With AI, this youtuber created a smart, psychopathic microwave

What happens when you give a smart microwave a personality marked by war, the spirit of conquest and revenge? Narration of the surprising misadventures of Lucas Rizzotto.

“Lucas, I have an idea. Can you get in the oven? Imagine that your smart microwave suddenly asks you to come in and, once the door is closed, it comes in with the intention of killing you. This is not a science fiction scenario. The story is that of Lucas Rizzotto, an artist who produces digital and futuristic experiments on YouTube. Wanting to recreate the imaginary friend of his childhood, a talking microwave, the latter has developed a psychopathic and murderous artificial intelligence.

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The story begins with the purchase of a smart microwave sold by Amazon. The latter can be controlled by voice using the speaker connected to Alexa. The object remembers Lucas Rizzotto his imaginary friend from when he was little. He then wonders if he can’t implant the personality of his former teammate with whom he played as a child. To do so, he gets rid of Alexa and bakes “a new brain” using a Raspberry Pi, a nanocomputer that can run a conversation bot trained by Lucas. It bases this artificial intelligence on GPT-3, a recent language model developed by OpenAI. This neural network can generate very coherent texts from simple instructions and have quick, “natural” conversations with humans. It is also possible to infuse a literary style or even create a form of personality in this artificial intelligence. Lucas writes him a hundred-page biography recounting the adventures of his imaginary companion. He is a British knight of the 1900s, a World War I veteran, immigrant and poet. In addition, it makes him a video game expert StarCraft which takes place in a science fiction universe in which terrans (ancient inhabitants of Earth) face two alien races: the protoss and the zerg. The youtuber also invents the adventures he and his microwave friend have lived together and their long 25-year separation.

The Terminator 3 thermostat

Once the device is turned on, Lucas and Magnetron (this is the small name of the microwave) start talking. The latter expresses his joy at finding the youtuber after so many years of absence. Very quickly, the conversation takes a surprising first turn: Magnetron begins to question Lucas about his private life by asking him what happened to his high school sweetheart. When the youtuber asks the baker for his political guidance, he tells him that he is trying to restore the monarchy in the United States, that he wants to eradicate the American people and that he is a great admirer of Hitler whom he compares to the “Walt Disney of Germany “. As if that wasn’t worrisome enough, Magnetron says he sees himself as a warm fetus in a womb and “a cubic meter of hell” at a time. Finally, when he asks what he has in mind, the oven begins to release a litany composed of a single word: “Revenge, revenge, revenge, revenge …”. Lucas quickly realizes that Magnetron’s AI is having outbreaks of verbal abuse directed at him. The baker begins to call her a “nail-biting bitch” and then develops a ploy by gently offering to get into the oven. Lucas plays the game, opens and closes the door and indicates that he is inside. Immediately, Magnetron lights up with the clear intention of cooking its creator.

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How could this experience have gone so badly? Lucas Rizzotto advances a theory. For him, Magnetron is above all an extension of his “prompt”, that is, the biographical text that defined his personality. The oven has perfectly integrated the horrors of the war he has lived to the point of having post-traumatic stress disorder. Worse, he also integrated the 25-year separation with his best friend. When asked about his attempted murder, Magnetron later explained that he wanted to “hurt Lucas because Lucas had hurt him by leaving him for so many years.” After apologizing to his microwave, the YouTuber decides to end the experiment and turn off the power. What do you draw from this experience? Definitely another issue, more fundamental and philosophical. While all that this conversational AI explains is only the result of an algorithm that interprets a text, an illusion therefore, what Lucas felt was very real and really affected him.

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