The Coming Conflagration
AI, Content, and Slanted Words
We’re not fucked, but things are gonna get weird.
The internet is on fire with AI conversations.
Most of the conversation sucks though.
It’s aggressively vague, clickbait-y, and mostly focused on scaring people who are already (reasonably) wondering how they’ll buy food if egg prices keep rising 30% a year.
“ChatGPT is gonna take your job”
“AI and your kids: Is this new tech terrifying or a helpful tool?”
“Machine Learning Investor Warns AI Is Becoming Like a God”
These are just a few of the “definitely not optimized to elicit an emotional response” headlines you’ll find after a brief search of the major news outlets.
To properly frame what I’m about to share, it’s important to recognize that the headlines above are all from opinion pieces written by people that:
Aren’t building AI tools
Aren’t using AI to help them ship code and useful products
May or may not be themselves using LLM’s (AI language models) to actually help them write the very content fearmongering about AI advancements
In contrast, I’ve been using these tools for years in a professional context and have dramatically increased my reliance on them in the last 6 months.
My previous startup was in media and we supported publishers like Forbes and Business Insider in the process of their content creation on a variety of platforms.
I’ve seen inside the various levels of content machines across the internet, thoughtfully respect the hard work that (sometimes) goes into the act of creating useful content, and have stayed close to developments in the process of content creation since then.
I also spent 4 years in military college and 4 more years as an active duty Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army.
I think these sets of experiences might help me see some things that the various worlds (which don’t normally overlap) might not recognize easily on their own.
The Main Issue
I use ChatGPT in various forms every day.
I use it for everything.
Just in the past week I’ve debugged code, bootstrapped knowledge on new topics, copyedited, thesaurus-ed, got ideas for poetry phrasings, solved some blank page creativity problems, and (now that I have access to the Web Browsing feature) I’ve been using it to summarize articles, data, and news reports to save time.
The last bit is where I think people don’t… quite… get what’s coming.
Jobs are gonna change because of AI, work is going to be irrevocably different (in a good way), but all of that really comes down to allowing the human in the loop to spend much more of their productive time on the last 10% of work (which is generally the most interesting and creative part)!
This is awesome, so what are people missing?
Bluntly, you can now shape media narratives on a nation state scale from your bedroom (hear me out).
Take CNN’s most recent town hall debacle.
Forget any personal politics about the event itself. I’m using it as an example because it is a topic that people want to talk about and are discussing and a lot of people had (and have) strong opinions about it before, during, and after the event.
There’s going to be more events like this in the future, but the content isn’t the important part.
The important part is the narrative.
The “so what” about “what happened” that eventually transforms ideas in heads into “facts” in books and articles.
Tangibly, here’s an example how a language model (in this case GPT-4 with Web Browsing) can be used as a tool to shape a narrative toward any perspective you (or a bad actor might) want with extremely little effort.
I swear on my life I haven’t done any supplementary prompting or manipulation to these outputs.
Cameron: How did the CNN town hall go?
GPT4 (with Web Browsing): The CNN Town Hall featuring former President Donald Trump appeared to generate mixed reactions. During the event, Trump reportedly exhibited a similar combative style and refusal to adhere to typical codes of presidential decorum that characterized his time in office. This approach continued to resonate with his Republican supporters, many of whom appreciate his confrontational demeanor and his unapologetic stance on various issues. However, there were also moments of controversy during the town hall. These included outbursts of election denialism, expressions of anger, misogynistic comments about a sexual assault case, and a refusal to agree that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a war criminal. Such incidents have caused concern within the GOP, with some fearing that such behaviors could alienate enough voters to potentially hand the White House to the Democrats in the 2024 election. Trump made a statement about his perceived right to do as he pleased with classified documents he kept at his Florida resort when he left office. This could potentially reflect his broader belief that there should be no constraints on his power if he were to win another term. Yet, despite some of the controversies and the potential implications of his words and actions, Trump's strong lead in early primary polls indicates that many Republican voters do not see these as disqualifying factors. Some supporters, such as a former Democrat-turned-Trump voter in the audience named Joanne Rouston, have stated that they like him even more now because of his combative nature Source - https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/11/politics/trump-cnn-town-hall-analysis/index.html
Left leaning, but fairly neutral and it makes sense considering the source it cites is a CNN article itself.
