay with no idea of what it is doing. It is babbling without saying anything remotely interesting or useful.

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