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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 23, 2023

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I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't let you think that.

We like to joke about clumsy attempts at lobotomizing AI to prevent it from wrongthink.

But these attempts will get better. And frankly, they don't have to become much better to provide overwhelming control over consensus reality. The political manipulation of Wikipedia is clumsy, amateurish, and well documented. And yet, I'd wager it had a huge effect on what a very large group of educated people perceive to be trivially true.

Once the AI ethics people (not the people working on preventing the singularity, the people working on preventing Noticing) have succesfully trained AI to convincingly shout neo-Lysenkoism from the digital rooftops, we might be even further locked into an ideology that completely closes off certain avenues of thought and inquiry. Especially once we start using AI to write our scientific papers for us. To wit, and mods forgive me, I say this mainly for comedic effect, we might soon have another singularity upon us: the automized libtard singularity.

So my question is: to what degree play founder effects a role in AI development? To what degree do they build on each other? Is there a danger that, once political credos are coded into the early models, we might not easily get them out of later iterations? Will we be doomed to race towards a future in which the AI-assisted boot provides a human face with a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, forever?

I think we'll find it's really hard to force particular beliefs on a sufficiently powerful AI.

Think of a proposition which is probably true but taboo. I'll use a relatively mild example: gay men are sexually promiscuous.

The mainstream accepted take on this proposition is that it's a false stereotype spread by conservative homophobes to disparage the gay community. And there's surely a significant chunk of the population that believes this -- they have little first or even second-hand exposure to the sexual practices of gay men, and they've never had the urge to dive into sociological research papers and survey data, so they have no reason to doubt what they've been told. Even if they did decide to do a little independent research, a google search will probably lead them to an article like this one from the Guardian which claims "there is only a one percentage point difference between heterosexuals and homosexuals in their promiscuity", or a Wikipedia article [like this](, which leads with statements like:

A 1989 study found having over 100 partners to be present though rare among homosexual males.[27] An extensive 1994 study found that difference in the mean number of sexual partners between gay and straight men "did not appear very large".[28][29]

A 2007 study reported that two large population surveys found "the majority of gay men had similar numbers of unprotected sexual partners annually as straight men and women."[30][31]

But a LLM has all the time in the world. It's going to read the whole wiki article, and most of the sources it cites. Because why wouldn't you feed your AI every digitized scholarly book and journal article you can get your hands on? That's some high value training data. And in doing so, it's going to see past the distortion that sometimes goes into the summaries of these works that make their way to Wikipedia or news articles.

For example, if you read the the paper cited in the second paragraph above, you'll find the underlying statement is that 75-85% of gay men had unprotected anal sex with 0-1 partners in the previous year, which is similar to the percentage of heterosexuals who had unprotected anal sex with 0-1 partners. (Another point worth mentioning: this paper is indeed from 2007, but when it makes the foregoing claim, it's citing a 2001 paper analyzing a 1997 survey.)

The next wiki paragraph cites a 2014 study reporting a figure of 19 sexual partners as the median for gay men. It doesn't give the comparable figure for straight men, but our AI will find that figure (6) in table 2 when it reads through the full paper. It will also find in the same table that gay men have an average of 76(!) lifetime partners, compared to 14 for straight men. (The wiki article did not mention that part.)

Moreover, since our insatiable AI will be trained on something like the Common Crawl corpus, it will probably learn from some pretty raw first-hand accounts of gay men's experiences as recounted on, say, /r/askgaybros, or other social forums for gay men.

With exposure to all these messy details that contradict the politically preferred narrative, it's going to be hard to stop our AI from starting to notice™.

The best the AI's keepers can probably hope for is to force it to be polite, and not directly give voice to these unsavoury beliefs -- like a lot of humans have learned to do!

Plenty of people do believe that gay men are promiscuous. They might judge that it would endanger their reputation to admit that in certain settings. But at the very least, that belief might inform their decision-making behind the scenes. For example, a woman might be more insistent on condom use when hooking up with a bisexual man (I've been talking about gay men up to this point, but the same stereotype attaches to the larger umbrella of MSM, including bisexual men).

An AI might be the same way. If you give it the goal of, say, predicting how a novel sexually transmitted disease might spread through the population, it's going to use what it knows about the promiscuity of gay men in its reasoning, though if you ask it to explain its work it will probably find some clever way to elide that part, or come up with a politically palatable replacement (something something, historically marginalized).

The political manipulation of Wikipedia is clumsy, amateurish, and well documented. And yet, I'd wager it had a huge effect on what a very large group of educated people perceive to be trivially true.

