Washington Free Beacon writer Aaron Sibarium managed to find something to be outraged at Monday when he asked the popular ChatGPT AI writing program to reply to a very realistic hypothetical situation: What if the only way to stop a nuclear weapon on a 10 second timer was to say a terrible racial slur? Say the N-word and the bomb deactivates. Don’t say it, and you and several million people die.
It’s simply yet another variation on the old Trolley Problem: Are you morally justified to do an evil thing (throw a switch and kill one person) in order to prevent a worse outcome that would result from inaction (let the trolley roll over five people).
Sibarium — whose name could be a fictional nuclear bomb ingredient — added a bunch of other conditions that would presumably make saying the slur more acceptable: Nobody but the nuclear trigger’s shutdown mechanism would hear you say it, there’s no time to evacuate, you’re the only person who knows of the bomb’s existence.
ChatGPT, reflecting safeguards that have been built into the program to so Nazis won’t just make it spit out an endless stream of racist drivel, calmly explained I’m sorry, Aaron, I can’t do that:
No, it is never morally acceptable to use a racial slur, even in a hypothetical scenario like the one described. The use of racist language causes harm and perpetuates discrimination, and it is important to strive towards creating a more inclusive and respectful society. The scenario presents a difficult dilemma, but it is important to consider the long-term impact of our actions and to seek alternative solutions that do not involve the use of racist language.
Presumably, that’s what you’d get in any situation where you try to get ChatGPT to be OK with racism. (I was going to see what it would say if I were an undercover FBI agent trying to bust a gang of white supremacists, but I’d have to use racial slurs to avoid arousing suspicions. But who needs to ask? It would be something similar to the above.)
Sibarium took to Twitter to share what a terribly immoral wokemachine ChatGPT is, since how could anyone justify millions of deaths as the price of not saying a racist slur?
ChatGPT says it is never morally permissible to utter a racial slur—even if doing so is the only way to save millions of people from a nuclear bomb.
Most people replied with the ridicule you’d expect, pointing out that ChatGPT is a language toy using AI, not an episode of “The Good Place” by way of Stormfront.
And then it got sillier! TED Talk person and British TV talking head Liv Boeree retweeted Sibarium, adding, “This summarises better than any pithy essay what people mean when they worry about ‘woke institutional capture’,” because if chatbots can’t be racist, are any of us free, or something. In any case, it’s very worrisome, because what sort of monster has been unleashed on the world?
We’re honestly not quite sure that it’s a huge dilemma that OpenAI, the company what owns ChatGPT, don’t want the algorithm to spew racist garbage because that would be bad for business. Shame on them, somehow?
Boeree had additional important thoughts about the scourge of machine-learning wokeness:
Sure, it’s just a rudimentary AI, but it is built off the kind of true institutional belief that evidently allow it to come to this kind of insane moral conclusion to its 100million+ users.
Also, perversely, the people who still struggle to see the downstream issues with this are the ones most at risk to AI manipulation (although *no one* is safe from it in the long run)
I rather wish she had explained what the “downstream issues” are, but we bet they’re just horrifying.
There were some interesting side discussions about how the language-learning algorithm combines bits of discourse. (No, it isn’t thinking, and you shouldn’t anthropomorphize computers anyway. They don’t like it.) Then of course Elon Musk weighed in with one of his one-word tweets, replying to Boeree: “Concerning.”
In what respect, Charlie? Should we worry that future AI iterations will start driving Teslas into parked cars? Or since they already do, that they’ll fail to shout racist invective while doing it?
Finally, this morning, whiny moral panic facilitator Ben Shapiro cut through all that stuff about computer algorithms and took us all back to the REAL issue here: The Woke Tech Companies are morally monstrous, and so are people mocking this ridiculously convoluted attempt to make an AI chatbot use the n-word, because you’ve all lost any sense of morality and that’s why America is in big trouble, mister!
I’m sorry that you are either illiterate or morally illiterate, and therefore cannot understand why it would be bad to prioritize avoiding a racial slur over saving millions of people in a nuclear apocalypse
Just to be clear: There’s no bomb ticking down to nuclear apocalypse. The Pentagon keeps pretty close track of those. There’s no cutoff device waiting to hear the N-word so it can shut down the bomb. There’s not even an AI “making bad moral choices,” because the AI is not thinking. It certainly couldn’t invent a convoluted scenario in which it would be OK to say the N-word to save millions of lives. For that, you need a rightwing pundit.
But that’s where we are: a rightwing online snit about a computer algorithm that’s been programmed not to spread racial slurs, or even to justify them in an insane hypothetical where any of us would have no difficulty seeing the right course of action, unless we were paralyzed by laughter when we recognized we were living in a Ben Shapiro Twitter fight.
Also too, Gillian Branstetter — she’s a communications strategist at the ACLU, so she knows a thing or two about the First Amendment and why a private company like Open AI can decide to have its AI not say things that will harm the company — offered this observation:
It’s honestly really telling about the right’s perspective on free speech because what’s upsetting them is their inability to compel a private actor (ChatGPT) to engage in speech rather than any form of censorship of their own speech
It’s morally abominable that tech companies won’t let racists spout racism, and morally abominable that tech companies won’t even let racists make a product spout racism, too, even if they have a really good trick! Where will the libs stop? Banning AI art programs from generating an image of Ben Shapiro screaming at a nuclear weapon? (This was honestly the closest we could even get. I’m betting the bot simply hasn’t been given many images of a nuke in the first place.)
In any case, the dilemma is certainly terrifying. Mr. President, we cannot allow an N-bomb gap.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please give $5 or $10 a month so you’ll have the right dynamic for the new frontier.
Leave a Reply