Opinion Valentine’s Day could sour our romance with AI chatbots.

February 14 will become that tipping point when large numbers of lazy Lotharios use machines to generate text expressing borrowed emotions about their (supposed) loved ones instead of searching their miserable, shrunken souls for a personal and original expression of their feelings.

Lovers, a little advice: “Roses are red, algorithms are blue, here’s a poem I made a machine write for you” won’t increase your chances of keeping your relationship alive until Valentine’s Day 2024.

But it will increase the chance of your poetry, and rightfully indignant responses to it, going viral and earning widespread ridicule.

Bad AI love poems, some of which this hack expects will be grotesque, have enormous potential to deflate the bubble of enthusiasm for AI chatbots and challenge the notion they are productivity-enhancing miracles.

That idea ignores the clear case for being very, very cautious with chatbots because the companies offering them have terrible track records when it comes to responsibly deploying algorithmic technology.

Google’s algorithms turned YouTube into a misinformation-spewing machine that helped poison politics. Facebook’s AI did likewise. OpenAI ignored intellectual property rights by allowing DALL-E to mimic artists’ work, a classic StartupLand play of winning an audience first and considering the ethics later.

And Microsoft? An amusing meme doing the rounds on social media depicts a Scooby-Doo scene in which the mask comes off the villainous ChatGPT, revealing… Clippy!

Enthusiasm for chatbots has also – bizarrely – made it acceptable to outsource baseline mediocrity to machines instead of humans. Wikipedia is our current knowledge acquisition mediocrity baseline. While the crowdsourced encyclopedia is famously flawed, it is transparent and allows anyone to participate in its creation and editing.

Chatbots, by contrast, are closed systems.

Yet they’ve been instantly assumed to be worthy tools, a baffling surrender to algorithmic forces.

And a doubly baffling surrender given that people are increasingly interested in careful and crafted experiences, not mass-produced mediocrity.

My local council recently mapped out an “Ale Trail” connecting the 13(!) craft breweries in my neighborhood. They exist because people want thoughtful, playful, human, alternatives to mass-produced experiences.

I’ve been applying my organic intelligence to figure out if it is humanly possible to drink at all 13 watering holes on a single trip along the trail.

I’ve not reached a definitive conclusion, other than that such an endeavor won’t be a suitable Valentine’s Day activity. ®

Bootnote

Early drafts of this piece included ChatGPT’s response to the prompt: “Write a post for https://www.reddit.com/r/tifu/ about being dumped by your girlfriend for sending her an insincere love poem written by a chatbot on Valentine’s Day.”

The bot produced the following text:

Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2023/02/12/generative_ai_valentines_day/