Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Reddit Goes All-AI


The real threat of AI isn't what we think it is.

I wrote before about my few experiments with ChatGTP.  It did a lousy job of mimicking my own blog, but did a spot-on impression of Donald Trump - getting the cadence and vocabulary just right in a bigly way.

A lot of people have sounded the alarm about AI - claiming it will take away jobs at the very least, or at worst, take over the world, nuke all the humans, and then keep the survivors as some sort of slaves.  Such folks have been reading too much science fiction.

I think the real threat is tied to "social media."  So many people spend hours every day looking at their phones, and much of what they look at is rage-bait or click-bait or some other form of bait.  Whether it is a YouTube channel, a Facebook page, or a Twitter feed, people spend hours on their phones looking at this stuff.  And I find it hard not to do so as well - you get curious as to what "people are saying" and go online to check things out.

And increasingly, it seems that what "people" are saying is what chatbots are saying.  I like to go on Reddit to read the comics page and skim the news page (which seems very selective these days - no new news in 48 hours?  Who are they kidding?).  The rest of the site is mostly gaming dreck - people arguing over the fine points of some video game, instead of playing it.  Boring!

But what is really interesting is the number of rage-bait postings that rise to the top of "popular" and seem to follow a similar format.  Whether it is "AITA?" (Am I The Asshole?) or "two hot takes" or "wedding shaming" subreddits, these rage-bait postings all follow a similar format.  I can sort of parse it out here:

I (35F) and my [partner/ husband/ friend] (37M) are going to [party/ wedding/ gender reveal/ vacation] and our [friend/ MIL/ bridesmaid/ coworker] decided to [do something improbably outrageous]. I called them out on this, and they said "[something incredibly stupid]" and claimed I ruined the [dinner/ wedding/ party/ vacation].  My [partner/ husband/ friend] said I should apologize for causing a scene, and his [family/ friends/ coworkers] seem to agree.  AITA?  I am beginning to doubt myself!

And following this will be thousands (literally) of comments, usually assuring the "OP" (original poster) that they are "NTA" and moreover should go "NC" (no contact) with their family and, of course, divorce their husbands.   "There are more red flags here than at a Communist parade!"


Sadly, I suspect many of the "comments" are also AI-generated, and thus it becomes a perfect feedback loop - AI generating content and then AI reacting to content.

If you think I am kidding about this, I went on ChatGTP and asked it, "Can you create an 'AITA?' entry for reddit - something to do with weddings and inlaws?"

ChatGPT instantly replied with this:
Title: AITA for Not Inviting My Mother-in-Law to My Wedding?

Hey, Reddit! I need your judgment on a recent wedding-related situation.

So, my partner and I were planning our dream wedding, and everything was going smoothly until we reached the guest list. We had always known that my mother-in-law (MIL) and I didn't exactly see eye to eye. She's been critical of our relationship since the beginning, and we've had numerous conflicts over the years. We decided that for the sake of our special day, it might be best not to invite her.

Here's the thing: my partner completely supported the decision. They acknowledged that the relationship with their mom had been strained for a long time and felt it was for the best not to have her at the wedding. We didn't want the day to be overshadowed by potential drama or tension.

Fast forward to our wedding day, and it was absolutely beautiful, filled with love and positivity. However, MIL found out about the wedding, and her reaction was explosive. She called us, accused us of betraying her, and made a scene, which left us feeling guilty and upset. She even went on social media, ranting about how we excluded her.

Now, my partner and I are facing backlash from some family and friends who think we should have invited her despite the past conflicts. They say that weddings are a time for reconciliation and forgiveness, and that by not inviting her, we were unnecessarily hurting her.

So, Reddit, AITA for not inviting my mother-in-law to our wedding? Should we have taken the high road and invited her, despite our complicated history, or was it right to prioritize our own happiness and peace on our big day?
That pretty much sums up your typical posting on Reddit, although it is a little generic.  I suppose I could use better "Prompt Engineering" to make it more believable or outrageous.  So I ask ChatGTP to make the main issue about the MIL wanting to bring her emotional support Llama.  Chat's response:
Title: AITA for Not Allowing My Mother-in-Law's Emotional Support Llama at My Wedding?

Hey, Reddit! I've got a wedding conundrum that's taking a strange turn, and I'm seeking your advice.

My partner and I were planning our dream wedding, and things were going well until we reached the guest list. It's no secret that my mother-in-law (MIL) and I have had our share of conflicts. We decided that it might be best not to invite her, as her presence could potentially overshadow our special day with drama and tension.

But here's where it gets tricky - my MIL informed us that she has an emotional support llama, which she insists must accompany her everywhere. She claimed that not having her beloved llama with her would be detrimental to her emotional well-being, and she fully expected to bring it to the wedding.

My partner supported my decision not to invite MIL, but they're torn about the llama situation. They understand that her relationship with the llama is important to her, but they're concerned that having it at the wedding could disrupt the event. We didn't want our special day to be remembered as "the wedding with the llama."

Despite our concerns, we reluctantly agreed to let her bring the llama to the ceremony, but not to the reception. However, it ended up causing quite a scene. The llama became agitated, and our wedding turned into a circus. It left us feeling guilty and embarrassed.

Now, we're facing backlash from some family and friends who say we should have just invited MIL without any restrictions, including her llama. They argue that weddings are a time for reconciliation and forgiveness, and that our refusal to accommodate the llama was unreasonable.

