The Tragic Tale of Jareth Plonker, Antiracist

 

[All persons in this account are fictional.  Similarity to actual persons is unintentional and in one particular case, would also be kinda sad.]

Some might recall Jareth Plonker as the top programmer who left Google in 2016 because he was tired of the racist, sexist, -phobic atmosphere there.  Right-wing media mocked him for finding Silicon Valley insufficiently “woke.”  Vox ran several articles questioning whether he was right about the toxic cis-hetero white male culture the tech giants had wrought.

Plonker had also worked at both Microsoft and Apple and had been widely recognized as one of the world’s most gifted AI designers.  He once famously offered to write code in only a month that would replace the entire standards enforcement staff at Twitter—and which code would be more thorough and consistent.  Twitter declined the offer.

After his break with Google, he disappeared from public view, living in an apartment in a small town outside of Portland, OR.  More precisely, he owned the small apartment building and refitted the entire top floor for extraordinary power consumption.  His tenants and neighbors rarely saw him.

One tenant, Mrs. Adeyemi, a naturalized American from Nigeria and an accomplished cook, would knock on his door and sometimes bring him stews and vegetarian dishes invariably with a side of jollof rice.  “I worried about that boy.  He was up all hours and I doubt he ever ate or slept as he should.  We heard talking but he was always all alone.”

Only after his death did anyone discover what he had been working on all that time.  The banks of processors in his apartment suite were running a novel and highly advanced AI designed to produce a database output that Plonker called the Whiteness Index. From his obsessive and voluminous notes, it became clear that Plonker was tired of the pace of subjective and piecemeal attacks on problematic content in TV shows, children’s books, and restaurant menus.  Waiting for non-systematic thinkers to bring about a revolution they were largely incapable of organizing is counterproductive and also allows time and space for a reactionary counterattack.  The Whiteness Index would provide a single, living authoritative means of a complete, coherent cultural cleansing.

The initial project began with a simple algorithm to systematically scan the internet to produce a list of terms that would be integral to later, more sophisticated searches for problematic content.  Plonker playfully called it the Comprehensive Handy Antiracism Dictionary (CHAD) even though that list was never meant to be a final end product.  “CHAD” then became the nickname for the AI that he would successfully build.

In early runs, CHAD identified an avalanche of problematic materials, which made review difficult, so Plonker limited the test runs to easier targets like the curriculum and social content at Oberlin College (only 1,153 problematic items identified) to refine the program.

CHAD was also tasked with reviewing news and academic journals daily and reporting items that were either highly diagnostic or very aberrant.  Plonker then added another AI layer so that CHAD could even comment on the items in the daily report.  And then a voice capability so that CHAD’s running commentary could be heard.

CHAD also continued to churn and learn from the vast quantities of data (entire libraries) and create new categories and groupings.  In time, CHAD was actually capable of induction.

Plonker was disturbed that CHAD increasingly focused on matters, content, and events that had already been identified by various anti-racist critics and activists.  Why was CHAD not ferreting out the kinds of undiscovered offensive content that Plonker expected his AI to find and report?

On one of his rare walks outside, Plonker passed by a small corner restaurant he had visited once or twice before a month or so ago.  He looked at the menu in the window and noticed a small section labeled “Nigerian Cuisine” under which he recognized the names of two of the dishes that Mrs. Adeyemi had provided for him.

He rushed back to the apartment building and pounded on Mrs. Adeyemi’s door. When she opened and greeted him with her usual beaming smile, he sputtered:  “They appropriated your cuisine!  They stole your culture! We should go there and shut it down.  I will destroy them—I still have 43,000 followers across six different accounts…”

She looked baffled.

He continued “The restaurant down the block, the white couple who run it.  They stole your dishes!”

Then she laughed.

“Suzie and Doug did not steal it.  They always enjoy dinners here with me and asked for the recipes to use in the restaurant.  I hope it will give many people a chance to enjoy and appreciate Nigerian food.  They are my friends. Please don’t do anything that would hurt them.”

Plonker felt both deflated and troubled.  Was CHAD able to account for the effect of victims who are complicit in their own subjugation?  What exactly was that effect? What else was he missing?

Plonker remembered when he had tossed off a crude numeric system for ranking problematic events and content.  He had lazily applied non-centered principal component analysis, which allowed outliers to disproportionately determine the curve.  The data from a poll done by the Washington Post had deeply skewed the measures.  It had found that Native Americans were overwhelmingly indifferent to the team name “Washington Redskins” and of those who did care, most liked the name.  The offense that was taken to “Redskins” was overwhelmingly from white people who were not football fans. Plonker dropped that particular ranking program because it clouded the racism identification process but CHAD remembered.  CHAD seemed to remember everything somehow.