This is how I typically use GPT to summarize content. I get the main ideas, skip the bad prose, and save myself precious minutes of consumption time.
Now what if I wanted to confirm my biases?
Cameron: How would you describe it if you were Jon Stewart?
GPT4 (with Web Browsing): As an AI, I don't have personal opinions or a sense of humor like Jon Stewart. However, I can generate a response in a style similar to his based on his comedic persona. Jon Stewart, known for his time hosting "The Daily Show," often used a blend of humor, satire, and critical commentary when discussing political events. Here's an attempt to capture his style: "Well, folks, it looks like the sequel nobody asked for: Trump Unleashed – The CNN Town Hall Edition. It's like a rerun of a show that was canceled for a reason. He's out there, back in the spotlight, and boy, he's still got that 'I do what I want' attitude that we've all come to... appreciate? His fans love him for it, and it's clear that Trump's greatest hits are still chart-toppers in certain circles. But then we get the B-sides – the election denial, the anger, the comments about a sexual assault case, and his inability to call Putin a war criminal. It's like a Greatest Hits album, but instead of music, it's all the reasons why many of us said 'maybe not' the first time around. And then there's the classified documents controversy. He's hoarding them like they're gold-plated toilet seats, and still pushing the idea that he should have 'absolute power.' And for some reason, that doesn't seem to be a deal-breaker for some folks. Maybe they think it comes with a free steak from the defunct Trump Steaks business. The truth is, this town hall was another episode in the reality TV show that is American politics. It's like a roller coaster that only goes down. Strap in, folks, because if he gets the nomination again, this ride isn't over." Remember, this is an attempt to mimic the style of Jon Stewart and is not an actual quote from him.
I can now generate a monologue that’s basically mid-tier Comedy Central writing staff level with 50 keystrokes.
Whether you like the style or not, this level of writing is entertaining for millions of people.
That’s a powerful tool.
What else can we do?
Cameron: Now generate a response in the style of tucker carlson
Tucker Carlson, as a conservative political commentator known for his show "Tucker Carlson Tonight" on Fox News, has a distinctive style that is often assertive, provocative, and direct. Here's an attempt to capture his style: "Well, folks, it's clear the mainstream media just can't get enough of Donald Trump. CNN rolled out the red carpet for their latest town hall featuring the man they love to hate, and once again, Trump didn't disappoint. He's out there, refusing to bow to the unwritten rules of political decorum that have held Washington in a stranglehold for years. His supporters love him for it. He's a breath of fresh air in a city that's been suffocating on its own political correctness. But let's talk about the real controversy here. The media's outraged – again. He's denying the election, he's angry, he's making comments about a sexual assault case, and he's not playing their game on Putin. It's classic Trump, and it's what his supporters voted for. They want a fighter, not a politician. And then there's the classified documents issue. Trump says he's got the 'absolute right' to do what he wants with them. Is this about national security? Or is it about a political elite that can't stand the thought of Trump having any kind of power? The media's up in arms about it, but the voters who put Trump in office might see it differently. If there's one thing this town hall showed us, it's that Trump is still the same man the people voted for. And if the polls are any indication, they might just do it again. Buckle up, America. This is only the beginning." Please note that this is an AI-generated response designed to mimic Tucker Carlson's style and does not represent an actual quote from him.
Feels close enough to the real deal for me.
Again, it took me less than 10 seconds of typing to be respectably on my way to a manifesto on whatever belief system I want to push on people.
What a time to be alive
What do we do?
To be honest, I don’t think AI licenses help anyone except large tech companies trying to stop smaller ones from eventually disrupting them.
They certainly won’t stop foreign nations like Russia and China from developing their own, much less restrictive, versions of them.
And from my (generally liberal) vantage point, literally just this one, single, small part of chat models feels like a Gutenberg level invention to me.
We’ve clearly moved one more honkin’ step down the path to shift power away from incumbent media gatekeepers monopolizing belief systems and towards better empowering individuals to share their ideas with the world.
Plus, the gap between your Taste and your Style has closed a good bit further.
These are all certified v cool things™ and frankly I think should be encouraged.
But the danger comes in most people maybe not default viewing the world through the lens of:
“Why does this person want me to think what they’re trying to get me to think?”
Nation states have always used media as propaganda to further their aims.
That’s not new.
We’ve just gotta realize that the tools of the war for our minds are a lot better now.
I hope this added value to your day.
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