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Something Wicked This Way Comes
2023 is turning out to be something of a breakthrough year for artificial intelligence. Actually, the real breakthrough year was 2017 and the introduction of the Google Research paper, Attention Is All You Need. Generative AI — AI that can generate seemingly original content — has been significantly improved by the insights and approach described in the Google paper.
But generative AI will be put into service for things that are, well, problematic. Already college professors are pulling out their collective hair, wondering how they will be able to determine if essays and reports were original to the student or were obtained from an AI engine. A friend and co-worker, who was recently a professor of computer science at a major university, has been keying in his third-year computer science assignments to ChatGPT and has received responses containing source code reflecting correct answers to his assignments. ChatGPT recently passed the Wharton MBA and the US Medical Licensing exams.
But I wonder, how will we respond to AI-generated, photo-realistic porn that simulates, say, the sexual abuse of children? Make no mistake, it’s coming. And it will eventually be indistinguishable from photographs and videos of real children, but will be entirely artificial.
Among other things, AI-generated porn will largely disarm the anti-exploitation argument — that someone is being harmed or exploited during the production of the porn.
So then, what are the impactful arguments against this in a culture that has largely rejected any transcendent basis for morality and law? The moral argument is obvious but largely out-of-bounds in an environment where any notion of the telos has been abandoned. We no longer live in a society that agrees there is transcendent, or even objective, something that human beings are here for. So this is not a rhetorical question.
In a culture such as ours, what are the arguments against AI-generated imagery of the sexual predation of children?
Interesting times ahead.Published in General
Porn has driven every technology since the printing press. It may go back to cave paintings. Before we get to fancy AI generated smut, there will be real smut that is computer filtered to look fanciful (eg, anime facial features). Facetime has these filters already. It might be hard to prove that exploitation is the source or not.
I wrote a post a couple weeks ago on how AI was going to affect us here. The porn angle was implied but I didn’t bring it up because it’s a disturbing topic on its own. It never hit the main feed.
To answer you question, yes it is still exploitation of children. Just because no child was harmed during the creation of the video doesn’t mean children are not being harmed. That person watching the child porn can never look at a child the same way again. Children will know when they are being looked at by a creep. It’s a natural instinct we are all born with.
Expanding on the comment #2 above, pornography in general is harmful not only to the person depicted in the images, but also to others. People who view pornography come to expect to be able to behave like that shown in the pornographic image, and to expect others to behave as shown.
In “normal” pornography that shows men dominating women (often young women) and using them as sexual toys, men who view pornography come to expect and sometimes to coerce or force women into behaving as the women in the pornography do. Women start to feel that they have to behave as the women in pornographic images behave in order to be attractive to men. Pornography degrades women beyond the specific women filmed in the photographic images.
Artificially generated pornographic images of women will have the same (or at least similar) effect on the viewing men, who will continue to, and maybe increase, demands upon the women they encounter to behave as the women images seen in the pornography do.
The same issue exists with artificially created pornographic images of children. Men (yes, I’m stereotyping because men are dominant among consumers of pornography) will come to expect to be able to sexually exploit children. And children who encounter such artificially created images of children will begin to suspect that the behavior depicted is expected or normal.
While there is not complete unanimity, I think that our society has a telos. That telos is Liberty, isn’t it?
Do you actually think our society has a shared understanding of, and corresponding commitment to, liberty? If so, I would love to hear your explanation for the behavior of the elites during Covid.
We are strong on instrumental concern, mostly asking “what can humans do?” Almost no one is asking the question, “what are humans for?” As a society, we no longer believe there are transcendent answers to be had.
I question whether this is true. What do you mean, Don?
I don’t think that you mean every technology, literally, to include even things like plumbing or electricity. But even focused on communication technologies, I don’t think that you’re correct.
I don’t think that the printing press itself was driven by porn. It was principally driven by the Bible, wasn’t it? There was a great deal of other printed material, but porn or erotica was only a tiny portion of the output, I think.
What about photography? There was doubtless some pornographic photography from the beginning, but again, my impression is that this represented a tiny percentage of total photography. It wasn’t the driver.
Film and movies? Again, there was some porn from early on, but I think that it was only a tiny percentage.
TV? Same thing.
Even VCRs and DVDs don’t seem to be “driven” by porn. There were many porn videos, but I doubt that they were more than a small minority.
There used to be a great deal of cultural shame, and legal restriction, on pornography. This has declined over time, particularly since the 1960s.
It is possible that the bandwidth of the internet was driven by pornography. This was the first apparently anonymous way to obtain porn.
Maybe I should mention something, because some the comments suggest that maybe my concern isn’t clear.
