- The Prompt Report
- AI needs the Hollywood treatment
AI needs the Hollywood treatment
The general public fears AI... that's a problem.
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To the readers that have been here before, I’m trying out something new this week. I’ll be diving deep into one story today and sending out the rest of the weekly Report (prompt tips, jailbreak, links, meme) on Friday morning.
Let me know your thoughts on this experiment in the poll at the bottom of this post!
Now, onto today’s piece…
A week ago I woke up, walked over to my desk, and checked my phone, as I do every morning (I’m sorry Andrew Huberman).
But this time something was different… Instead of a good morning text from a human, I saw a Bitmoji-anthropomorphized language model nestled atop my Snapchat notifications.
That’s weird, I thought, I don’t pay for Snapchat Plus (real shocker, I know) so why is My AI chatting with me?
I swiped over to Twitter and quickly found the reason why…
Say hi to My AI, our new chatbot located at the top of your chat. Write a song for your bestie who loves cheese, find the best IYKYK restaurant, or Snap it a photo of your garden to find the perfect recipe. Now free for all Snapchatters. #SnapPartnerSummit
— Snapchat (@Snapchat)
Apr 19, 2023
Ah, so Snapchat has invaded everyone's notifications and forced them to interact with their GPT-4 powered chatbot. I'm sure the legions of Gen-Z Snapchat users, who now exchange Snap QR codes instead of phone numbers, will surely appreciate this move.
Well, spoiler alert: They didn’t. For evidence, just look at the ratio on that announcement tweet:
The replies were brutal as well. Let’s take a quick peek.🍿
One user stated, “I’ll be sure to delete my account soon and to never use anything by Snap Inc. again! I’ve used the app around 7 years. What a shame.”
Another added, “This AI is a liar, I want it gone.”
Nearly 2,000 others shared similar sentiments on that single tweet alone.
Headlines began to appear across tech publications:
On TechCrunch, “Snapchat sees spike in 1-star reviews as users pan the ‘My AI’ feature, calling for its removal”.
And BusinessInsider, “Anyone can now use Snapchat’s ‘My AI’ chat bot and the memes about ‘horrifying’ messages have arrived”.
The catastrophic rollout of My AI became a hot topic.
At this point, one can't help but feel some sympathy for poor My AI😢
However, My AI's story isn't over. My AI marks the beginning of language models becoming an integral part of our daily lives.
Unlike ChatGPT and other applications that users had to actively seek, My AI is the first language model to be integrated where people already are.
Sure, some of the backlash stems from the annoyance of My AI taking up precious screen space and polluting users’ chat feed by limiting them to view only nine of their streaks at a time instead of 10. But the overwhelming response was driven by fear.
My AI's conversations terrified and angered users. Some felt their "right to privacy [was] being semi-violated." Others were spooked by the lifelike responses and suspected humans were monitoring and responding to snaps.
Take a look at one of the many messages I received about the chatbot last week:
Outside the AI Twitter bubble, it's apparent that most people are overwhelmed and frightened by the rapid advancements in the field.
And mainstream articles like this aren't exactly calming those fears.
Why are we instinctively scared and creeped out by these technologies? Maybe it's because we've been deceived by Big Tech before (Cambridge Analytica, Twitter files, etc.), or perhaps it's an inherent fear of change, or, as Noah Smith proposes, a resistance to tech innovation due in part to zero-sum outcomes that have only served to make the rich richer.
Or maybe part of it is due to the endless AI horror stories that have permeated our subconscious minds through TV and movies.
We can't change the past or our nature, but we might be able to influence that last reason. Society’s tech (and AI) phobic idealogy thrives in part because it's entertaining. Perhaps it's time for OpenAI and others to take a leaf out of the US government's book on propaganda…
Disney 🤝 The War Effort
On December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor, Walt Disney received a phone call from a US Naval official.
At that time, Disney was in Los Angeles, struggling to hold his company together. In the latter part of 1940, Walt and his brother Roy initiated Disney's first public stock offering, while also implementing major salary cuts across the organization. As a result, Disney animators went on a 5-week strike in 1941, leading to massive disruptions in the production of the film Dumbo.
Dumbo was finally released in October 1941, earning praise from audiences and critics alike. Walt thought he could finally take a breather, but that phone call changed everything.
The naval official offered Disney a $90,000 contract (equivalent to around $1,850,000 today) to create 20 training films for soldiers on subjects like identifying enemy aircraft.
Disney accepted the deal, and the Walt Disney Training Films Unit was established, producing highly entertaining films like Four Methods of Flush Riveting and Aircraft Production Methods.
But that was just the beginning…
Disney became deeply involved in the war, and by 1943, nearly 90 percent of Disney's work was dedicated to the war effort.
Disney crafted military emblems, created propaganda films, and allowed its famous characters to be used by various government agencies.
