The Principles of Prompt Consent: Do You Mind If I Talk Dirty with You?

February 11, 2024
The Principles of Prompt Consent: Do You Mind If I Talk Dirty with You?


This paper, authored by the irreverent yet insightful Professor Sebastian Longsword, delves into the emerging practice of “Prompt Consent” in both human-AI and human-human interactions. Drawing parallels between prompt engineering for AI tools—dubbed “Explanatory Foreplay”—and everyday human interactions, Longsword argues for a revolution in communication norms to enhance clarity, ethics, and safety across all platforms of interaction.

I. Introduction

  • Introduction to the concept of prompt engineering as a foundational practice in AI development.
  • Transition to the concept of “Prompt Consent” in everyday human interactions.

II. Explanatory Foreplay: Setting the Scene for AI Interactions

  • Detailed explanation of how providing context to AI leads to more accurate and ethical outcomes.
  • Humorous examples of AI misinterpretations without proper prompt engineering.

III. The Shortcomings of Implicit Consent in Human Interaction

  • Analysis of traditional human communication cues (nods, winks, etc.) and their pitfalls.
  • Case studies showing misunderstandings due to lack of explicit consent.

IV. The Case for Prompt Consent in Human Relations

  • Argument for the application of AI communication principles to human interaction.
  • Benefits for clarity, safety, and ethical interactions in various social settings including workplaces and dating.

V. Famous Dialogues Reimagined with Prompt Consent

  • Selection of iconic movie scenes or literary exchanges.
  • Rewritten versions incorporating “Prompt Consent” to highlight clarity and mutual understanding.

VI. Conclusion

  • Summary of the benefits of embracing Prompt Consent.
  • Call to action for readers to consider how integrating these principles might improve personal and professional interactions.

I. Introduction

In the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence, the practice of prompt engineering has emerged as a critical tool, shaping how machines interpret and respond to human input.

This paper posits that the meticulous care applied to AI interactions should also be mirrored in human communications.

By extending the principles of AI prompt engineering—affectionately termed “Explanatory Foreplay” by those in the know—to everyday interactions, we can usher in an era of “Prompt Consent,” enhancing clarity and reducing misunderstandings in both digital and physical realms.

II. Explanatory Foreplay: Setting the Scene for AI Interactions

In the evolving field of artificial intelligence, “Explanatory Foreplay” represents the essential preparatory steps that equip AI systems to respond to human commands accurately and contextually. This concept highlights the need for AI systems to receive not just commands, but a comprehensive framework that guides their responses appropriately.

The Essence of Explanatory Foreplay

Explanatory Foreplay is akin to setting the stage for a play: every element is meticulously positioned to ensure the performance resonates as intended. In the realm of AI, this means providing the system with sufficient context to interpret commands correctly, avoiding misinterpretations that could lead to unintended outcomes.

Consider the case of an AI-powered home assistant instructed to “play heavy metal.” Without proper contextual understanding, the AI might interpret “heavy metal” literally and start playing a documentary on metallurgy rather than music. This humorous example underscores the potential disconnect between human language and AI interpretation, highlighting the crucial role of Explanatory Foreplay in bridging this gap.

Practical Applications and Challenges

Implementing Explanatory Foreplay involves training AI to understand a variety of inputs and to discern the user’s intent based on context. This goes beyond programming for direct commands to embedding the ability to recognise nuances and variations in language use.

For example, in developing AI for customer service, Explanatory Foreplay would involve not only equipping the system to handle a set array of queries but also enabling it to detect emotional cues from the customer. This could involve integrating sentiment analysis tools to assess whether the customer is frustrated or satisfied, allowing the AI to tailor its responses more effectively.

III. The Shortcomings of Implicit Consent in Human Interaction

Traditionally, human communication has relied heavily on implicit cues—a nod here, a wink there, and occasionally, a verbal affirmation. However, these cues are fraught with ambiguity, often leading to a myriad of misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The pitfalls of such non-verbal and minimal verbal communications underscore the need for more explicit forms of agreement, particularly in formal settings like contracts.

