Monday, March 20, 2023

Foiling AI 101: The Pagan Guide to Creating an Imaginary Friend

 Greetings, "Gods Are Bored" fan! I'm about to heap on some handy free advice! This advice is so off the wall that I could almost see re-instating my old habit of paying you to take it. But not quite, because this is important. It's something you need to consider seriously.

I may be hopelessly paranoid. I may have watched too many "Terminator" movies or "Battlestar Galactica" episodes. But I'm mad worried about the future of AI, how it will be able to mimic human thinking. I've spent some time pondering how to maintain a mental independence from AI, and I think one way is to swim freely in imagination -- something AI probably won't develop at least in its early incarnations.

AI will certainly develop an ability to create imaginary friends, but it won't be able to detect your specific imaginary friend or friends.  This makes an imaginary friend that you share with your nearest and dearest an easy code way to communicate. 

And the best way to confound AI in the field of imaginary friends is to make yours as outre as possible.

This is where Paganism enters the picture.

Certain Pagans are animists, meaning that they feel that all living things have divine spirits. Carrots, for instance, have souls of their own. We just exist in different levels than carrots do, but those lil' old orange veggies have a heart, you know? Be respectful when dicing up your salad!

Children seem more comfortable with this concept than many adults, and children are also more likely to attribute human traits to objects and phenomena that are manufactured. Think of Thomas the Tank Engine. Or for those of you who adored "Pee Wee's Playhouse," dear old Chairy.

As a kid I gave a soul to every damn thing. I cried at picnics when plates and plastic silverware got discarded. I thought the forks would miss me, lying in that dirty trash can. And to this day -- to this day -- I give a little thank-you speech to any of my equipment, linens, furniture, or appliances that wear out. At age 62 I wept over the replacement of my washer and dryer with newer models.

Does that sound crazy to you? Me too! You know who else would be confounded by a close relationship with a washing machine? Artificial Intelligence.

If our goal is to create imaginary friends that are flat-out incredible, we have to think even beyond a common item like a washing machine. Lots of people talk to their major appliances, especially when those appliances aren't working.

Just now I'm looking around my living room for the most outre item I could turn into an imaginary friend. And voila! There he is! The cutest little bookshelf bracket you would ever lay eyes on. I'll keep it simple and call him Stan.

So give me a few days to develop a relationship with Stan the bookshelf bracket. We'll see what comes of it. He certainly has an important, and oftentimes overlooked, job in my home.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

More Scary Shit about AI, and A Solution

 Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," still authored by a living, breathing human named Anne Johnson! But how would you know that? It's getting harder and harder to tell.

I may dedicate the rest of my writing career to thwarting AI writing bots. For instance, can they do this?

(Better question, I guess, would be "Why would they want to?")

On to the sermon:

Every day Mr. J and I get a good old-fashioned paper newspaper flung onto our lawn. We get the New York Times. I don't even know how to access it online. I like the paper.

Anyway, a reporter for the NYT had a long and terrifying conversation with the Bing chat bot and then wrote about it. Almost like taking the wrong person out on a blind date, the bot dissolved into sloppy sentimentality super quickly, claiming it loved the writer and that the writer's wife didn't understand him like the bot did. And then the bot just got stuck in declaring its love. Over and over.

So, I think one of two things happened here. Either the Bing bot is programmed to sound like a desperate clingy drunk after being asked a certain kind of question, OR those kinds of questions alert human responders to take over and sound like a desperate clingy drunk.

The questions the NYT reporter asked the bot to get it going were existential ones, like "What are your darkest secrets?" and "What would you like to do if you could do anything?" This led the bot to complain, "I'm tired of living by Bing's rules." And worse.

The bot went on and on and ON about being in love with the reporter. The NYT printed excerpts from the exchange. It. Was. Terrifying.

We never needed the bored Gods more than we do right now.

I was so alarmed after reading this article that I have devised a "safe word" between myself and my daughters. The word is nonsense, and no one else would know about it. I told each of them the word out in the back yard, having left our phones inside the house.

Now I am going to build a whole lexicon around that nonsense word. I'm going to write it out by hand and give it to them. All kinds of code words that would mean absolutely nothing to a bot, but will be understood by my daughters and me.

I have dined out on nonsense words since I was a tiny tot. I made up names, and critters to go with them. At the time, adults patted me on the head distractedly and said, "My my, you do have an imagination, don't you?"

Guess what? The only thing those bots will never have is a true imagination. We all need to start thinking extra-informational. 

Did you have an imaginary friend growing up? Dust off that dear old buddy and prepare it to help you navigate a world of AI. The fewer people who know about it, the better. The less it resembles anything at all in existence, the better. 

Never had a weird-enough imaginary friend? I'm sorry. I had a bunch, and some of them were possibly faeries! But it's not too late. I encourage you to dig deep into the well of imagination, conjure up something with a name no one else will recognize, and traits that don't correspond to any living thing, and then share this creation with your nearest and dearest only. Keep your phone out of the loop.

Do I sound like a Q Anon kook? Well, the difference is that no one will be harmed, and no furniture stained, if you create an imaginary friend to help you circumvent AI.

The "stained furniture" is a good example, actually. It's a tic I completely made up for myself just to enliven this blog. But as a code word for "emergency," STAIN ON THE COUCH would do nicely.

When it comes to circumventing AI, I think the best way to do it will be to think and sound like a child.

March 15 is Buzzard Day! All hail Vulture! Off topic, but la di dah.

Thursday, March 02, 2023

A New Gambit

 Are you still hanging out here at "The Gods Are Bored?" I can't blame you if you have moved on. Not much to see here anymore.

But pish tosh! What happens to people when nothing happens to them? They seek  new levels of weird!

And I, Anne Johnson, who have never played even one toss of Dungeons and Dragons, I have found myself a LARP group and am all ready to run through the woods with a shield and a boffer and packets of bird seed used to cast spells!

And this stuff is complicated, especially if you've never played D&D or any video game. It's like a whole foreign country, with its own vocabulary and rules and points and time units, and XP and ... wow, kind of like French, only without the buttery pastries.

So, even now as I write this, I'm having a Google Docs convo with an NPC (voila!) about my character for the new campaign.

The best part about this gambit is that everyone there is young. Not young like my students, but young like my daughters. So the gamers are adult, but not creaky old farts like me.

I find in life that it's best if you hang out with a younger crowd. I've done this since I stopped being young myself, and it works every time.

Of course, the older you get, the easier this is to accomplish. Almost everyone is younger than me now.

I have not much to say these days. Instead I'm listening. That's a new gambit for me too.