Now, I can’t mention all of this without acknowledging that things got a little weird toward the end…
Disney started portraying the enemy as immoral or even inhuman, most notably in short films like Der Fuehrer's Face, starring Donald Duck (which won an Academy Award), and Commando Duck, which features Donald confronting exaggerated Japanese snipers in the Pacific.
Just Mickey Mouse threatening to kill someone… haha nothing to see here
Not to mention, Disney's coverage of the Holocaust was conspicuously absent in part due to the larger issue of anti-semitism in the country at the time.
So yeah… it wasn't all wholesome, patriotic content.
But you can’t argue that these films weren’t effective.
As the war went on, Disney production surged tenfold from an average of 30,000 feet of film per year to 300,000.
Some films catered directly to soldiers, covering topics like Why We Fight and Tuning Transmitters. Others targeted a broader audience: In the animated propaganda film Victory Through Air Power, for example, the company promoted the strategic advantages of advanced long-range bombers.
Disney also taught science and civics lessons. The Grain That Built a Hemisphere—the first in a series of five films centered on agriculture—extolled the virtues of corn, while a radio in The New Spirit informed Donald Duck that true patriots pay timely “taxes to beat the Axis.”
Through these films, the general public developed an appreciation for science and technology, and grew to support companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing that were leading the way and helping America succeed.
America became a shining beacon of scientific progress and innovation following World War II, in no small part due to Disney's efforts. The company's films not only spurred interest in cutting-edge technology but also fostered a sense of national pride and unity around the pursuit of knowledge and advancement.
As the war drew to a close, this momentum didn't wane. Instead, it fueled the space race, the development of modern computing, and countless other technological leaps that positioned the United States as a global leader in innovation.
The public, inspired by Disney's films, embraced these advancements with open arms, and a generation of scientists, engineers, and inventors emerged to propel the nation forward.
The cultural impact of Disney's (and Hollywood’s) wartime work cannot be overstated. It played a crucial role in shaping America's identity as a powerhouse of progress, inspiring countless individuals to reach for the stars – both figuratively and literally.
With Disney's help, the nation emerged from the dark days of war with a renewed sense of purpose and an unwavering belief in the power of science and technology to change the world for the better.
Now, contrast that with today.
There are no glittering media portrayals of Big Tech or AI labs. We live in a technophobic society where fear and mistrust of technology often overshadow its potential benefits. While the tech industry continues to innovate and evolve, the mainstream narrative as portrayed in our media tends to focus on the negative consequences and potential dangers of AI and other advanced technologies.
If you were to play a word association game with the term "artificial intelligence," most people’s first answer would probably be along the lines of Overlord or Terminator.
And a large part of that is Hollywood and tech companies’ fault.
Hollywood fuels our dreams and helps us envision alternate lives, societies, and realities.
Regarding AI, we lack inspiration. The closest film that offers a realistic depiction of AI is Her, and even that falls short in many ways.
If AI experts predict massive structural changes in the next decade, why isn't there any content that educates people on what this might look like?
Instead, all we have are vague mission statements from organizations like OpenAI, claiming, "Our mission is to ensure that artificial general intelligence benefits all of humanity."
Benefit humanity how? Replacing a multitude of jobs with advanced language models doesn't seem all that beneficial to many folks.
This is coming from someone who's pro-OpenAI! I truly respect the work they and others are doing, and I believe it will eventually lead to immense benefits for humanity... but this isn't apparent to those who don't live and breathe Twitter.
Hollywood, in combination with tech companies, needs to spark a new war effort, where this time the enemy isn't a foreign nation, but a version of ourselves stuck in technical stagnation and prone to rejecting further scientific progress.
Through this effort, we can envision a world where movie theaters are filled with pro-technological-innovation media that showcases the myriad ways AI can enhance our lives.
Films about troubled individuals finding their path with the help of an AI mentor, or scientists collaborating with AI models to achieve breakthroughs, or movies depicting robots taking over the hazardous jobs that cause countless fatalities every year... the possibilities are boundless.
In fact, it's a mistake to think AI must be the focal point of a film. Instead, AI should blend seamlessly into the background, going unnoticed, much like it should in real life.
Interestingly, AI will actually aid us in this endeavor. As AI-assisted video generation advances, many ideas once limited to text will be brought to life on the screen, and concepts once confined to the pages of obscure sci-fi novels may enter the mainstream.
If it's true that "AI is the New Electricity" and the world is on the brink of transformation, let's help people brace themselves for what's coming. Otherwise, we're bound to face a lot more Snapchat My AI disasters in the future.
 Some may point out this paper refers to reducing the number of tasks rather than replacing jobs but articles referencing the paper like this prove my point that the overall messaging is bad and the nuance between reducing tasks and replacing jobs is frequently lost in the broader discussion.
What'd you think of this week's post?