Why 'Nothing, Forever' suggests we press pause before embracing AI.

February 13, 2023
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David Savage, Group Technology Evangelist and Chair of the ‘Nash Pride’ ERG urges a moment to pause and reflect on how we implement the latest technology innovations.

Since the launch of OpenAI’s ChatGPT it’s been hard to open a feed on Linkedin without registering the interest in the technology's potential to improve various aspects of our lives. Whether saving time for marketing, and creatives, or applying its algorithms to patient experience in healthcare, the excitement is tangible.

There is concern. In academia the ability of ChatGPT to mimic the human-like text of a good student causes significant intellectual property headaches. Despite that, the general response has been excitement and a lot of people are keen to play with the shiny new toy.

Whilst the enthusiasm is understandable, it should be tempered. A week ago I stumbled across an article about the Twitch stream ‘Nothing, Forever’. ‘Nothing, Forever’ is a computer generated resurrection of legendary sitcom ‘Seinfeld’. The dialogue comes from OpenAI’s GPT-3, a text generator closely related to ChatGPT. It's a perfect example of how we now play with technology to see what’s possible as it evolves.

I read the article, complete with examples of the misfiring comedy, and was intrigued. I went to watch the stream and discovered it was temporarily unavailable “due to a violation of Twitch's Community Guidelines or Terms of Service”.

Why was it banned? In a stand-up section of the stream (which will be familiar to those of us who’ve watched ‘Seinfeld’) the character uttered both transphobic and homophobic comments. Gender dysphoria was described as a mental illness.

I’m not about to get into a technical discussion about language-based AI and bias. What shocked me was the human reaction on Reddit and Twitch, where I had gone looking for the feed. Users were arguing over the ‘woke’ agenda and how we simply ‘hadn’t got the joke’. Inadvertently the AI had created an arena for the wider sharing of hate-speech and intolerance.

It provides a reminder that these tools are powerful, and we need to be purposeful and mindful in how we use them. Ultimately it is a machine repackaging information we’ve given its algorithm access to. It is very concerning that people might take that as permission to pursue their own agenda.

Technology is neither good nor bad; but our readiness to play with these tools because they are new, should be tempered by an appreciation of the harm that could cause. Given we’re currently observing LGBT History Month, ‘Nothing, Forever’s step into hate speech is a reminder we need to think very carefully about the application and power of the technologies we’re creating.

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