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AI And The ‘Naughty’ Culture In Tech

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the ethical concerns surrounding the use of celebrities' voices and images in AI-powered chatbots and the broader issues of the "move fast and break things" culture in the tech industry. It examines the case of Sam Altman and OpenAI's use of a voice similar to Scarlett Johansson's for their ChatGPT assistant, as well as the author's own experience with a similar situation in a hackathon. The article also explores the concept of "naughty" entrepreneurship, as praised by Y Combinator's Paul Graham, and how this attitude has persisted in the tech industry despite calls for more sustainable and responsible innovation.

🙋 Q&A

[01] The Scarlett Johansson Incident

1. What happened with Scarlett Johansson and the ChatGPT 4.0 assistant?

  • Scarlett Johansson was approached by Sam Altman and OpenAI to voice the ChatGPT 4.0 assistant, which she declined.
  • However, Altman contacted Johansson's agent again just two days before the ChatGPT 4.0 demo was released, asking her to reconsider, but they were unable to connect before the system was released.
  • Johansson was "shocked, angered and in disbelief" at Altman's actions, as the voice used for the ChatGPT assistant was "eerily similar" to her own.
  • Johansson later hired legal counsel, and OpenAI took down the chatbot.

2. How did Altman and OpenAI respond to the similarity between the ChatGPT voice and Johansson's?

  • Despite protesting that the voice used was never intended to resemble Johansson's, Altman had tweeted "her" after the first public demo of the ChatGPT assistant, seemingly referencing the movie "Her" in which Johansson voiced an AI assistant.

[02] The Author's Similar Experience

1. What happened to the author at the international design sprint/hackathon?

  • The author was one of the participants in the hackathon, where many teams were presenting AI-based solutions to various problems.
  • The winning team had built a chat service for lonely hearts, using celebrities' faces and voices, such as AI-Paris Hilton, AI-David Beckham, and AI-Snoop Dogg.
  • The author approached the founder of the organization to express concerns about the ethics of such projects and whether it could be a violation of an actual person's identity.
  • The founder and another participant dismissed the author's concerns, advising to "seek forgiveness, not permission."

2. How did the author's experience relate to the Scarlett Johansson incident?

  • The author drew a parallel between the hackathon experience and the Scarlett Johansson incident, suggesting that Altman and the OpenAI team may have also decided to "seek forgiveness, not permission" when using a voice similar to Johansson's for the ChatGPT assistant.

[03] The "Naughty" Entrepreneurship Culture

1. What is the "naughty" entrepreneurship culture described in the article?

  • The article discusses how this "naughty" trait, as described by Y Combinator founder Paul Graham, is often praised in successful tech entrepreneurs, as it represents a disregard for rules and a willingness to break them.
  • Graham even asked Altman what question to put on the Y Combinator application that would help them discover more people like him, suggesting a question about a time the applicant "hacked something to their advantage."

2. How does this "naughty" culture relate to the "move fast and break things" motto popularized by Meta's Mark Zuckerberg?

  • The article suggests that the "naughty"-shipping attitude is very similar to Zuckerberg's "move fast and break things" motto, which was typical of many tech entrepreneurs, especially in the early 2000s.
  • This attitude represents the hurry towards being first-to-market, the belief that more is better, and the practice of pushing out products into consumers' hands "as fast as possible, without regard for the merit of — and rationale for — offline systems of governance."

[04] The Shift Towards Sustainable Innovation

1. What was the collective cry for more sustainable innovation in the tech space?

  • Around 2018-2019, there was a growing call for more sustainable innovation, especially in the tech space, with publications like Harvard Business Review and Wired criticizing the "move fast and break things" era.
  • They argued that the technologies of the future will have a much greater impact on people's lives, and the public will favor businesses that address economic, social, and environmental problems.

2. How has the industry responded to this call for more sustainable innovation?

  • The article suggests that the "move fast and break things" culture never really went away, but rather "seamlessly morphed and evolved to adopt new names, like 'being naughty'."
  • The author argues that the disregard for AI ethics, environmental impact, and other issues goes beyond just being "naughty" and has serious consequences.

[05] The Larger Implications

1. What is the larger point the article is making about the branding of AI and tech disruptions?

  • The article suggests that the high-level branding around recent AI developments and AI as a mass-market product & service is reminiscent of the "Cool Kids' Table" and "tech bro" culture, which promotes a sense of inevitability and FOMO around these technologies.
  • The author argues that this branding has impacted our collective beliefs and behavior, creating a culture that celebrates "naughty" and disruptive innovation, even when it comes at the expense of ethics, the environment, and other important considerations.

2. How does the author view the role of AI in society?

  • The author acknowledges that AI as a technology has been around for a long time and has done amazing things in various industries.
  • However, the author argues that the push for AI as a mass-market product that helps with everyday tasks, such as image generation and essay writing, is driven by a small group of tech leaders who want us to feel a sense of FOMO and desire for these products, which goes beyond just being "naughty."
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