Using AI But For Avoiding Dumb Stuff One Hopes

May 1, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

I read an interesting essay called “How I Use AI To Help With TechDirt (And, No, It’s Not Writing Articles).” The main point of the write up is that artificial intelligence or smart software (my preferred phrase) can be useful for certain use cases. The article states:

I think the best use of AI is in making people better at their jobs. So I thought I would describe one way in which I’ve been using AI. And, no, it’s not to write articles. It’s basically to help me brainstorm, critique my articles, and make suggestions on how to improve them.


Thanks, MSFT Copilot. Bad grammar and an incorrect use of the apostrophe. Also, I was much dumber looking in the 9th grade. But good enough, the motto of some big software outfits, right?

The idea is that an AI system can function as a partner, research assistant, editor, and interlocutor. That sounds like what Microsoft calls a “copilot.” The article continues:

I initially couldn’t think of anything to ask the AI, so I asked people in Lex’s Discord how they used it. One user sent back a “scorecard” that he had created, which he asked Lex to use to review everything he wrote.

The use case is that smart software function like Miss Dalton, my English composition teacher at Woodruff High School in 1958. She was a firm believer in diagramming sentences, following the precepts of the Tressler & Christ textbook, and arcane rules such as capitalizing the first word following a color (correctly used, of course).

I think her approach was intended to force students in 1958 to perform these word and text manipulations automatically. Then when we trooped to the library every month to do “research” on a topic she assigned, we could focus on the content, the logic, and the structural presentation of the information. If you attend one of my lectures, you can see that I am struggling to live up to her ideals.

However, when I plugged in my comments about Telegram as a platform tailored to obfuscated communications, the delivery of malware and X-rated content, and enforcing a myth that the entity known as Mr. Durov does not cooperate with certain entities to filter content, AI systems failed miserably. Not only were the systems lacking content, one — Microsoft Copilot, to be specific — had no functional content of collapse. Two other systems balked at the idea of delivering CSAM within a Group’s Channel devoted to paying customers of what is either illegal or extremely unpleasant content.

Several observations are warranted:

  1. For certain types of content, the systems lack sufficient data to know what the heck I am talking about
  2. For illegal activities, the systems are either pretending to be really stupid or the developers have added STOP words to the filters to make darned sure to improper output would be presented
  3. The systems’ are not up-to-date; for example, Mr. Durov was interviewed by Tucker Carlson a week before Mr. Durov blocked Ukraine Telegram Groups’ content to Telegram users in Russia.

Is it, therefore, reasonable to depend on a smart software system to provide input on a “newish” topic? Is it possible the smart software systems are fiddled by the developers so that no useful information is delivered to the user (free or paying)?

Net net: I am delighted people are finding smart software useful. For my lectures to law enforcement officers and cyber investigators, smart software is as of May 1, 2024, not ready for prime time. My concern is that some individuals may not discern the problems with the outputs. Writing about the law and its interpretation is an area about which I am not qualified to comment. But perhaps legal content is different from garden variety criminal operations. No, I won’t ask, “What’s criminal?” I would rather rely on Miss Dalton taught in 1958. Why? I am a dinobaby and deeply skeptical of probabilistic-based systems which do not incorporate Kolmogorov-Arnold methods. Hey, that’s my relative’s approach.

Stephen E Arnold, May 1, 2024


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