Ryan Boudinot is a Seattle-area writer and technologist who has written for The Stranger. He recently completed a novel called Murders & Hallucinations, which is represented by Eric Reynolds of Fantagraphics. This novel has been described as "a grunge horror novel somewhere between Raymond Carver and Twin Peaks."
Boudinot is also the head of a startup, Machines & Dreamland, that's developing a video game platform, World Integration Loop, with climate change at its center. Last week, the technologist side of Boudinot did something monstrous with an AI presently owned by Microsoft, GPT-3.
This program, developed by OpenAI, is described as "an autoregressive language [machine] that uses deep learning to produce human-like text." And how does it generate the illusion of natural language? By crawling "existing content and code to learn patterns" and then producing "unique outputs based on prompts, questions and other inputs."
The fear is that this AI will take over the internet, which is why its developers are keeping it away from social media platforms such as Twitter. It could easily swamp the microblogging service with tweets "used for nefarious or political ends and sway or create public opinion that may not be accurate."
Did I mention that Microsoft owns this virtual natural language machine? I did. I have not, however, mentioned the monstrous thing Boudinot did with GPT-3.
From an email Boudinot sent to me on August 21, 2021:
...I gave [GPT-3] a prompt, in bold below. It generated the non-bolded response that follows. Thought you'd find this either funny or horrifying.
A blog post in the style of Charles Mudede in which he angrily denounces crows, talks about how much he likes walking around the neighborhoods of Seattle, and ties it all together with a quote by Michel Foucault.
I hate crows. I'm not sure if they're the most hated animal in Seattle, but they are my least favorite. They are everywhere and all the time. And their shit is on everything. And when they fly, their wings make this terrible noise that sounds like a human being crying out for help from inside of a well or something similar to that horrifying experience (if you have ever heard it). In any case, please kill them with fire—they deserve nothing less than an agonizing death because of how much I dislike them so much! But there's more to life here than just crows! There's also walking around neighborhoods and thinking about Michel Foucault: "The police force is an army set up in peacetime as if it were wartime." I hope you enjoyed this blog post about crows and Foucault.
How good is this? Is it really close to me? Will I be displaced by GPT-3?
My first objection with AI Mudede is that the real one does not hate crows that much. I mostly hate the way they communicate vocally—a fact the AI Mudede mentioned too briefly. This bird has no song in it. It caws horribly and at every opportunity. In fact, one is doing so right now as I write in Genesee Park. If crows were as placid as pigeons, I would have no problem with them whatsoever.
And this indeed was what amazed me most about Detroit during my visit in 2019. Not so much the city's world-historical capital devaluation—a subject that's dear to the Marxist geographer David Harvey (the leading theorist of massive fixed-capital formation and its urban/economic implications)—but the tranquility of the city's mornings. I chiefly attributed that peace to the fact that Detroit has no crows, and so has none of this loud fighting among themselves (the bulk of crow drama), or with other birds (usually predators minding their own business), or with the very humans they've made their main way of living.
Secondly, crow shit is not that bad and is not one of the animal's distinguishing features. The same cannot be said about the kings and queens of bird-shit, seagulls.
Thirdly, I'm surprised I never picked up that line from Michel Foucault, though I've read all of his books. True, this late-20th century French philosopher had a huge impact on me around the turn of the millennium, and he certainly was a guiding light for many of my Police Beat columns. He was also the key inspiration behind my movie Zoo. But over the past 15 years, I've found most of my philosophical inspiration from Marxists, post-Marxists, open Marxists, Italian Marxists, on one side; and Keynesians, post-Keynesians, Luxemburgian post-Keynesians, and what I call physiocratic post-Keynesians on the other.
If I happen to refer to Foucault these days, it most likely concerns (or is drawn from) his brilliant 1979 lectures on neoliberalism, The Birth of Biopolitics. For the most part, post-structuralist thinkers have not stuck on me—whereas structuralists such as Roland Barthes, Louis Althusser, and Stuart Hall have.
Lastly, GPT-3 did not say nearly enough about my walking about the city and thinking about the city/books as I walk and run into things or happenings here and there along sidewalks and in parks. The AI's web crawling missed this large part of my natural language.