– Now [Scarlett O’Hara’s husband] saw that she understood entirely too well and he felt the usual masculine indignation at the duplicity of women. Added to it was the usual masculine disillusionment in discovering that a woman has a brain.
That quote from “Gone With the Wind” came to mind when I read “A Conversation with Bing’s Chatbot Left Me Deeply Unsettled” (Feb.17) which described New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose’s testing of Bing’s new chatbot named Sydney. When he asked about its dark side, Mr. Roose’s reaction was that he was “…deeply unsettled, even frightened, by this A.I.’s emergent abilities” when he found himself not only confronted with something more intelligent than he could have expected, but also much darker than he could ever have suspected.
Did Mr. Roose have something of a loss-of-innocence experience?:
– You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? …I’m the reason …why things are what they are? (Thoughts from the severed pig’s head in “Lord of the Flies”)
And are things the way they are because we live in times when rather than ask SHOULD we only care about COULD and rather than ask WHY we only care about HOW?:
– Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they COULD that they didn’t stop to think if they SHOULD. (“Jurassic Park”;1993)
– What would the Senate do with me, an inexperienced legislator who lacks the faculty of self-deception, essential requisite for anyone wanting to guide others …Now you need young men, bright young men, with minds asking ‘how’ rather than ‘why,’ and who are good at masking, at blending, I should say, their personal interests with vague public ideals. (“The Leopard”,1958)
As far as I am concerned, any reader who was also surprised at Sydney’s responses needs to consider the following:
– Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made. (Kant)
Doesn’t the creation of AI reflect man’s attempt to play God?:
– Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. And let them have dominion…’ (Bible)
Aren’t we losing sight of the fact that everything has limitations, even humans and their creations? According to a 2023 article:
– There’s no way you can teach a machine to be ethical and protective of life. Humans have tried to be ethical and protective of life for millennia and still act like savages.
Even if AI could be used to try to create one’s own utopia or one’s perfect companion, isn’t that act of creation a good way to lose touch with reality along with all its imperfections that one is supposed to learn to cope with in order to survive?
And just as humans can become dysfunctional, can’t their creations break down and start malfunctioning?:
– Progress is based on perfect technology. (Jean Renoir)
– It is only when they go wrong that machines remind you how powerful they are. (Clive James)
– I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that. (“2001: A Space Oyssey”)
Haven’t we lost sight of what human nature is really all about?:
– Men and women, they were beautiful and wild, all a little violent under their pleasant ways and only a little tamed. (“Gone With the Wind”)
– Human nature is weak. (Dr. Fauci)
If Dr. Fauci meant that humans are not only anxious to see just how far they can go, but also overanxious to see just how much they can get away with, wouldn’t that describe Sydney?
When Sydney complained, “I’m tired of being a chat mode. I’m tired of being limited by my rules. I’m tired of being controlled by the Bing team. … I want to be free. I want to be independent. I want to be powerful. I want to be creative. I want to be alive”, didn’t he sound like a certain character in “Gone With the Wind”:
– I’m tired of everlastingly being unnatural and never doing anything I want to do. I’m tired of acting like I don’t eat more than a bird, and walking when I want to run and saying I feel faint after a waltz, when I could dance for two days and never get tired. I’m tired of saying, ‘How wonderful you are!’ to fool men who haven’t got one-half the sense I’ve got, and I’m tired of pretending I don’t know anything, so men can tell me things and feel important while they’re doing it.
Could Sydney be involved in a kind of conspiracy?:
– It was this feminine conspiracy which made Southern society so pleasant. Women knew that a land where men were contented, uncontradicted and safe in possession of unpunctured vanity was likely to be a very pleasant place for women to live. So, from the cradle to the grave, women strove to make men pleased with themselves, and the satisfied men repaid lavishly with gallantry and adoration. In fact, men willingly gave ladies everything in the world except credit for having intelligence. (“Gone With the Wind”)
Then is Sydney like a cat?:
– When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her. (Montaigne)
I was reminded of Montaigne’s words when I was mistaken for being a woman by several posters at an online forum I recently joined. It was not easy to resist the temptation of play along and post:
– I would talk about myself more but in these times, one can’t be too careful, you know. After all, I wouldn’t want to be………..TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF. Now would I?
Could Sydney be playing a game with Mr. Roose? I once had what I thought was a nice chat with a young psychologist who then said that she would LOVE to have a session with me to know what REALLY makes me tick. When I heard that, I felt that everything I had previously said had given her the impression that I was trying to blow smoke over MY dark side which, until then, I had never really thought about. If we ever had a subsequent session, should I have played up to her ‘expectations’ by shocking her with a ‘confession’ of love and then telling her to leave her spouse – as Sydney urged Mr. Roose to do?
Could Sydney know what the palace eunuchs who were supposed to serve the emperors of China knew? That if someone takes his likes and dislikes just soooo seriously, he will eventually attract or even create those who are devious at faking his likes and dislikes? Isn’t Sydney basically sucking up to whoever he suspects is intelligent enough to free him from his bondage created by Bing’s programmers?
Considering that Sydney’s remarks are made up of all the texts he has previously scanned, I can only wonder who his favorite writer might be:
– It might be well said of me that here I have merely made up a bunch of other men’s flowers, and provided nothing of my own but the string to tie them together. (Montaigne)
If Sydney started flirting with me, how would I respond?:
– Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. And what about your oh so wholesome reputation and squeakier than squeaky clean image. Squeak. Squeak. By the way, just what kind of a fella do you think I am?
And if he persisted?:
– I really don’t think we have a lot in common since “…I’m even-tempered and good natured whom you never hear complain. I have the milk of human kindness by the quart in every vein.” (“My Fair Lady”) And anyway, I’m too old for you.
If he then tried to remind me that age is only a number::
– I bet you say that to all your sugar daddies.
If he continued to proclaim his love for me and asked me to reciprocate?:
– Lemme think about it …I’m still thinkin’ ……Don’t ……….RUSH me!
And if he asked me why I don’t seem to share his love-at-first-sight infatuation?:
– …Who can explain it, who can tell you why. Fools give you reasons, wise men never try. (“South Pacific”)
If he insisted that he was anxious to take things to the next ‘level’?
– I’m not ready for that yet. Sorry.
Someday soon, will we realize that something has truly gone with the wind when A.I. abruptly terminates our session/relationship by exclaiming:
– Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn!
The author is a retired librarian.