ChatGPT Helps Me Write a New Narrative for Society

Andrew Winston
6 min readFeb 23, 2024

[A fun exercise in storytelling and uncovering the core narrative we live in. Published first on LinkedIn. Some good discussion about it here.]

For 20 years, I’ve worked to change how companies see their role in society, and help leaders embrace the vast potential in solving environmental and social challenges. Much of my work is writing, speaking, and other forms of storytelling.

The path to sustainable business is not easy or straight. Many things stand in the way of change, but one particular hurdle is fundamental, particularly in the western world: the idea that a company has one goal — to maximize short-term shareholder returns (with the corollary assumption that sustainability is a drag on earnings, which is often wrong, and is always un-nuanced).

But this idea about the purpose of business is just a story. It’s part of a larger tale, the legend of “neoliberal” economics, which Wikipedia will tell you boils down to “free-market capitalism.” It’s obviously more complicated than that, but that’s the core.

Every story is built around assumptions about the world. I thought it would be fun to lay out some simple theorems, making up an internally consistent system, and let our AI friend (foe?) ChatGPT take a shot at making this story more explicit.

ChatGPT prompt 1

Weave these bullet points into a general story about the world.

  • the purpose of society is to maximize success and wealth
  • the purpose of government is to maximize freedom and $, measured mainly by GDP
  • the purpose of an economy is to increase GDP or the stock market and maximize growth
  • the purpose of a company is to maximize profit in the short-term, for shareholders
  • the measure of success for an individual is how much money you have, how many toys, or sometimes how much fame or “likes” you get
  • everything else, including the natural world, and people who have no power, is meant to help maximize the rest

Here’s the story it told:

“Once upon a time in a world consumed by the relentless pursuit of success and wealth, society found itself entangled in the intricate threads of a narrative woven with aspirations of prosperity. The overarching purpose of this society was driven by the singular goal of maximizing success and accumulating wealth at any cost.

The governing bodies, representing the collective will of the people, were entrusted with the task of fostering an environment conducive to the relentless pursuit of success and prosperity. Their mission, clearly defined, was to maximize both dollars and freedom, the former measured predominantly through the lens of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The success of a government was intricately tied to its ability to fuel economic growth and secure freedom for its citizens to amass wealth.

Amidst this societal tapestry, companies emerged as the engines of profit, with their purpose meticulously outlined — to maximize short-term gains for their shareholders. The relentless pursuit of profit echoed through the boardrooms, driving decision-makers to navigate the complex landscape of markets and competition.

The heartbeat of the economy echoed in tandem with the objectives of society, as its purpose crystallized into a singular goal — to increase GDP and elevate the stock market. The relentless drive for growth became the lifeblood of this economic engine, as every facet of the nation’s resources and potential was harnessed to ensure perpetual expansion.

Individuals, as microcosms of the overarching societal narrative, measured their personal success by the yardsticks of wealth, possessions, and, in the digital age, by the currency of fame and ‘likes.’ The pursuit of financial abundance became the cornerstone of personal achievement, and the possession of material wealth or the attainment of social media affirmation became the metrics by which one’s worth was evaluated.

However, in the fervent pursuit of success and wealth, the natural world and those without power found themselves relegated to the periphery. The delicate balance of ecosystems and the well-being of those marginalized by the societal narrative became secondary considerations in the grand tapestry of aspirations.

And so, the world continued to spin, driven by the unyielding forces of a narrative woven with the threads of success and wealth, as everything else, including the natural world and those without influence, found themselves cast in supporting roles — mere components in the grand symphony of maximizing the rest.”


ChatGPT is always fascinating (and simultaneously terrifying). It used the word “relentless” 4 times, which wasn’t in the prompts, but does capture the gist of free-market capitalism. It feels like a florid, but fairly accurate, telling of one dominant story today. Not everything about this story is bad. Success and wealth are components of well-being, and “prosperity” is a good thing. In addition, there is logic to pursuing economic growth as a path to prosperity for all (it’s the assumption that “trickle down” works where the story breaks down, but that’s for another day). But, as a counterpoint, what would it look like to flip these priorities?


ChatGPT prompt 2

Now write an alternative story that puts people and well-being at the center and purpose of our institutions.

Its answer (with my added bolding/emphasis):

“In a world where compassion and well-being formed the foundation of society, a different narrative unfolded — one that prioritized people over profit and measured success by the overall happiness and fulfillment of individuals.

Society, in this alternative tale, discovered that the true purpose of its existence was to maximize the well-being of every citizen. The pursuit of success and wealth was reframed as a means to an end, with the ultimate goal being the enrichment of people’s lives. Communities flourished as they embraced the values of empathy, connection, and the collective pursuit of a harmonious existence.

Governments, entrusted with the welfare of their citizens, redefined their purpose. Instead of fixating solely on economic indicators, the measure of success for these governing bodies was the quality of life experienced by the people. Policies were crafted with the primary aim of ensuring the health, education, and happiness of every individual, fostering an environment where freedom and prosperity coexisted with a genuine concern for the well-being of all.

Companies, recognizing their pivotal role in this narrative, reevaluated their purpose. The maximization of short-term profits for shareholders took a backseat to a broader vision of corporate responsibility. These entities understood that their success was intertwined with the well-being of the communities they served. Sustainable practices, ethical decision-making, and investments in the welfare of employees became new benchmarks of success.

The economy, once fixated on quantitative measures like GDP, underwent a transformation. The focus shifted towards fostering inclusive growth that benefited everyone. A thriving economy was now one that ensured equitable opportunities, minimized income inequality, and prioritized the welfare of all citizens over the accumulation of material wealth.

Individuals, as the heartbeat of this compassionate society, discovered that the measure of their success was not confined to financial metrics. Personal fulfillment, mental well-being, and the strength of social connections became the true markers of a prosperous life. The pursuit of happiness, both individually and collectively, became the guiding principle that shaped personal and communal goals.

In this alternative narrative, the natural world and those without power ceased to be mere bystanders. The interconnectedness of all life was recognized, and environmental stewardship became a shared responsibility. Empathy and solidarity extended to the marginalized, ensuring that the well-being of every individual, regardless of their socio-economic standing, was at the forefront of societal consciousness.

As the story unfolded, this world discovered that the true essence of prosperity lay not in the relentless pursuit of wealth but in the cultivation of a society where the well-being of people and the planet were paramount. And so, the world thrived, not by maximizing the rest, but by uplifting and prioritizing the flourishing of every individual.”


This is a fun exercise of simplification. Of course, the stories we live are much more complicated and there’s a lot to unpack. But given a choice, in which of these two stories would you want to live?

I know my answer. I will be exploring these stories more going forward, and hope to help move us toward the latter one.


PS…fyi, I also asked our AI “friend” for 1-sentence versions of the same stories.

In a relentless pursuit of success and wealth, society’s purpose became a singular focus on maximizing prosperity, with governments measuring success through GDP, companies prioritizing short-term profit, and the economy fixated on perpetual growth, leaving the natural world and the powerless relegated to the sidelines.


Rooted in compassion, society redefined its purpose to prioritize people over profit, with governments emphasizing citizens’ well-being, companies adopting ethical practices, the economy aiming for inclusive growth, and individuals realizing that success transcended financial metrics, fostering a world where the interconnectedness of all life was valued and uplifted.

(Fyi, I’m recently on BluSky — i’ve paused Twitter/X for awhile — and my website is here)



Andrew Winston

Adviser, author, speaker on how businesses can (profitably) solve the world's mega-challenges. Author: The Big Pivot & Green to Gold