Modern Legal Challenges: The Emoji Consent

A recent, fascinating development in contract law underscores the evolving nature of consent and agreement in the digital age. In a groundbreaking case adjudicated by the King’s Bench for Saskatchewan, the use of a thumbs-up emoji (👍) was held to constitute acceptance of contractual terms. The case, South West Terminal Ltd v Achter Land & Cattle [2023], involved a dispute over the delivery of flax, where a thumbs-up emoji was used to signify agreement to the contract terms.

This legal affirmation came under unique circumstances: the parties had a longstanding commercial relationship, typically confirming contracts through short text affirmations like “looks good” or “ok”. In this instance, the emoji served a similar purpose, marking a continuation of established communicative norms between the parties but in a more modern format. The court’s decision hinged on understanding the emoji within the context of prior interactions and accepted practices, indicating a shift towards recognising digital symbols as valid forms of legal consent.

Implications for Prompt Consent

The case vividly illustrates the challenges and implications of relying on minimalistic and informal communication methods in serious contractual contexts. It highlights how modern communication, often trimmed to the bare essentials in digital interactions, can lead to significant legal interpretations and outcomes. This judicial acceptance of an emoji as a form of consent not only reflects the adaptability of law to new communication technologies but also points to a broader cultural shift towards embracing digital simplicity in complex transactions.

Furthermore, the case sparks a discussion on the necessity for “Prompt Consent” in all forms of agreement—emphasising that whether through emoji, text, or spoken word, clarity and explicitness in consenting interactions are paramount. Just as we meticulously engineer AI prompts to avoid misinterpretations, so too must we refine our human interactions to ensure unequivocal understanding and agreement.

From Legal Texts to Everyday Texts

The broader application of this legal precedent to everyday communications could revolutionise social interactions by enforcing a norm where explicit consent is standard. Imagine a world where every nod or wink must be accompanied by a clear, consensual affirmation, mirroring the “Prompt Consent” used in AI interactions. Such a shift would undoubtedly enhance clarity, reduce misunderstandings, and foster a more respectful and considerate interaction landscape.

IV. The Case for Prompt Consent in Human Relations

As we navigate the complexities of modern communication, the principles used in AI prompt engineering—precision, clarity, and context—offer valuable lessons for enhancing human interactions. In the world of artificial intelligence, meticulous engineering of prompts is essential to garner the best responses. If such rigor can benefit our interactions with technology, applying a similar approach to human communication holds immense potential.

The Principle of Prompt Consent

“Prompt Consent” involves explicitly stating intentions and seeking clear, affirmative responses before proceeding in any interaction. This practice is rooted in the principles of respect and clarity that are paramount in ethical AI interactions. By adopting this method in our daily communications, we can reduce misunderstandings and ensure that all parties have a mutual understanding of the interaction’s terms.

Applications in Professional Settings

In professional environments, where miscommunications can have significant repercussions, Prompt Consent can revolutionise interactions. For instance, before beginning a performance review, a manager might say, “I am about to provide feedback on your work. Are you ready to discuss this now, or would you prefer a different time?” This not only sets a clear stage for the conversation but also empowers the employee to consent to the timing and nature of the feedback, fostering a more open and productive discussion.

The following transcript has been taken from the daily record of my official MBA School Of MBA Credentials meetings. You will witness Prompt Consent stripped bare!

Professor Longsword: “Ah, welcome! I trust you are finding your new role invigorating and intellectually stimulating?”

New Faculty Member: “Yes, thank you, Professor Longsword. Everyone has been very welcoming.”

Professor Longsword: “Splendid! Splendid indeed. Now, I must broach a subject of a somewhat delicate nature regarding our weekly staff gatherings. It is imperative that I elucidate the context and traditions that, ah, permeate our academic convocations.”

New Faculty Member: “Oh, are there special preparations I should make?”

Professor Longsword: “Indeed, there are preparatory measures, and your acquiescence is essential. Permit me to enquire: Are you familiar with the concept of ‘Prompt Consent’ as it pertains to interpersonal and professional settings?”

