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  • Writer's pictureGary Lloyd

I just chatted with Napoleon Bonaparte about leadership

I’m halfway through Khan Academy founder Sal Khan’s book Brave New Words: How AI Will Revolutionize Education, an absolute must-read for any educator. The book is brimming with ideas grounded in what the Khan Academy has already achieved while looking forward to future innovations.

One such idea is to interview historical figures, with Sal using Harriet Tubman as an example. This got me thinking about leadership, so I set up a conversation with Napoleon Bonaparte. Then, I realized I could invite others into the same conversation and chose Marcus Aurelius and Steve Jobs. It was a fascinating discussion to moderate.

But why stop at leadership? Inspired and curious, I chatted with John Lennon and Paul McCartney about their songwriting process. As Sal suggests, these sorts of conversations bring subjects to life. Imagine talking to Warhol about art, Mozart about music, or, if you’re visiting London you can chat with Sir Christopher Wren about the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire of 1666.

While we all know that Large Language Models can hallucinate occasionally, it’s becoming increasingly easy to fine-tune them and establish guardrails that curb their unwanted creative excursions.

I’ve been experimenting with Socratic tutorials through Such tutorials are arguably the most successful pedagogic device for developing the critical thinking skills necessary for the AI era. Indeed, tutorials are the bedrock of education at Oxford and Cambridge. And Sal’s book has inspired me to aim for more profound dialogues. I am creating an experimental mini-course, "How to Ask Good Questions,” featuring short AI-generated videos and Socratic tutorials.

If you’re an educator, stop what you’re doing and watch this discussion Sal had at the RSA in London ( Then, read his book before designing or running your next educational adventure.

Incidentally, you can converse with historical figures using a text-based bot or voice-based on your mobile device. This autumn, OpenAI’s voice capability will become much more natural, even replicating Napoleon’s accent. And if you’re learning French, why not talk to him in French?

AI is transforming how we learn and interact with various topics. Embrace it, and let your curiosity lead you to new and enlightening conversations.



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