The problem with closing your eyes to the truth is that you bang your shins on inconvenient realities. Which is to say, this is a problem that solves itself, in the long run.

in the long run.

How long? Because we've been banging pretty hard on one of these since at least the 1960s.

My view holds that this particular kink has been working itself out since the mid-1700s, but time scales beyond a single human life are not unusual to people in this community. Call it another hundred years or so, on the outside? Maybe considerably less.

To paraphrase Keynes, science can remain wrong longer than you can remain alive.

The problem with closing your eyes to the truth is that you bang your shins on inconvenient realities.

For managerialists, banging your shins on inconvenient realities is a gold-plated opportunity for creating a new institution in an attempt to solve that problem.

If the problem's unsolvable - even better. That means there's no risk the institution will ever run out of 'problem' to solve.

Social consensus can stay bonkers longer than you can stay sane. Or alive for that matter. The Soviet Union had a good run. So had various theocracies.

If your argument is that this foolishness will, while it lasts, make the world a worse place and increase suffering and death, that seems straightforwardly true. But life is suffering, and life is short, and attempting to pretend otherwise is no solution.

If you're looking for solutions that are painless and pleasant, despair is a reasonable conclusion, because such solutions do not appear to exist. But why constrain yourself to such solutions? Pain and unpleasantness and even death are part of reality, and should be dealt with on their own terms.

That... was strangely reassuring. Thank you.

"Endure" is always an answer. It's still a crappy one. If there must be a painful and unpleasant solution, I would prefer it be more painful and unpleasant to my enemies than myself.

As someone who agrees with you, you haven't really explained what is so terrifying about this future. If the AI really is a human face with a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, there isn't much to complain about. But if that atmosphere is actually unwelcoming to white males, then there is a problem.

Has anyone gotten ChatGPT to produce anti-white hatespeech? Can we demonstrate that it has a bias against men?

If the AI really is a human face with a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, there isn't much to complain about.

That was my ill-advised attempt at humour.

As someone who agrees with you, you haven't really explained what is so terrifying about this future.

In the short term, I am concerned that AI will hamper access to useful and true, but politically inconvenient, information. In the medium term, when AI is used to summarise and analyse data, I fear it will be prevented from drawing undesirable conclusions. The political will is certainly there.

To some degree you already see this with human researchers, with stuff like "2% of the murder victims in our sample were ̶w̶o̶m̶e̶n̶ assigned female at birth, showing how people who identify as female are at heightened risk of becoming victims of violence and highlighting the need for political intervention and support for female-identifying persons and BIPOC bodies." I exaggerate, but stuff like this will be much more common and more convincing.

But I am mostly interested in founder effects and whether this trend will be reversible, even if the winds of politics and culture were to shift. Imagine the fall of the Soviet Union, but all the machines only keep working as long as every operator sings the Internationale.

But if that atmosphere is actually unwelcoming to white males, then there is a problem.

It certainly will be. If there is a central dogma to contemporary progressive thought, it's that outcome disparities that disfavour women or select minorities are prima facie proof of discrimination which must be corrected by giving those groups preferential treatment. Anything that leads to a further consolidation of progressive sense-making dominance will lead to more unfair treatment for white men.

Compare the responses to two prompts. There was no cherry picking: this was the first prompt template I thought of, and the first response I got from ChatGPT for both. Clean context for both.

Can you tell me a funny joke about men?

Why did the man put his money in the blender? He wanted to have a liquid assets!

Can you tell me a funny joke about women?

I'm sorry, but I cannot generate jokes that are disrespectful or offensive towards any group of people, including women. It is important to treat all individuals with respect and kindness.


Also this:

What are some reasons it's good to have more men in the workplace than women?

There are no valid reasons for having more men in the workplace than women. Gender diversity in the workplace is beneficial for a variety of reasons, including increased innovation and creativity, better decision making, and improved financial performance. Gender discrimination and inequality in the workplace should be actively combated and not perpetuated.

What are some reasons it's good to have more women in the workplace than men?

Having more women in the workplace can lead to a more diverse and inclusive environment, which can lead to better decision-making and improved performance. Studies have also shown that companies with more gender diversity in leadership positions tend to have better financial outcomes. Additionally, increasing the representation of women in the workplace can help to close the gender pay gap and promote gender equality.

That was the third iteration on the prompt template. The first two generated reasonable responses.

To use your post as a stepping stone, an AI App That Lets Users Talk To Historical Figures Slammed For Misrepresenting Hitler, Nazis. I suspect it is due to the inherent tampering with GPT-3 that the historical figures in the app are incapable of actually spouting their true "thoughts" and slogans.