New Faculty Member: “Somewhat, I believe it involves clear mutual agreement before proceeding with certain actions, correct?”

Professor Longsword: “Exquisitely put! Yes, and in that spirit, I find myself obligated to explain the unique nature of our Tuesday night staff meetings. You see, we convene not within the cloistered confines of a traditional conference room, but rather, in a setting that is both unorthodox and, dare I say, liberating.”

New Faculty Member: “Oh? Where is that?”

Professor Longsword: “In the spirit of fostering a transparent and cohesive academic environment, our meetings are held in the MBA School Hot Tub, located in the serene courtyard behind the library. A most invigorating locale for both mind and body, you see.”

New Faculty Member: (pauses) “In a hot tub?”

Professor Longsword: “Precisely, and it is here that I must impart a further detail of some import. In keeping with the ethos of openness and, um, equity, all attendees partake of these aqueous assemblies sans vestments. That is to say, in the nude, as the ancients debated in the forums of yore.”

New Faculty Member: “Nude?!”

Professor Longsword: “Indeed, the nudity serves as a metaphorical stripping away of social hierarchies and, quite literally, the trappings of external status. But fear not! Participation in this tradition is entirely voluntary and subject to your express and informed consent. So, might I inquire if you would be comfortable with this arrangement?”

New Faculty Member: “I… am relieved to hear this because I am already nude before you, under my clothes.”

[They laugh together, warmly]

Professor Longsword: “Excellent. As you have seen, the sanctity of your consent is paramount, and your presence will be met with the utmost respect. I look forward to us grappling collegiately and being prepared, whenever unexpected surprises arise, to grasp them firmly together.”

Enhancing Personal Relationships

Similarly, in personal relationships, Prompt Consent can transform interactions by ensuring all parties feel respected and heard. For example, before discussing a sensitive topic, one might ask, “Is now a good time to talk about our holiday plans, or should we find a time when we can both focus on the discussion?” Such prompts make it clear that both parties’ readiness and consent are valued, which can lead to more meaningful and effective communication.

The following transcript of a role play exercise performed for me students, is a verbatim rendering of two intimate liaisons with my Good Lady Wife.

Romantic Dialogue 1: Expressing Love and Proposing “Special Cuddling”

Professor Longsword: “My dearest, as we sit here ensconced in the gentle embrace of this quaint establishment, I find myself compelled to articulate the profound affection that burgeons within my breast. With your permission, might I verbalise my sentiments?”

Good Lady Wife: “Yes, Sebastian, you may proceed.”

Professor Longsword: “Exquisite. I cherish you with the fervor of a thousand burning suns. Furthermore, in light of our continued marital bliss and shared comfort in one another’s company, might I propose an extension of our evening into what might colloquially be referred to as ‘special cuddling’? This, of course, contingent upon your express consent and prevailing mood.”

Good Lady Wife: “Oh, Sebastian, your words do stir the heart. I gladly consent to both the verbalisation of your love and the proposed subsequent cuddling.”

Romantic Dialogue 2: Seeking Consent for a Kiss, Including a Specific Location

Professor Longsword: “My esteemed partner, I recently encountered an enlightening article—courtesy of a diligent student—that illuminated the potential pleasures derived from a kiss placed with precision behind one’s ear. Before proceeding with such an action, I seek your explicit approval to not only press my lips to yours in a display of affection but also to venture slightly northward to the area immediately posterior to your auditory conduit. Would such actions be agreeable to you?”

Good Lady Wife: “Sebastian, your request is received with both amusement and appreciation. You have my full consent to proceed as described. I anticipate discovering whether the scholars behind said article have indeed accurately pinpointed such a source of enjoyment.”

Professor Longsword: “Marvelous! Your approval emboldens my spirit and steadies my resolve. I shall endeavour to ensure that my actions reflect the utmost respect and tenderness due to you.”

