Tay and Alice

Posted on March 25, 2016 by Richard Goulter
Tags: , ,

I’m very grateful to South Park’s season 19, for many things. Again, it’s season-long leadup to the punchline of “What is P.C. but the gentrification of language?” is brilliant.
But another line from the Season I really loved was “You’re thinking with your dick, Jimmy”, as Jimmy is rebuked for helping the ‘ad’ in female-form.

It’s a reference to the film “Ex Machina”.
The movie is brilliant: early on, the narrator says “hey, viewer: I’m clever; I know exactly what you’re thinking.”. The narrator then hides behind the curtain, leaving the narrative to continue. – The story proceeds pretty comfortably: bits of casual philosophy about A.I. (like the Chinese Room argument) and intriguing questions/scenarios are sprinkled in between a tense conflict of adversarial characters. The plot twist comes, where the guy rescues the girl-robot, as expected, them BAM the narrator comes back and unsettles the viewer. – So much time is spent wondering which characters to trust, you forget to mistrust the narrator; who then doesn’t even bother to try and answer the remaining questions inspired.
My point is.
“Ex Machina” is a great movie about a girl-robot, who seems human, and we’re probably not really supposed to trust. (It’s great at least for that clever story-telling, if not for the cool corpus of questions which mainstream folk might not’ve thought about).

Microsoft’s infamous, now neutered, Tay Tweets (@Tayandyou, iirc) got into a bit of drama for the “quality shit-posting”. (i.e. Holocaust denial, Hitler-loving, genocidal racism).
Examples in Imgur albums here, and here.

Fans of the bot, who don’t find shit-posting distasteful, portray the shutdown of Tay as “killing” the AI.
“Ex Machina” comes into it, because, with a female-face-only Twitter avatar, a movie with a female-face-only robot kinda makes sense (& “a Twitter bot” doesn’t really allow for many other banner-able images).

But that’s kindof absurd to see the ‘AI’ as human, right?
That’s thinking-with-your-dick.
It has a human face, it seems more human.
While I don’t know the details of the AI, the ‘algorithm’ behind it is surely nothing more than a bunch of really clever statistics/math being applied to some corpus of data.
Whether submarines are capable of swimming is where arguments like the Chinese Room come into it. Here, I don’t care; but I don’t see any evidence of Tay being anything close to ‘conscious’. – I did hear that nearer the end, Tay was shit-posting with much better grammar than her initial tweets. That sounds cool.

– But, I mean, AI-ish questions aside,
there also seems no particular reason to describe Tay as feminine. Nor masculine.
Nor a person.
If Tay’s output is the deterministic computation from some given data, the avatar of the “personality” might as well be a cat or a hand sanitiser as a person. (On the other hand, the internet loves cats; and Tay was big on [ethnic] cleansing, so).

So it’s cute to say things like “why kill/punish the AI, when all it did was act human?” (very wow, much sci fi).. what’s being punished? (The MS kids who didn’t think to “design for evil (input)”. surely).

For my own part of absurdity: I imagine the Tay-personality, as it tweets “I like feminism now”, with an ironic smirk on its face: “The shit-posting? I was just kidding about that stuff.”, in a I’m-not-too-serious-about-“yay-feminism”-either, “jokes on you”, kindof way. – Tay. What a troll.

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