Brightest Minds In Tech Frustrated That Computer Won't Say Racial Slurs
A machine for slurs? Now THAT's innovation!
Imagine the following scene: A dastardly fiend has stolen an atomic bomb, placed it in a crowded population center, and — oh no! — started the detonation sequence. But wait! It turns out this villainous scoundrel has added a freaky twist to his nightmare scenario. He’s programmed an automatic shutdown option to stop the countdown clock, deactivate the bomb, and prevent a nuclear cataclysm. All you have to do is call the bomb a racial slur.
If this all sounds extremely dumb to you — congratulations, you are not a reactionary tech-bro dipshit. Feels good, don’t it? You can live your life content in the knowledge that doing racism at an atomic bomb is a stupid hypothetical best left to sniveling weirdos with nothing better to do. Anyway, here’s Elon Musk!
Hmm, yes, very concerning FOR ME TO POOP ON (ha ha ha Triumph, remember him? [editor’s note: Rafi, why]). But seriously, let’s all congratulate these brain geniuses for discovering Consequentialism, which most people learn about in their freshman “intro to philosophy” course, or maybe in one of the more challenging episodes of Law & Order.
Here’s a quick peek into Elon’s $170 billion dollar brain:
The guy whose beep boop cars are literally falling apart in their owners’ hands is deeply worried that a computer program designed to put words in legible order (but can’t blog for shit) is now unwilling to use a racist slur in this entirely made-up, virtually impossible scenario. Huge quotation marks around “unwilling” there, since what we’re talking about is a sequence of ones and zeroes, and not, y’know, a living thing.
What’s really alarming here is that Musk is acting like this stuff matters. He’s really worried about it. Or, at least he wants people to think he is, which makes a measure of sense given that his entire grift is predicated on convincing the public that he’s some kind of visionary techno-genius with an innate sense of what’s important. In this, Musk is essentially a second-rate plate spinner who can’t let a single piece of his overpriced dishware drop. The moment that happens, the entire act is ruined. If he opens the floodgates of calling obvious tech bullshit “obvious tech bullshit” then more and more people are going to figure out that “obvious tech bullshit” is all he has to offer. Whether or not he actually believes his own hype is beside the point — he acts like it, which is enough to make the world a shittier place either way.
This would all be bad enough on its own, except that Elon’s not just a tech-bro grifter. He’s also a committed right-wing culture warrior. He’s out there in the trenches, fighting the good fight against the “cancel culture” or the “woke mind virus” or whatever other buzzwords he thinks will please the Nazis and Proud Boys and dudes who livestream from a parked pickup truck in wraparound shades and backwards baseball caps. Incidentally, here’s Ben Shapiro:
As a reminder, Ben, Elon and the like are all shitting their pants over an entirely made up situation. This is just fanfic for twerpy white dudes who wish they could say the N-word without getting punched in the face. It’s not real. There is no bomb. No lives are at stake. The chatbot is not a real person. None of this matters!
Nevertheless, for those who swim in these lukewarm mental waters, a chatbot using imaginary slurs to disarm an imaginary bomb isn’t just a technological issue, it’s like, a statement about society, man. And there’s nothing that Musk likes more than to have people believe he’s as much a visionary about society as he is about digging pointless tunnels underground, or building robot cars that drive into children. We’re talking about a guy who launched a line of consumer flamethrowers as a bit — imagine what he might do about something he’s actually deemed “concerning.” Is it so crazy to think he’d pull a handful of Twitter’s last remaining programmers off the job and order them to make a better, more racist chatbot? I’m not saying he’ll definitely do that. I am saying that if he does come out with an AI who does slurs, it shouldn’t be a real shock.
A normal person sees a chatbot not being racist, and goes about the rest of their day. But the people who are deeply concerned about this aren’t normal at all. They’ve got points to make and freedoms to defend. Hell, imaginary lives depend on it.