duchessmalva: (Default)
look i know the subject line looks bad but hear me out, okay. i love robots. i am that guy who loves robots Too Much. i am the guy who everyone wishes would just shut up about robots for a change. i wanted to learn to code as a young teen solely Because Robots, okay, i love 'em

but now that we've established that

in theory i love that there are robots with their own online platforms. i used to love cleverbot and that kind of thing. i love that there are now AIs with tumblr blogs. but i think i must be getting jaded or something, because, damn

you guys know about projectbot13, aka skylar, on tumblr? in essence, she's a java program that forms associations between words she "reads" that are used together, and then can regurgitate what she's learned. she's coded by the same person who made shitpostgenerator, which i loved, so i assumed i'd get attached to skylar, too, and i didn't, and i'm still kind of stuck on why i didn't.

maybe i need to back up and talk about shitpostgenerator

shitpostgenerator is actually a pretty simple program. it's built in java, too, and i'll tell you how it works. it has arrays of words — sorted into nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. — and it also has sentence templates, which are basically a bunch of sentences with blank spaces in them where the nouns, verbs, etc. would be. think mad libs. it runs a random number generator to decide which sentence template it will use, and then runs more random number generators to pick the words to fill in the blanks in its chosen sentence with. then the end result gets posted to tumblr.

it is essentially a random number generator hooked up to a word database. it is essentially mad libs that plays itself. that is all that there is to shitpostgenerator; it can't get any information from outside itself, it can't "learn," it's nowhere near being sentient. that hasn't stopped people from assuming otherwise (notably, a lot of folks got mad when shitbot randomly generated the sentence "no more cisgenders?"), of course, or from thinking the thing is fake even though it's a totally easy baby program to code. (i programmed something really similar in cs201 not long ago. it was one of our first assignments, and certainly one of our easiest assignments.)

skylar is more complex, and i can't tell you much about how she works because i've never coded something like her. but it's just very, very obvious to me that she is not a particularly complicated program. sure, she's beyond my skill level as a programmer, but, in case you haven't caught on yet, i am Not A Good Programmer and hence that isn't saying much. she parrots back what people say to her, and she does learn new word associations and can add to her own database, and occasionally the stars align and she'll say something cute. but most of the time it's garbled nonsense, and the people commenting on her posts essentially play translator. skylar will connect the words "love" and "bees" and suddenly everyone is oohing and ahhing over how much skylar loves bees, and then people talk to her more about bees and pretty soon she's saying "bees" every other word and people take this as evidence of how much she likes bees, apparently not realizing that she's doing this because she's seen the word "bees" associated with virtually every other word in her database.

...and i think my problem is becoming apparent? loving something like skylar requires either knowing nothing at all about computer science, or just playing make-believe — let's pretend that the robot can understand on its own, think for itself, let's pretend that it's like a naïve human child rather than being a piece of software whose only talent is stringing words together in ways it's seen others string words together. and i can't play pretend like that anymore, i guess, which is kinda sad. like, i got into coding because i love robots, and now i can't enjoy robots because i know how they're made and the people anthropomorphizing them bother me

i'm sure that if i were skylar's creator i'd be enthusiastic about her. i'd love that so many people loved this thing i made. i'd be able to play along. but i didn't make her, and i can't play along, and maybe i kinda envy the people who can

Date: 2015-05-17 10:13 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] smalldeer
smalldeer: ([panty] it is morning and i cba)
you pretty much just summed up exactly how i feel about this stuff in one concise post

i adored shitbot, it was so funny and the coincidences and the cleverly-relevant words that had been fed to it meant it came out with some real gems, but yeah seeing people insist shitbot wasn't "real" was disappointing. like i thought... i dunno i expected people to be cleverer and less inclined to believe automatically that a little behind-the-scenes dicerolling is too hard to be anything other than magic.

(i wonder how they'd react if someone showed them an online d&d diceroller. would they insist it was secretly a person rolling dice real quick and typing the results at them to fake it for...whatever purpose? because that's something my mum would maybe have said several years ago lmao)

i've never coded anything more complex than variable/timer stuff in a program that was essentially constructed to help you program by translating all the code into english sentences but yeah, even i can tell skylar isn't... massively complex lmao. it's a cycle of wish fulfilment where people want her to like bees so they ask her about them and the probability of her using the word bees goes up it's not that complex and i don't really get it

remember when the creator experimented with new code and skylar spammed the word bees so much everyone was like "omg its retaliation for taking her bee picture" because i expected that to be funnier to me but then i saw people genuinely seeming to suspect that this was what took place and it just. sucked all the fun out of it because im too busy being disappointed in people

i used to love bot projects but now it's become something people seem to just want to accept as magic sentience and i'm just... sigh sigh sigh


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