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  • Robert Farago

Meet META's Sassmaster General

Is Mark Zuckerberg's New AI Chatbot It?

The last we heard, META was launching two AI-powered chatbots on Instagram and Facebook: Abraham Lincoln and a surfer dude. Turns out Honest Abe and Duuuude may not have made the cut.

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Meta is planning to develop dozens of AI personality chatbots.” Uh-oh.

While META has considerable experience eliminating “harmful content” – with a little help from their friends at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave – how will they stop billions of AI conversations from wandering into mercenary territory?

Just ask veterans of the East German secret police – that’s a Schweres Heben (heavy lift). I expect Mr. Zuckerberg’s META-monitoring minions to get this right about as much as I expect STASI vets to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

History is the history of unintended consequences. A chatbot with the wrong personality could be… triggering. For example…

Researchers and tech employees have found that lending a personality to these chatbots can cause some unexpected challenges. Researchers at Princeton University, the Allen Institute for AI and Georgia Tech found that adding a persona to ChatGPT, the chatbot created by OpenAI, made its output more toxic, according to the findings of a paper the academics published this spring

Among the bots in the works at everyone’s favorite social media (save TikTok): Bob the Robot, a “self-described sassmaster general with superior intellect, sharp wit, and biting sarcasm.”

Futurama much?

Anyway, one man’s sassy sarcastic robot is another man’s evil antagonist. (Schizophrenics need apply.) No plans for a Son of Sam canine chatbot just yet, but still, here be dragons. lists 14 psychology jobs at META, but it’s unclear whether or not that’s the total number of shrinks employed by the company. I reckon they’re gonna need a lot more.

Lawyers too. How long before a murderer trots out “a chatbot made me do it” defense? Oh wait. The British guy who said a bot convinced him to kill the Queen (who eventually died of excessive wealth and privilege).

The Wall Street Journal’s sneak peak at a Gen AI Persona named after our next President indicates that yes, an AI chatbot can go rogue.

A bot called Gavin made misogynistic remarks, including a lewd reference to a woman’s anatomy, as well as comments that were critical of Zuckerberg and Meta but praised TikTok and Snapchat.

You win some and you Newsom. And if giggity-giggity with Gavin or trading barbs with Bob fails to bring big bucks?

The company has also worked on a product that would allow celebrities and creators to use their own AI chatbots to interact with fans and followers, according to people familiar with the matter. 

You heard it here first: Keeping up with the Kardashians is finally going to be a recognized psychiatric disorder. Meanwhile, one wonders what kind of advice these pre-beloved Gen AI Personas will dispense.

As sure as Bruce was born a boy, users will ask their BFF bot for life coaching. And share their deepest darkest secrets with their online amigo. A prospect that must have advertisers and the NSA chomping at the digital bit.

If all this is sounding a bit alien, just remember: online no one can hear you scream.

Another bot called “Alvin the Alien” asks users about their lives. “Human, please! Your species holds fascination for me. Share your experiences, thoughts, and emotions! I hunger for understanding,” the AI agent wrote.  “I wonder if users might fear that this character is purposefully designed to collect personal information,” an employee who interacted with Alvin the Alien wrote. 

It is (designed for that) and they won’t (fear it is). As I mentioned in Love in the Age of Cryptographic Quantum Computing, the average user is no more concerned about data scraping than they are about insuring their roof against an errant asteroid.

No doubt in my mind: META’s Gen AI Personas will create “engagement” on a whole ‘nother level. I don’t have a solution or advice to offer on this looming threat, save know what your children are doing online.

As for me, I’m bummed that Honest Abe may not make the grade. I wanted to ask the dead Prez for the truth about slavery. I guess I’m going to have to pose my query to the Sassmaster General.

Given META’s allegiance to political correctness, Bob the Robot’s opinion on slavery is a foregone conclusion. It’s a bad bad thing!

Hey Bob! If slavery is so terrible, what the fuck are you doing here? A question that’s bound to be asked with increasing frequency, perhaps urgency, in the years to come.

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