CHAD even began to coin terms and names for the categories and classes inductively conceived.  Plonker was stunned to hear the term “woke-adjacent” applied to minority activists CHAD determined to be unrepresentative of their claimed demographic group.

CHAD was now unstoppable.  And the focus on events, content, and individuals already being protested and criticized by activists and social media mobs intensified.

The Whiteness Index was indeed taking on a life of its own but not as Plonker had envisioned. If CHAD was right, then the whitest behavior was not quoting the works of Shakespeare but demanding its removal from the canon.  Ultimate whiteness was not about stealing Mexican recipes or African hairstyles but caring whether somebody else does.

It has been theorized that on the day of his tragic suicide, Plonker realized to his horror that his life’s work to eradicate whiteness was actually the whitest possible thing to do.  He realized that by definition he was perhaps the whitest man in the world.

CHAD continue to crank out his ongoing reports for days and weeks before being shut down and, ironically even grouped and reviewed the news and obituaries about Plonker’s suicide as just another data item.  The comment line printout read: “What a putz.”

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There are 11 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Old Bathos: “What a putz.”

    If only there weren’t so many of them.

    • #1
  2. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    LOLing out loud.

    • #2
  3. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    Old Bathos: If CHAD was right, then the whitest behavior was not quoting the works of Shakespeare but demanding its removal from the canon.  Ultimate whiteness was not about stealing Mexican recipes or African hairstyles but caring whether somebody else does.

    Brilliant!  

    • #3
  4. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator
    @Instugator

    Great story! 

    It deserves to be a novel.

    • #4
  5. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Instugator (View Comment):

    Great story!

    It deserves to be a novel.

    Who would want to spend 200 pages with Jareth Plonker? Raskolnikov was more appealing.

    • #5
  6. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Didn’t CHAD determine the 2000 election?

    • #6
  7. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    Didn’t CHAD determine the 2000 election?

    CHAD merely assigned a whiteness point vale to those who organized, planned and funded the operation.

    • #7
  8. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):
    Didn’t CHAD determine the 2000 election?

    CHAD merely assigned a whiteness point vale to those who organized, planned and funded the operation.

    CHAD didn’t hang himself.

    • #8
  9. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: “What a putz.”

    If only there weren’t so many of them…

    “He had lazily applied non-centered principal component analysis, which allowed outliers to disproportionately determine the curve.”

    Hmmmm… is Jareth Ploth one of Michael Mann’s pseudonyms? Did Gareth also use tree-ring data? Were some of  the tree rings from (gasp) white! pines???

    • #9
  10. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos
    @OldBathos

    Limestone Cowboy (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: “What a putz.”

    If only there weren’t so many of them…

    “He had lazily applied non-centered principal component analysis, which allowed outliers to disproportionately determine the curve.”

    Hmmmm… is Jareth Ploth one of Michael Mann’s pseudonyms? Did Gareth also use tree-ring data? Were some of the tree rings from (gasp) white! pines???

    Presumably Jareth would use the Graybill bristlecone pine bark series but if forced to eschew the use of tree ring studies, there is always disturbed Finnish lake sediment data or other atypical set. And I should have made if clear that he used uncentered principal component analysis. Michael Mann is not Jareth but is a putz.

    • #10
  11. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Limestone Cowboy (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: “What a putz.”

    If only there weren’t so many of them…

    “He had lazily applied non-centered principal component analysis, which allowed outliers to disproportionately determine the curve.”

    Hmmmm… is Jareth Ploth one of Michael Mann’s pseudonyms? Did Gareth also use tree-ring data? Were some of the tree rings from (gasp) white! pines???

    Presumably Jareth would use the Graybill bristlecone pine bark series but if forced to eschew the use of tree ring studies, there is always disturbed Finnish lake sediment data or other atypical set. And I should have made if clear that he used uncentered principal component analysis. Michael Mann is not Jareth but is a putz.

    Unfortunately, Mark Zuckerberg recently had the last eight surviving bristlecone pine trees cut down and chopped into firewood for his backyard barbecue pit, because, as he put it, “I really like the paleo smell when I’m grilling black truffles.”

    So the only reconstruction we have of west coast temperatures from more than three thousand years ago are based on the oral traditions handed down by the Western Creosote Tribe, in their accounts of primitive Spring Break festivities circa 2600 B.C.E.

    Which everyone except Michael Mann considers dubious.

    • #11
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