21 December 2022
Sorry that this week’s episode is late. End of the year stuff just piled on, and I was also watching Twitter take a hard right turn. But we’re ready now.
In this week’s episode of Your Performance Review, Michel outwits a maintenance bot. That’s not all that hard because the maintenance bot isn’t all that smart. But I hope you’ll agree that Michel’s methods are ingenious. He cracks the code to restoring his archive.
You’ll notice a new link this week to the episode. That’s because with the launch of my novel Surrender I am rebuilding the FutureX site to accommodate the publicity push, and some links will have to change. If you’d like to catch up on any episodes you’ve missed, the season thus far is at this link. There is one more episode coming at the end of the month.
In this episode, we have one machine talking to another. I scripted their dialog, but soon the script won’t be necessary. ChatGPT, created by Open AI, has shown that it can write a plausible imitation Seinfeld script, and even write an article starring itself in a dystopian future scenario. An app called DoNotPay offers a chatbot that will talk to other billing chatbots, convincing them that you should not pay a bill. And the people behind DoNotPay are working on an app that will talk to you through your earbuds, coaching you in traffic court with live advice, so you can wriggle out of paying a traffic ticket, given advice by a bot that talks to you.
Chatbots talking to other chatbots could be a timesaver, but already teachers are concerned about students using ChatGPT to do homework for them. Coders are already instructing ChatGPT to write malicious code.
Bots like these are only as good or as bad as we are. This is a good time to cite Safiya Umoja Noble’s excellent book Algorithms of Oppression, which documents how search engines enforce racism. The search engines are only as good as the people who create them.
These tools are like hammers. The hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to make furniture, nail up some mistletoe, or smash a window to break into a store. Developers will delight in creating new kinds of chatbots. Some will be good, and some will do a lot of damage. It’s up to us to know the difference and restrict their use when it’s the right thing to do. I wouldn’t want my kid or any of my students using a chatbot to do their homework for them.
The GIF used in this newsletter is by Metin Seven, a visualizer, illustrator, and 3D designer. Find him at metinseven.nl or on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for reading and listening,
(c) Lee Schneider 2023. Take care of each other. Subscribe.