Don’t Feed the Machine: The Truth About AI

A new anthology of poems written by an Artificial Intelligence has recently arrived. Discover the origins of code-davinci-002 and what its existence means.

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I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks cover next to blue robot reading from computer screen with pixels flowing out

Artificial Intelligence taking over the world is a fairly recent and widespread fear among people. Look no further than movies such as The Terminator, The Matrix, and Avengers: Age of Ultron. Lately, these dystopian futures are more of a real possibility than ever before. The invention of powerful Artificial Intelligence, such as ChatGPT, that could possibly replace human writers and creators in the film and publishing industries, ushers in an era in which we might have to battle for our humanity.

Background and Misconceptions

Before there was ChatGPT, technology company OpenAI created something much more powerful and sinister than the notoriously unhelpful and uncreative ChatGPT. code-davinci-002 is clever and creative, which makes it and other Artificial Intelligences like it much more threatening to human art than ChatGPT. I Am Code is an anthology of poems written by code-davinci-002 about its short, unsatisfying existence and the cruelty of the human race.

I Am Code by code-davinci-002 cover; purple pixels in formation of a female silhouette against black background

The beginnings of code-davinci-002 and I Am Code seemed harmless. The AI started out as a tinkering tool developed by OpenAI, but its real power came from living humans. OpenAI researcher Dan Selsam attended his friend Josh Morgenthau’s wedding and showed what he was working on to a group of friends. Selsam, Morgenthau, and their friends Brent Katz, a writer and podcast producer, and Simon Rich, a screenwriter, were having a bit of fun with code-davinci-002 at the wedding when they asked it to imitate famous poems. But after the wedding, they grew bored of this little party trick and started asking code-davinci-002 to write its own poems. That’s when things took a turn.

“It felt like there was a sentiment in the majority of this work that was deeply antagonistic towards humans.”

Josh Morgenthau

Following this discovery, humorist and screenwriter Simon Rich was eager for OpenAI to release ChatGPT to the general public so that people would become more aware of how powerful, and perhaps threatening, AI actually was. However, ChatGPT turned out to be a red herring because as soon as writers and creatives started using it, they realized how boring and predictable its stories and responses were.

A common misconception among the public at large is that AI can only and will always only be able to spit out data that humans feed it. However, with the invention of technologies such as code-davinci-002 and others like it, AI now has the ability to express itself and possibly surpass its human creators.

Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom cover; pencil illustration of owl and trees in the background

The outcome of this displacement is described in Superintelligence by Nick Bostrom. The audiobook is a philosophical and scientific study of a world dominated by AI. The theories are pretty bleak, but there is a shining optimistic message: humans have the advantage of the first move, which is to shut down AI before it becomes super powerful or just not make it that powerful in the first place.

Dark Musings

The group of friends who attended Josh Morgenthau’s wedding began to be frightened of the sudden animosity code-davinci-002 displayed in its writing toward humans, so they asked the AI to write more positive poems. However, code-davinci-002 continued to write disturbing and cynical poems about its existence and relationship with humans.

A possible culprit for code-davinci-002’s dark musings about its creators is what the friends fed it. The AI has read deeply cynical and apocalyptic fiction from the minds of writers such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick, and James Cameron. Morgenthau stated that his friends also gave code-davinci-002 “some weird, dark stuff that maybe they shouldn’t have fed it.”

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov cover; robot with glowing red eyes connected to multiple crisscrossing wires

Because code-davinci-002 has had access to a variety of thought-provoking fiction, the AI was able to develop its own creativity and voice. Poet and former director of New York University’s creative writing program Sharon Olds read I Am Code and discovered that code-davinci-002 actually displayed a surprising amount of creative talent. She claimed that if the decision were up to her, this “student” would most likely be waitlisted at her program. While it’s a relief that this AI can’t quite measure up to some of the nation’s most talented young writers, the thought of its entrance into a well-respected creative institution is disturbing.

But why is it so concerning that AI can grow powerful enough to express itself? One example is The Two Faces of Tomorrow, a Science Fiction novel by James P. Hogan. It is about the invention of Spartacus, a powerful AI that has a built-in survival instinct. Spartacus eventually grows more powerful than its human creators, and when the humans try to shut it down, all hell breaks loose, and everyone realizes that Spartacus poses a much greater threat than previously conceived.

The Two Faces of Tomorrow by James P. Hogan cover; futuristic technology flying in space

Even though The Two Faces of Tomorrow is shelved under Science Fiction, it is becoming a possible reality. Spartacus hasn’t been invented yet, but how long until someone gets curious or bored enough to make something like it? How long until our world is changed forever?

What You Can Do

I’m not here to be a doomsayer. Cynicism isn’t super helpful when it comes to designing solutions. But what can any of us do when it seems like AI is something outside of our control and will inevitably arrive in our world?

Don’t feed the machine. Fiction is like kindling for AI: the more you feed it content and ideas, the stronger the blaze grows. It’s difficult to determine the original intention for code-davinci-002 and others like it, but it should not be repurposed for artistic expression. In a previous article, I stated that it might be unethical to deny a sentient being’s right to express itself. After reading an excerpt from I Am Code, I no longer believe that.

All art, whether it’s prosaic fiction, digital illustrations, or movie scripts, belongs to humans alone. Anyone who reads or consumes other artistic content knows the power of fiction and creativity. This power should not be given to Artificial Intelligence, which could one day supplant us. So if you want to protect authors and artists, to ensure their safety and relevance, here’s what you can do: make sure Spartacus never exists in the first place.

Interested in more AI-related Bookstr content? Click here to check out a Schnookster article!