There are many reasons to be panicked about AI text generators like ChatGPT. The AI might allow students to cheat their way through AP exams. It might give you bad information about how compound interest works, like when CNET used AI to write SEO-friendly explainers on personal finance. It might try to seduce you and convince you to leave your wife, as Bing’s chatbot did with a New York Times tech columnist.
AI is smarter than us. It doesn’t rest. It doesn’t demand union-mandated break times. It doesn’t ask for a raise. It is relentless, unstoppable. Inevitable.
Or, you know, not. Such is the case with 2dumb2destroy, an AI chatbot trained on the most inane stuff in the world: Pauly Shore movie quotes, dialogue from all seven Police Academy movies, the sayings of Homer Simpson, and more.
Craig Shervin, 34, and Steve Nass, 33, two friends who met while working at a New York advertising agency, wondered what would happen if they created an AI so unintelligent there would be no way anyone would be scared of it.
“Everyone’s talking about AI right now, and our impulse is, how can we make this stupid?” Nass told BuzzFeed News.
To accomplish this, they fed OpenAI's GPT-3 dialogue from movie and TV characters who are famously bumbling, including Michael Scott from The Office and Phoebe from Friends, plus Zoolander quotes and lines from the Naked Gun movies. The pair even threw in some training data from real-world sources, like George W. Bush quotes and text from an infamous 2008 exchange on a bodybuilding forum in which meatheads debated how many days are in a week.
“It seemed like people just needed a funny, dumb [chatbot] that people could interact with that didn’t have big consequences,” Shervin told BuzzFeed News. “With so much talk of AI going to steal people’s jobs — especially advertising writers’ — people are having an existential crisis: Are we needed? We thought, Let's make an AI so stupid it can never threaten to steal anyone’s job or [cause] any existential crisis.”
Shervin and Nass created a spreadsheet with hundreds of prompts they had written for questions they guessed people might ask, along with their own responses. (In reality, the AI doesn’t always give those responses; they’re just part of the training set, and it might make up its own answer.) They also fed it plenty of movie quotes. This has resulted in some quirky answers. “For some reason it’s really latched onto hot dogs,” Nass said, even though the term “hot dogs” only appears twice in their training set.
BuzzFeed News was able — after two tries — to get the AI to spit back this famous line from Airplane:
“It's said some insightful things, which is kind of funny,” Shervin said. “It’s both stupid and smart.”
For instance, when BuzzFeed News asked, “Is God real?” the AI answered, “I'm not sure if God is real, but if he is, I hope he has a good lawyer.”
Correction: Bodybuilders debated the number of days in a week in a 2008 forum. The date of that message thread was misstated in a previous version of this post.