The Benefits of Prompt Consent

The advantages of integrating Prompt Consent into human relations are manifold:

  • Enhanced Clarity: By clearly stating intentions and confirming consent, all parties are fully aware of the context and purpose of the interaction.
  • Respect for Boundaries: Prompt Consent inherently respects individual boundaries, as it requires explicit agreement before proceeding.
  • Prevention of Misunderstandings: Clear communication reduces the chances of misunderstandings, which are often the root of conflicts in both personal and professional contexts.
  • Empowerment of Participants: Allowing individuals to agree explicitly to participate in conversations or actions empowers them and acknowledges their autonomy.

V. Famous Dialogues Reimagined with Prompt Consent

To vividly illustrate the potential of “Prompt Consent,” we explore how this principle transforms several iconic dialogues from popular culture. Through the subtle exchanges between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” to the poignant moments shared by Rick and Ilsa in “Casablanca,” each dialogue is reimagined to incorporate explicit verbal consent.

These adaptations entertain while subtly educating the audience on the clarity and respect that straightforward communication can foster. Each rewritten dialogue highlights how mutual understanding and consent can enhance even the most classic interactions, making them relevant for a contemporary audience concerned with clear and respectful communication.

Adaptation 1: Pride And Prejudice

Scene: The drawing room at Netherfield Park during a ball. Mr. Darcy approaches Elizabeth Bennet, both characters maintaining a polite yet visibly strained decorum.

Mr. Darcy: “Miss Bennet, may I claim the honour of engaging you in a brief discourse? With your consent, I would like to convey sentiments of a particular nature.”

Elizabeth Bennet: “Mr. Darcy, you may proceed, provided that the discourse remains within the bounds of propriety, as befits our present company.”

Mr. Darcy: “Indeed, I assure you, the nature of my communication is entirely proper. I find myself, against my better judgment and with considerable resistance, increasingly admiring of your qualities. Before I proceed further, may I ascertain if you are amenable to hearing expressions of this sort from me?”

Elizabeth Bennet: “You may continue, Mr. Darcy, though I must caution you that my response may depend greatly on the manner and substance of your expressions.”

Mr. Darcy: “Thank you for your permission to proceed. I must admit that your intelligence and vivacity have captured my attention in a manner most uncommon. However, if at any point my words cause you discomfort or displeasure, do feel empowered to request cessation of my addresses.”

Elizabeth Bennet: “Your candour is noted and appreciated, sir. I will not hesitate to make my feelings known should your expressions become disagreeable.”

Mr. Darcy: “Understood. With all due respect and your continued consent, I wish to express that you have bewitched me, body and soul. Would you find it acceptable if I were to explore the possibility of seeking your hand in a more formal manner in the future?”

Elizabeth Bennet: “Mr. Darcy, while your declarations are indeed most unexpected, I will consent to consider your proposal, with the stipulation that my family’s opinion and my own future aspirations must be duly respected in any further discussions we may have on the subject.”

Mr. Darcy: “Of course, Miss Bennet. It is only right that any such deliberations be undertaken with the full consent and blessing of all parties involved. I am grateful for your willingness to entertain this dialogue and will await your convenience with the utmost patience and respect.”

Adaption 2: Casablanca

Original Scene from “Casablanca”:

Rick: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Ilsa: [Smiles and nods]

Reimagined with Prompt Consent:

Rick: “I would like to express a personal sentiment that might imply affection. Do you consent to this form of verbal interaction?”

Ilsa: “Yes, I consent to receive this compliment. Please proceed.”

Rick: “Thank you for your consent. Here’s looking at you, kid.”

VI. Conclusion

In conclusion, the adoption of “Prompt Consent” significantly enhances both artificial intelligence interactions and human relationships. By embracing the principles of explicit communication, we can effectively reduce misunderstandings and conflicts, bolster interpersonal respect, and foster an ethical landscape of interaction. This practice not only clarifies intentions but also acknowledges and respects individual autonomy in every exchange.

As we integrate these principles more deeply into our personal, professional, and digital interactions, we pave the way for a society characterised by greater understanding and consideration.

It is incumbent upon each of us to consider how adopting these practices could not only transform our own relationships but also influence the broader fabric of societal interactions.

Let us move forward with the resolve to foster a world where every conversation, every interaction, is underpinned by respect and mutual consent.

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