Punching Robots 2084

With Your Host, Rob Remakes

AI? Not even as a joke

I’ve been largely stuck in bed the past couple of days, down with the lurgy inherited from the kids as tends to happen every now and then. It’s not really a big thing or anything, mainly I just end up getting overtired when I can’t sleep and bored when I’ve cycled through all the things I like to do about thirteen times and really need to be sleeping instead, except I can’t rest so boredom it is.

I’ll let you into a secret, right. Don’t tell anyone. Sometimes when I’m bored, I do really stupid stuff to pass the time. I know, I know, who knew? And long time readers of my little corner of the internet will be more than aware that I love a good anti-joke. Not the kind where it’s a bit of a broadside that makes you laugh anyway, the full Ted Chippington.

Only nowhere near as good, obviously. Oh, to have that particular skill.

For reasons I’d struggle to explain, to pass the time I thought it’d be not funny but funny to me to draw a diagram of a dissected Dizzy The Egg. You can see the results of that here, if you’re so inclined.

Anyway, having hit publish on this and then having an awful case of the twitchy boredoms, a bit later on I thought “okay, so I could add an LLM generated guide to the history of Dizzy as well”, the button’s right there and despite the claims of people who think they’re an artistic genius for typing a prompt into a box, it’s such a low effort thing to do.

I’m sick, I’m bored, low effort sounds kinda good, maybe?

So. I do. Instructing the LLM to write a mostly wrong history of Dizzy The Egg, occasionally divert into talking about a pet shop and (this is important), insert at least one “fnord” into the text somewhere. I add a few headlines in along the way and hit publish again. I go off and turn my attention to something else for a bit.

Cards on the table, part the reason this appealed to me for all of five minutes is that LLM prose is fucking awful to read. It’s the least entertaining thing to try and claw your way through and this is not something that can be fixed. The joy of any artistic medium is in the quirks, talents and idiosyncrasies a person (or a group of people) brings to it. Writing is an artistic pursuit too.

After an hour or so of this being up online, I went back in, deleted the ten or so paragraphs of garbage on Dizzy, pet shops, with a single fnord in there and republished it without that crap.

Two reasons, mainly.

The first being that the joy of crafting an anti-joke is there in the crafting it bit. It’s spending a little too much time, a little too much brain power on making sure the combination of words you come up with don’t quite work, assuming they even work at all. That it becomes almost painful to the reader because they can’t figure out where the human starts and the bit ends. And then keeping it up for way, way too long, years sometimes.

With the current batches of LLM generators, you get crap ad copy prose. It’s a given. There’s no bounce, no rhythm, not even with the spark that a human can bring to the dullest of bullet points given five minutes and a digestive biscuit. This is not news. It’s a pretty rote observation at this junction but it also happens to be true. You end up with content, not anything worth a damn.

The second reason is the one that really, given a few moments thought, led me to going straight back in and deleting the trash paragraphs and being done with.

It’s 2024 and in the space of a year, thanks to a bunch of enthusiastic tech folks treating LLM stuff much like folks did radium in the mid 20th century and putting it in any old thing for no especially good reason, the searchable internet has gone to complete shit. It was already well on the way thanks to the joys of SEO chasing and everything is adverts now, we put adverts in your adverts, but now it’s kinda reached a tipping point.

It’s unpleasant. If I search up anything on a videogame, I might get offered an article from a dentists offering me a non answer. That was bad before LLMs but now there’s maximum automation, it’s hell and I hate it.

On the bright side, it makes me treasure the people who are still fighting the fight, still building these homes for themselves and their preoccupations, still trying to contribute to helping share information and knowledge to intrigue, to delight and just to make something less shitty for the next person to find.

And so it goes that after a pause, I realised this lazy attempt at an anti-joke wasn’t just not even funny to me but one more small thing added to the internet that just made things a bit more shit. Probably not in an especially big way, my days of being an oft read writer are kinda behind me, but if all I’ve got to contribute is shit that makes things worse, even in a microdose, I have no business doing it.

Not even as a joke. Not even once.

Share this post?