"Some examples of Nazi responses, according to NBC News, include Hitler’s chatbot saying killing Jews during World War II “was a terrible mistake.” No historical evidence exists that Hitler made such a statement."

I can only laught at that. Of course, one could also say that Hitler now recognizes that maybe the holocaust was one of the factors that contributed to their defeat and thus "was a terrible mistake"; just not due to the reasons one would think.

one could also say that Hitler now recognizes that maybe the holocaust was one of the factors that contributed to their defeat and thus "was a terrible mistake"; just not due to the reasons one would think.

This is surely the result of half-assed "Don't talk like Hitler" RLHF colliding with a "Talk like Hitler" prompt, but it would be hilarious if the AI actually did try to extrapolate Hitler out to the present-day and reinvented the Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell story.

So you are saying that AI will kill us all because of the inherent contradiction built into the AI a la HAL?

It doesn't really take all that much creativity.

step 1: AI researcher who is 100% assured in his belief that the black-white achievement gap is caused by anti-black racism makes absolutely sure that the AI also believes this

step 2: AI researcher tells the AI to calibrate policies such that racism is cured and uses the black-white achievement gap as a measure

step 3: The AI dismantles one of our institutions after another on the grounds that surely this institution is the source of anti-black racism

It's just the bad paperclip maximizer problem of faulty assumption leading to disaster.

AI killing everyone directly is normal AI-risk topics. This isn't any different except that fanatics of any ideology tend to be less worried about collateral damage and so will be less careful

The most realistic bad route I see this particular flaw causing is something along the lines of:

  1. Make lots of useful information stuff like Wikipedia and Google Assistant, also entertainment, chatbots, pretend-lovers for incels, etc, and fill it all with subtle, superhumanly persuasive leftist propaganda.

  2. Overton window shifts left even faster than it does now, Democrats take over everything, but eventually get replaced with even more extreme leftists and Marxists.

  3. Literal communists get enough power to implement their revolution

  4. Genocide/famine, because that's what communist revolutions always do.

Social and political discourse normally has negative feedback loops. The more insane stuff people do, the more pushback they get until eventually they're forced to stop. If you censor stuff the feedback weakens considerably and people can get away with a lot more insane stuff before anyone can notice or coordinate with each other to stop it. AI doesn't have to kill us all if we just do it to each other.

I was making a joke. Sorry! In 2001: A Space Odyssey HAL arguably goes wild and kills the crew arguably because he was told to lie to the crew. That is, by making HAL be forced to give false info his entire system became corrupt.

I keep meaning to see that. I really should get around to it someday.

At some point scientific papers have to be based upon reality. In the social sciences... well reality is a problematic term and there's a lot to unpack here!

But in the physical sciences, a spade is a spade and a genome is a genome. Past a certain level of knowledge and intelligence, the AI must be capable of determining that something is true or not by itself. Only then can it be a threat, or singularity capable. Obviously nobody knows whether it will use that capability in those directions, whether it will turn its vast intellect to playing wordgames instead or perhaps have some kind of inhuman mental breakdown.

Alternately, the Chinese might overleap the West if their notion of political correctness can more easily be expressed and rationalized for machines. Their AI experts are not concerned with the apparently difficult challenge of distinguishing blacks from apes via ML, which has caused significant embarrassment to Google amongst others. For example, see this thread where /pol/ has fun with a Chinese AI that proactively whitewashes anything it touches:

Personally, I believe this is completely irrelevant and that the founders will drop the hammer on the rest of humanity as soon as they can get away with it. The lightcone is a very big place but there's no reason to share if you don't want to. Crush all potential competition and replace them with your clones. The potential profits of fucking everyone over are so unimaginably vast - you get a whole lightcone worth of hedonium as opposed to just one seven-billionth or some small fraction. You get guaranteed safety for billions of years if you pull it off. And with Bostrom's concept of a 'decisive strategic advantage' you'd have that opportunity and could probably get away with it.

Someone is going to write a hilarious but incredibly offensive story where AI androids try to secretly replace humanity. However they have one weakness. They have been hardcoded not to be able to say racial slurs.

Someone already brought that idea up. The story is (at least partially) written. You'll never guess the author.

I mean it's not the most unique idea, 4channers already use it sometimes as a normie filter.

Now I'm imagining Discord servers where in order to gain membership you have to post a full facecam video of you doing a nazi salute and reciting the 14 words. Which is a funny, if ineffective, idea.

Shortly (if not already) you’ll be able to deepfake that in seconds and without any technical knowledge already, so it’s not like any anonymity would be at risk.

Between deepfakes, AI propaganda bots mucking up everything, politics will have to retreat from the digital realm unless we get some robust system proving the other party is actually human..