So, Reddit, AITA for not allowing my mother-in-law's emotional support llama at my wedding? Should we have been more accommodating and prioritized her emotional needs, or was it right to draw the line and protect the atmosphere of our big day?
This shit literally just writes itself!  With better prompts, you could create more and more scenarios, which would explain why "AITA?" postings flood Reddit.  I even asked ChatGTP to create a similar posting written by someone for whom English is a second language, complete with apologies for grammar and "I'm typing this on my phone" and Chat complied.  But can ChatGTP create comments as well?  Let's see!
Of course! Here are ten "top comments" responding to the AITA post about the emotional support llama at the wedding:
NTA (Not The Ahole)**: Your wedding, your rules. The llama wasn't on the guest list, and you tried to accommodate. MIL and the llama became the disruption, not you.

YTA (You're The Ahole)**: I get it, weddings are stressful, but you agreed to have the llama there, and you should've stuck to that agreement. Making a scene on your wedding day could've been avoided with better planning.

ESH (Everyone Sucks Here): Your MIL for not respecting the ceremony and you for not setting clearer boundaries about where the llama could be. Weddings are a time for reconciliation, but not at the expense of your special day.

NTA: You're not obligated to host a llama at your wedding. Emotional support animals are important, but there are situations where they may not be suitable, and a wedding is one of them.

YTA: You knew about the llama, and you let it be part of the ceremony. Changing your mind at the last minute just created unnecessary drama.

NTA: Emotional support animals are typically meant for individuals and their immediate needs. Having a llama at a wedding was bound to be disruptive, and you tried to compromise.

YTA: While the llama situation is bizarre, you should've stuck to your initial agreement. If you didn't want any potential drama, you shouldn't have invited MIL in the first place.

NAH (No Aholes Here)**: Emotional support animals are vital for some people, but it's also understandable that you didn't want a llama at your wedding. A better compromise could have been found, though.

NTA: Your MIL should've understood the potential disruptions and respected your wedding day. Emotional support animals have their place, but a wedding might not be the most suitable environment.

YTA: You agreed to let the llama be there, so it's on you that it disrupted the ceremony. Your MIL's emotional needs should've been considered, even if the situation was unconventional.
Scary.  I could post this "AITA?" posting and then create fake accounts to add comments - and create bots to do it all.  And maybe this is what is already happening.  Once you have a certain amount of "karma" (postings, likes, views, upvotes) on Reddit, you can sell your user account, or just use it to promote products and such, as it will rise to the top of the Reddit cesspool in short order, due to your "karma" level.

The same could be done with Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.  The above video, done as a parody, was created with AI (the youtuber in question has a fetish, it seems with fat-people videos).  They are up-front that it is an AI video and the nature of AI videos (and photos) today is that they can be readily detected due to their primitive nature.  But the software is getting better all the time (and that is all it is, software).  Pretty soon, YouTube could be flooded with AI videos, created by AI using prompts created by AI based on what people seem to click on (that latter algorithm is already working).

You'll be able to watch videos about cars that never existed, history that never happened, dramas that never occurred.   You can watch an hour-long documentary about how Hitler won World War II and more than half the country would believe it, too.  No need to post a comment - AI will do that for you.  In fact, they probably already are, particularly the nasty comments you see on YouTube these days.

It would not take much coding to create a bot that, for example, scans the news and creates divisive comments online, and automatically posts them.  It would take troll farms to a whole new level.  Rather than create troll postings and laboriously post them online, you could just turn on your computer and watch while a million troll postings are created - in a minute.  Supposedly, 50% of Internet traffic is already bots (although, to be fair, this includes innocuous bots, such as two-level authentication bots and the like).

(And even television could go this way as well.  Why pay some expensive television personality to hawk conspiracy theories on Fox News, when you could have Max Headroom do it for free - or almost free?).

What happens to the Internet when 90% of the traffic is AI-generated and the rest of us become passive "lurkers" who just read or watch AI-generated shit?  Not hard to do, either.  If some real human has the audacity to actually post an opinion, AI attack-bots can slam them with negative comments, report their comment to moderators, send them nasty e-mails or "DMs" and even doxx them online.  People will quickly learn to keep their opinions to themselves.

And maybe, in a way, this is already happening.

So just shut up and eat your (AI-generated) media kibble!

* * * 

UPDATE:  I asked ChatGPT, "I wonder how much of Reddit is already AI generated?"

ChatGPT replied:
The extent to which Reddit content is AI-generated is not precisely quantifiable, as it varies across different subreddits and threads. However, AI-generated content, such as chatbots, bots posting automated responses, and generated text, can be found on Reddit.

Many subreddits have rules against AI-generated content and have active moderation to prevent spam and low-quality posts. However, some subreddits may use AI-generated content for specific purposes, such as in creative writing or automated data gathering.

AI is becoming increasingly integrated into various online platforms, including social media sites like Reddit. Moderators and administrators work to strike a balance between allowing AI-generated content for specific purposes and maintaining the quality and authenticity of the platform.

The use of AI in generating content and responses continues to evolve, and it's likely that we will see more AI-generated content on Reddit and other online platforms in the future. The key is to ensure that the use of AI remains within the boundaries of ethical and community guidelines.