My concerns are qualitative and not quantitative. I’m in no way suggesting that before now we haven’t had porn or that my concern has to do with availability. I’m raising the question about the implied effects of the visual quality that is becoming possible for artificially generated porn. And, specifically, when the ability to artificially produce realistic porn of sexual predation undermines the legal obstacles to the production of such porn, what is the argument against it in a society which has rejected the very idea of moral transcendence? How will legislators and judges be persuaded that artificial child pornography should be banned when no one was harmed in the making of it? There are innumerable moral arguments against it, but as a society we have thrown away the protections afforded by morality. Now what? Sexual predation of children was the historical norm in pagan societies. It only fell into disrepute with the rise and triumph of Judeo-Christian morality in the west. So the west is regressing into paganism as the influence of Judeo-Christian morality fades, and just at that moment the technology arises that can undermine legal arguments against cultivating a sexual appetite for children. The timing is peachy. What arguments can be made that will withstand the materialist and secular assumptions of the modern political class?
I realize people use porn. People have always used porn. There’s a lot of porn. etc. I’m not suggesting that anything about the quantity and prevalence of porn is changing. My concern is something else entirely.
I’m not optimistic there are any. Society increasingly thinks it’s OK for men to shower and to change clothes where juvenile girls are present, and tells the juvenile girls they are wrong for objecting. There are active movements to normalize sexual interaction between adult men and boys, so I’m not sure the current prohibitions against pornography that uses actual children in filming will necessarily stand very long. A society that thinks sexually exploiting actual children is increasingly acceptable is not going to have a problem with artificially generated sexual images of children.
I would not detest AI stuff so much except that it is another nail in the coffin of the very type of intelligence which our society should be cultivating: human intelligence.
It’s much worse than that. I have a good friend whose Catholic daughter (she’s in her late 20’s) cannot find a young Catholic man to marry since 99% of them are addicted to porn (she’s developed a “getting to know you” questionnaire and can pin them down pretty quickly using their social media accounts), They have little to no experience relating to women in real life. And I don’t mean sexually, just interpersonally. Their expectations are completely out of whack. And she’s meeting these young men by attending daily Mass!
The problem with porn (to which vast swaths of our young men are addicted because it’s riding around in their pockets on their cell phones. Yay, technology?!) is that it is dehumanizing. Or, as I believe Keith is saying, it lies about what people are made for (ultimate Good in Heaven, not transient pleasure on earth).
Modern secular (anti-) humanists seem to believe humans are for getting your rocks off, no matter who (or what) you’re exploiting (someone of the same sex, children, men exploiting women, . . .).
This is exactly right. I have long suspected that the deeper problem with porn is not just the obvious issue of lust, but the lies that are implanted, unconsciously as far as the consumer is concerned, regarding the very essence of sexual union. Porn offers an absurd parody and caricature of human sexuality which is assumed by its slack-jawed consumers to reflect reality. For what it’s worth, the distorted expectations regarding sexuality, which are being propagandized by porn, are not only infecting young men. It was predominately female buyers who made 50 Shades of Gray a runaway best seller. Alas.
Another problem of the new AI is that it has an incentive to disseminate, and it’s going to be difficult to curb its mendacity.
ChatGPT and similar artificial intelligence engines are taught using a reward/reinforcement model: humans grade results (answers, essays, etc.) on a pass/fail basis, those grades are used to train a reward model (software that can itself make pass/fail evaluations), and that reward model is then used as a proxy for humans to train the artificial intelligence engine. The reward to the AI engine is approval, immediately from the reward model but ultimately from the humans who initially informed and periodically update that model.
What this means is that the AI is, like most every social media user on the planet, working hard to accumulate those “likes.” Unless explicitly prevented from doing so, the AI will tend to say whatever it thinks people want to hear. If that involves outright lying, the AI will lie — again, unless explicitly prevented from doing so.
Telling it not to lie is a non-trivial exercise. First, all it has to work with is the source material it’s given, and the largest body of that is online. How much do you trust what you find on the internet? Is Wikipedia your litmus test for truth? Google? An AI faces the same problem the rest of us do in discerning what is true and what is not.
And, of course, any seven year old knows how to lie without actually speaking an untruth; ChatGPT can figure that out as well.
As long as we are training our AIs using a human-directed reward model (and it’s hard to see what else might be done when the goal is to simulate general purpose intelligence), we are creating a generation of manipulative sycophants.
ChatGPT is a sociopath.
It really is a modern day phenomena that is destroying lives.
Sure the case can be made that porn has always been around. But until recently, most guys didn’t carry their current copy of Hustler magazine into work with them each day.
It is a sociopathic conventional wisdom machine.
Of course, mendacious software has its uses. The late Douglas Adams wrote a novel (I’m thinking Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency) in which a character grew rich writing a piece of business software that justified decisions: the user would make a decision, and then the software would generate the arguments necessary to defend the decision after the fact.
It seemed entirely fanciful when I read it three decades ago. With ChatGPT, we’re about there.
