Project SyndicateProject Syndicate

Artificial idiocy

By Slavoj Žižek

23 Mar 2023 · 4 min read

Editor's Note

The new chatbots aren't clever enough to detect the nuances that constitute human culture and communication, Slavoj Zizek writes in PS. By relying on them, we risk succumbing to the same obtuseness.

LJUBLJANA – There is nothing new about “chatbots” that are capable of maintaining a conversation in natural language, understanding a user’s basic intent, and offering responses based on preset rules and data. But the capacity of such chatbots has been dramatically augmented in recent months, leading to handwringing and panic in many circles.

Much has been said about chatbots auguring the end of the traditional student essay. But an issue that warrants closer attention is how chatbots should respond when human interlocutors use aggressive, sexist, or racist remarks to prompt the bot to present its own foul-mouthed fantasies in return. Should AIs be programmed to answer at the same level as the questions that are being posed?

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