In the ongoing evaluation my relationship with social media, today1Well, Wednesday the 27th, I guess. Dinosaur Comics’ T-Rex weighs in with a persuasive argument.
I often say I don’t believe in coming out, because I don’t relate to the premise, to the narrative. I’m queer, it’s not a secret, I’m not hiding anything, just because you don’t know doesn’t mean I’m putting myself or parts of myself in a box — and when I do tell you, I’m almost always just correcting an inaccurate assumption. “I’m non-binary,” no different than “oh, I’m Frisian,” or “I don’t have a drivers’ license.”2“When did you first realise you were a different kind of vehicle user than your culture assigned you at birth?” “When I nearly drove into a ditch one fucking minute into my first ever driving lesson.” It’s just a little correction.
When we talk about the large algorithmic generative models people call “artificial intelligence,” so much of the language is people-language. We “ask” these models things, we have “conversations” with these algorithms, when the words these things generate are not reflective of accurate information we accuse the models of “hallucinating.” All of these are real things people do, and not actually what these things do. I don’t want to diminish the sincere connections some people feel they’re making with these machines, but all that’s happening is the software knows how to put words in an order that seems plausible, based on your prompt.3Tip: Try prompting ChatGPT to tell you how many times the letter “N” occurs in the word “reconnaissance.” It’s just been well-tuned to follow your lead. We have to talk about these things the way they actually are.4I’m not innocent here, either — the Enemy has put the people-language so in my head that this was not easy to write.
Social media is no different. Framing is everything.
Twitter is just some web forum. You sign up, and then you can post, and see what other people are posting on the web forum. Truly, how is that different than the rickety phpBB forum you used to hang out on in 2006? What actually is meant to make it a really important forum? This or that number of posts per second? The famous people on it? The politicians? Frankly, I’ve never been entirely clear what these people are even doing on some web forum. Shouldn’t they be minding their business, shouldn’t they be sending memos to each other? Remember when the forum got real mad about some guy who was a little weird to his kid about beans? Just forum drama. It’s not the end of the world. Why would it be? Why would it be?
At my own little personal Mastodon instance, there’s no politicians, no huge number of posts per second. Nobody ever gets mad about the beans guy. It is actually just like the rickety old phpBB forum I used to hang out on in 2006. It’s not important at all. We don’t pretend it is.
It’s just some web forum.
- 1Well, Wednesday the 27th, I guess.
- 2“When did you first realise you were a different kind of vehicle user than your culture assigned you at birth?” “When I nearly drove into a ditch one fucking minute into my first ever driving lesson.”
- 3Tip: Try prompting ChatGPT to tell you how many times the letter “N” occurs in the word “reconnaissance.”
- 4I’m not innocent here, either — the Enemy has put the people-language so in my head that this was not easy to write.