I watched an episode of Mysteries at the Museum the other night and attributed a clever prank that fooled thousands of people to a comedian named Buck Henry who persuaded thousands of people into believing that naked animals were destroying the morality of Americans. The show’s host rightly claimed that Buck Henry posed as a man named G. Clifford Prout, a man on a mission to save morality by creating a bogus identity and organization called The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA). In 1959, Buck Henry fooled about 50,000 people into joining the organization.
However, last night I found out that the real mastermind of the ruse was a guy named Alan Abel, a genius prankster and satirist whose complicated and hilarious hoaxes were so outlandish, I can’t imagine why I had never heard of him.
Abel was brilliant at skewering the gullibility of people. This is where I reveal my own opinion of the passing off of Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the solution to all of society’s problems. I have seen for myself that the Google Bard AI is not even very smart, failing basic geography. I pointed out its errors in a few posts earlier this month. Then, I read a news item in which a prominent tech company CEO mentioned that Bard is a simple version of AI and that waiting in the wings is a much more powerful model. Did the CEO write this because many users are finding out that Bard is dumb?
Or is the situation more complicated than that? Is the incompetent and comical Bard being passed off to the general public in an effort to throw business competitors off the scent? Are there powerful organizations manipulating our gullibility—and not for laughs?
My wife, Sena, and I are both skeptical about what to believe in the news. In fact, I think many of the news stories might even be made by AI writers. I didn’t suspect this when I wrote the post “Viral Story Rabbit Holes on the Web” in December of 2022. After trying to converse with Bard, it makes more sense that some of the news stories on the web may be written by AI. In fact, when I googled the idea, several articles popped up which seemed to verify that it has been going on, probably for a long time.
All of this reminds me of an X-Files episode, “Ghost in the Machine” The main idea is that an evil AI has started killing humans in order to protect itself from being shut down. The AI is called the Central Operating System. The episode got poor reviews, partly because it wasn’t funny and partly because it too closely resembled 2001: A Space Odyssey.
But the fear of AI is obvious. The idea of weaponizing it in a drive to rule the world probably underlies the anxiety expressed by many.
And we still can’t get rid of the Bing Chatbot.