Four-Legged Ants


Or, Gaslighting By Skynet

Unless you’re living (“living”) under a simulated rock, you have probably heard of Sora by now. But just in case: OpenAI, the makers of The Notorious G.P.T., are moving into generative video, and the initial results are scary good:

I have tiny little ants in my kitchen, and I think about them when I think about AI. (Or maybe it’s the other way around.) They’re so small you wouldn’t even know they’re ants if they didn’t behave like ants, and with all the computing power and all the venture capital in the known world we still have not invented anything as flexible and capable as a single one of them. It was a good choice of subject by the OpenAI team.

I must have watched that video a dozen times before I saw this tweet from Meta’s Yann LeCun:

Tweet from Yann

Sure enough, four-legged ants.

This happened a few months ago, and I’m sure by now it’s considered bad form to complain about the number of legs (or heads) on an ant. How many ants can dance on the head of a pin? In my kitchen, at least two. In my diffusion stable? The stuff of nightmares.

But the larger point is simply this: the AI’s hallucinations will, when they reach the center of the Uncanny Valley, be the thing we think of as normal.

Consider the Lobster. Seriously.

It’s a good bet that most people have never seen a lobster. And even the people who have seen a few, they haven’t seen many different kinds. There’s a world of lobsters you probably already couldn’t tell from an AI-generated pseudo-lobster. Are some of them really blue? How many legs do they have again?

No, really: how many?

🦞 🎱

Did you think it must be eight? I did.

Now imagine a near future in which, for no reason more nefarious than the secondary fact-checking AI having also been wrong about lobster legginess, we start to see eight-legged lobsters pop up in our social media. Then in our Hollywood movies. Then in our documentaries…

And at this point, the Noble Order of the Lobsterpersons, HQ Maine USA, gets up in arms and shouts over the heads of the carcinologists (yes, really) who are too polite to shout – “They are decapods, you fools! Decapods!”

By now, though, everyone knows as well as you and I that a lobster has eight legs. They’re quite sure they’ve seen them. The more analytical folks go double check, just to be sure: do a quick AI-assisted GoogleTok video search, and sure enough, yes, exactly: eight legs. Duh.

Since the Lobsterpersons keep shoving their sea-bugs in our faces as if we cared, this becomes political, and soon enough POTUS gets on national TV (is that still a thing?) and cracks wise.

“I don’t know about you, but I want to see those two extra legs with my own two eyes. Next to my steak!”

Memes ensue: legs on plates, eyes on plates, Lobsterpersons on steaks with their hands full of legs. The carcinologists just try to keep their heads down.

And then the inevitable happens: the Lobsterpersons, tired of being laughed at, start quietly plucking the posterior pereiopods from their catch.

And that, my friends, is why you only see eight-legged lobsters in your Surf & Turf. Anything different probably crawled out of a lab in China.

. . .

Bring on the big hallucinations while we still can. It’s the little ones that are going to rewire your brain.