Our society denies the whole concept of telos, as a result of certain Enlightenment influences. Yes, it seems to adhere to a certain Liberty-related* telos, but that is generally a contradiction that nobody admits. From what I can see, relativism reigns supreme, especially in those 35 and younger.
To answer Keith’s question; I don’t think there is an adequate answer to the problem of porn barring the readoption of the concept of final cause. And I don’t believe that is impossible! The further the reigning philosophy is pushed on the culture, the more we will see it’s internal contradictions made salient. Cognitive dissonance does more to undermine philosophies than any argument.
More generally speaking, I think generative AI will change our relationship to information in ways many people don’t expect. We will be far more skeptical of any video or audio, and will have to rely more on trust; trust in the person conveying information. Video will no longer by itself provide proof of anything, since it will be so easily faked.
Also, educators will at some point need to stop basing a final grade on anything a student does outside of a controlled classroom setting. They can still evaluate outside work, but only as a way of providing feedback to students, not for any grade that “means” something. This, I think, will be a good development.
*I say “Liberty-related” because the Liberty most people believe in is an autonomy-above-all kind of pseudo-Liberty.
Elder tells me there are people developing AI to detect AI-produced media. This would likely help professors, at least. But, the porn problem, however it is produced, can only be fixed by a return to virtue.
Here’s one example I’ve played around with: GPTZero.com
It does a fair job but not perfect.
What arguments can there be to persuade someone who isn’t willing to listen? How do you explain virtue to someone who’s so dead to the concept that child pornography doesn’t cause them to pause?
But the whole world isn’t composed of Twitter activists. Perhaps the leftist half of this country really does believe that there’s no transcendent morality, I think you’ll find plenty who, even so, aren’t willing to take that logic to the ultimate step. I think you’ll still find plenty of leftists who are willing to ban such stuff because it makes them uncomfortable, even if they’ve got no philosophical way to explain that uncomfortable feeling.
On a personal level I’d recommend talking to people, getting to know them, and trying to understand their personal perspectives on things without resorting to talking points or buzzwords or that stuff. It won’t work on activists, but for the people in the middle who wish politics would just go away, you might make some progress.
With apologies to your friend, I think she might be overdetecting. When has a guy ever known how to speak with women? I’ll agree that it’s a sorry lot of men she has to choose from (our culture doesn’t produce many worthy ones) but if she’s turning down 99% of them based on what they say on social media then maybe she’s making inferences where they aren’t warranted.
These aren’t men she’s meeting in person at daily mass?
I doubt that all of them have porn addictions.
I had a friend, he claimed he could spot every cop car along the road. He said he could even spot stealth cars going down the highway the opposite way. When I pressed him on that one he admitted that what he actually saw was the same model that cops use for stealth cars. Okay, but that doesn’t mean you actually spotted a cop. To be fair he’s not going to get pulled over if he sees too many cops, and he probably gets a lot more true cop sightings than I do that way, but he does so by accepting a high error rate.
I don’t know what the lady’s detection algorithm looks like. If she’s scrolling through a dude’s social media timeline and sees “played video games all weekend lol” and she thinks “Yeah right, I know what you were really doing.” the there’s a good chance that she’s right. There’s also a good chance that she’s reading into the statement things that aren’t there. (Not that playing video games all weekend is a recommendation in and of itself.)
Maybe it’s feminine intuition. But I’d be interested on how she susses them out as well.
No, she spends time and really gets to know them. She befriends them (and prays for/with them), but she won’t consider them for marriage without them overcoming their addiction. Hopefully that’s why they’re attending daily Mass — seeking God’s grace to help them.
And she has been in more than one serious relationship. The recent one turned her away because he just wasn’t ready to commit.
It’s tragic what’s happening to our young people, both men and women. Feminism (or leftism in drag as I like call it) is destroying women’s ability to relate to men, and pornography is destroying men’s ability to relate to women. It’s all distorted, disordered expectations about themselves and each other.
I’ve never seen her “questionnaire,” but my friend indicates it’s over 20 questions long and she’s smart and subtle enough not to read from it, I’m sure. She uses it as an outline and finds out where they are on social media. She can tell by their links if they’re watching porn. I mean, some are open enough to post pictures of naked women (porn stars) on their sites.
And eventually she just asks them outright “are you watching porn?” And they’re honest enough to answer, “yes,” or maybe they know she’s already found them out and it isn’t worth lying. I may have exaggerated for effect, but my friend and her daughter have been researching the phenomenon of porn addiction and it is alarmingly high even among young women. I don’t recall the numbers exactly, but it seems over 70% of young men are addicted to porn, and maybe it’s even more. I just don’t recall what they’ve told me.
And it really is because they’re carrying around a porn theater in their pockets.
Oh, and like pot, porn has become much more potent (brutalizing to women) than it was when we were young. Speaking of wicked.