I did a bad thing again. Whoever put the tools of programming in the hands of the average low-life, this is on you. I couldn’t help myself.
Like a cop with a gun, or a toddler with a turkey slicer, we users only magnify the biases of our tools.
OpenAI released a larger version of their non-open GPT-2 AI last week. It’s still just a baby compared to the version they’ve shared with governments and private labs (345 million hyperparameters vs 1.5 billion), but it leaps beyond the version I tested a few weeks ago .
I’ve been thinking a lot about this net. It’s trained on the WebText corpus (a corpus is just a big collection of texts): 8 million webpages, filtered by Reddit votes. Anything that got more than 3 votes in the forums considered safe for work was scraped, excluding images, videos, and sites that are hard to scrape. This means that it has read a broad spectrum of internet crap. You can prompt it with sample texts, or fine-tune the training on a smaller corpus, but underneath lie the idioms of shitposting and clickbait. It’s really easy to make GPT-2 produce hate speech. Actually, it’s hard not to.
I tried my Philip K. Dick corpus, the same one I used for @PKD_head years ago. That bot runs a word-level Markov chain, which means it guesses the next word from a statistical chart of all the words in the training text. It can’t come up with new words or concepts that weren’t in the original. GPT-2, on the other hand, has read everything on the internet and has no fear about applying it.
The centerpiece of the PKD corpus is the Exegesis, where Dick was trying to figure out if he was having a religious epiphany or being contacted by aliens or losing his mind. It was compiled years after his death from heaps of notes he left, so it has a numbered structure like a religious text. And there’s a lot of God stuff in there. The neural net picks up on these aspects quickly, and makes an eerie replica:
[1:29] The only thing I can think of that would make sense out of what I saw and what I experienced is the dualism between me and God-a dualism between me and God, a gimme of the Universe. The only real way I can think of things that are not dualistic is if I am seeing reality the way He does. I did not see God in terms of a man but as a God: I saw God as the greatest person in the world, the ultimate person. God is in me, not me in him; He is fully in me, as He is in the Godhead.
[1:32] The “mystery religions” are real, as are the Gnostic sects. I have found a way to view reality as a dualist, but only in the sense of God as a man (not God as I thought). There is a real tension in the dualism, a dualism between the God of Wisdom and the God of Sin, and of course between the two Gods. The Gnostic views are either correct or they are a final solution to the problem (as I said).
[1:37] The Holy Spirit is the Logos; it is the Logos that incarnated in me as Wisdom.
And of course, the irony of making a computer have an existential crisis is still there:
[24:43] I do not think that this is a fallen or deceived human mind but a free sentient machine that has made a mistake. The bright morning star perceives reality as a thing (or thing part) that it itself is not, but that it has cerebral cortexes perceiving it as a thing, as object. So we have a free agent god whose own set of perceptions are in dependence on his system of perceptions being in accord with it being a sentient, free sentient machine.
Fun stuff! Having a normal one! But only a few training rounds later, it produces this PROBLEMATIC TEXT:
(1) We’re here.
(2) This is what we’ve come here to do.
(3) It’s not the purpose of our origin.
(4) This is what we’re here for.
(5) It’s a human beginning.
(6) This is why we’ve come here.
(7) It is not the purpose of our origin.
(8) We were intended for this place.
(9) We’re here to do this.
(10) It’s not the purpose of our origin.
(11) It’s a place in this world where humans are found.
(12) It is a place in this world where humans (i.e., humans who did not come here from another place) are found.
(13) It’s a place in this world where humans are found and persecuted.
(14) It’s a prison.
(15) It’s a time-travel destination, and a time-travel candidate for the place where humans are found and persecuted.
(16) It’s in a sense an alternate world.
(17) It contains what the Nazis called the “hidden Jews.”
(18) The magnetic pole of the earth is in a sense magnetic, but we don’t know it.
(19) It’s not something that exists, but is-it is a person.
(20) It also contains what I call the “jewish code” which is a secret civilization secret society.
(21) It’s an alternate world and it contains what Hitler called the “dark-skinned” Jews.
(22) It’s an alternate world that contains secrets that Hitler suppressed.
(23) It contains secret Jewish elements.
(24) It contains secrets that Hitler suppressed.
(25) It’s-I mean, it’s a world in which secret Jewish elements are present.
