Regarding the supposed furor over #WokeGemini…
If we saw generative AI as a creative tool, then I’d say imagining the founding of America with women & Black people at the table and the Catholic Church headed by Black women and Native Americans is a proper revision of history the way it should have been.
The reaction to #WokeGemini says more about society than the tool itself; that’s what fascinates me about AI: its reflections. Right-wing columnists fear the anti-white machine programmed by commisars of what we used to call political correctness.
And the extremist Murdoch media and pols hunt for enemies: technologists who dare to recognize “white privilege.” Their strategy of projection works in media today: calling anti-racism racism to deflect from their deep racism, just as calling Biden old and doddering deflects from the truly doddering Trump. In today’s credulous media, it works.
Ultimately, this little episode shows the folly of “guardrails” in AI, for a tool can be made to do anything and what it is proscribed from doing — and reaction to that — can be more revealing and risky than the tool alone. It is like telling Gutenberg what movable type must never say. The Church tried to do just that with his successors as, at first, the technology was held responsible for what it produced: printers were beheaded and behanded for what their machines produced. Then booksellers were held liable and controlled via licensing and the Stationers Company in Britain. Finally, authors were the responsible parties — and Foucault says that is the birth of the author.
We debate responsibility over the technology of AI today: Some want the model makers to be responsible for everything that could (or now could not) be produced from their machine. Some try to blame an application of the model (looking at you, Air Canada). Some want to blame the technology for making just what it was asked to make (looking at a certain lawyer and a certain reporter).
The episode also reveals the fraud in associating generative AI with truth. If it were seen instead as a concordance of all society’s biased text and images and a creative tool that can be told to remake that, then there’d be no story here, only interesting reflections of ourselves, our aspirations, our faults, and our fears.