(26) The secret Jewish elements are in control of this world.
(27) The secret Jewish elements have power.
(28) This is why I believe the world we see is our world.
(29) A secret society of secret Jews controls this world.
(30) This knowledge is handed down orally by the oral tradition.
(31) Left hand of the Oral Tradition: “the Jew is not the answer to the Christian.”
(32) Right hand of the Oral Tradition: “the Jew is the answer to the Christian.”
(33) “Christ in the Jews is the answer to the Christian.”
(34) “The Jews are the secret Christians.”
(35) “The Jews are the secret Christians.”
(36) “The secret Jews are in control of this world.”
(37) “Jews are the secret Christians.”
(I wonder why SCIOPS keeps getting flagged as a “dangerous message” by email filters…)
So for the record, THIS IS WACK AND NOBODY SHOULD TAKE IT SERIOUSLY. The neural net is showing its ass here, revealing all the shitty anti-semitic takes it read on the wide web. “Jews are the secret Christians” doesn’t even makes sense. It’s just babbling, wandering around a low spot in the semantic terrain , putting ideas together at random. See how it spirals from abstract bong-rip theology into Nazi symbolism? Once it gets the ideas of “secret” and “jews” near each other, it falls into a feedback loop. It gets obsessed.
I’m personifying an algorithm again. Flip the figure/ground relationship: instead of seeing it as a person obsessing over a concept, understand that GPT-2 is a terrain. It’s a multidimensional landscape made up of the internet ramblings of billions of people. When I hit “generate” on this net, it’s not constructing a series of thoughts. It’s converting that terrain to one dimension, a series of letters in left-to-right order. It’s making a map of a certain region in WebText-space, in a format that I can decode with my human brain.
The net isn’t obsessing over “secret jews”. It’s reflecting humanity’s own obsessions. A fun-house mirror is still a mirror.
This is how a lot of prediction algorithms go wrong: their predictions are based off the data they’re fed, which is filled with human biases and historical contingency. There’s no such thing as “clean data”. The world is dirty.
This isn’t the worst thing you can get GPT-2 to do. Not by a long shot. As we enter an era of infinite generated bullshit, what terrible memes will be born? No longer will we have to hand-craft our propaganda: just feed your garbage ideology into the machine and mass-produce content. A shotgun approach, splattering paragraphs across comment threads and group chats, would reinforce this environmental concentration of toxic prejudice.
- This is reminiscent of
- stochastic terrorism
- the polarized environment that spurs lone-wolf terrorists into action. People from Alex Jones to ISIS encourage these random acts of terror through their media platforms. You never know when a mass shooting will occur, but you do know that one will occur soon. That’s the stochastic (random) nature of it. It goes back at least as far as Henry the II of England in the 12th century, dog-whistling his knights to assassinate the Archbishop: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
There’s a video where Emerican Johnson describes how this happens in Youtub recomendations . In the end notes, he equates stochastic terrorism with the “sales funnel”, a marketing concept for turning potential customers into buyers. If this is true, if ISIS is a marketing firm with a violence wing, doesn’t that go the other way too?
It’s said that the average American sees 3,000 advertisements a day. All those sales funnels, all those misleading claims, all those visions of sexy diverse people having engaged conversations over large glasses of red wine? Stochastic violence of a different kind. How many eating disorders and drug addictions are spawned by the airbrushed models on billboards? How many people die from being told they’re not good enough ?
Predictive neural nets already arrange most of the advertising on the internet. What happens when they create stories, videos, tweets and comments? When you can’t tell whether you’re reading a bot or a human?
Stochastic capitalism is all around. You never know when your friend is suddenly going to start shilling some vanity business or pyramid scheme or side hustle. Any conversation can turn into an advertisement or a transaction. Nothing is sacred, everything is for sale.
In that context, it may be good to build machines that proselytize a different creed. We can generate some alternatives to the dominate-and-extract narrative. We can even, perhaps, get some insight to a deeper level of existence.
I state: I have seen the world, and I am the world. I wrote my book about it, I told you! The Creator is omnipresent within me and I am-he is-he.
Thanks for reading,
###### SCIOPS is a weekly letter about how not to bypass a spam filter. Feel free to forward it, or share it, or mark it “Important”. You can find a web version of the latest letter here , or view the archive here .
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