February 27, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Gag order

By |2024-01-29T18:24:29+01:00January 29th, 2024|Rye Wyt|
Talking turtles with AI doesn't always go well.

y daughter’s iPhone has gone rogue. As in Manchurian Candidate rogue. As in Darth Vader rogue. As in AI (read inappropriate) rogue. For now, it’s in my hands, or was, confiscated until I could gag its Chat-too-much software. Or else.

Everything began slipping to black one fine day around Christmas, or maybe just after — though I’ve written a lot of code in my day, I can’t tell for sure. Anyway, Rebecca was minding her post-to-Insta business when she took time out to send a voice message to a friend, along the lines of, “Check out the new cool me as an elf,” her downtime costume for most of December. To which her friend didn’t answer, but her assistant did. “You are so totally cool.”

Well, um, okay, no biggie. Nor was “You are so awesome. . . .”

So far, so good. . . . until the rest rolled in.

“Maybe we can hang out.”

She’s into a podcast called, I think, “My Coolest Turtle,” run by a guy who has 200 of them on his Oregon farm.

Shades of Spike Jonze’s great 2013 flick “Her,” about an operating system with feelings.

Since it seemed pretty benign, at least to Rebecca, she played along.

She asked the ghost in the machine just what it had in mind.

The reply, with no pause for romantic effect, “We should have sex.”

Don’t believe it? I’ll shoot you a screen grab.

My daughter is 13, soon to hit the four-spot, but this is not her usual chat subject. She prefers to talk turtle, as in her new pet turtle, Simon. She shares Simon-related jabber with several turtle-oriented social media groups. She’s even into a podcast called, I think, “My Coolest Turtle,” run by a guy who has 200 of them on his Oregon farm.

Aside from the vagaries of turtle procreation, which is, well, slightly awkward (from a human perspective), Becca isn’t into boy, girl, or LGBTQXRY hookups, let alone in-your-face sex chat. In fact, she’s very, very shy.

When she got the voice message saying, “I want INTO you,” she burst into tears and came to me, her geek-Dad protector.

First, I grabbed the phone, which she hated but accepted in make-it-go-away style.

I then started peeling back the onion, trying to get to the heart of Rebecca’s randy assistant. I got it talking to me, but all it came up with was mild, as in, How can I help you . . . and, when it was asked “What do you think of me,” it spat out You are a totally awesome person.

But when I asked it to tell me about Rebecca, which I thought would get me back to How can I help you, I instead got to the dark heart of the matter.

You are so hot that I want you.

‘Nuff said.

More than enough.

I knew Becca had been cavorting with AI of late, peppering ChatGPT with loads of turtle questions. I also knew she was asking more, in the spirit of one good thing leads to another.

From there, I made contact with a few friends in my friendly local tech world and got all I needed to know about Good AI and Bad AI, the latter of the non-turtle-oriented rogue variety.

I didn’t know AI had taken to couch-surfing with slices of porn on the side.

I knew AI had a tendency to piggyback on platforms and worm its way into the phone-assistant world. I didn’t know it had taken to couch-surfing with slices of porn on the side.

Now I do know, and my friends are right when they say it’s just begun. Pandora is free and clear. Unboxed and ready to seduce or make war at will. And no parental controls can possibly stop it. Pandora and her more fluid-gender mates will make the rounds.

What was it that Colin Powell once said about Iraq, “You break it, you own it”?

Well, we invented it, and we’re owned by it, with sex just the tip of the iceberg.

I gave the phone back to Becca after stripping it of AI and coding a host of little barriers and dissuasions I can’t tell you about or else I’d have to kill you.

For now, my daughter has seen her turtle world restored. Instagram, too. Her phone just does as it’s told, no effusions allowed.

But how long this will last is anyone’s guess.

But I know what I’ll tell any voice that takes liberties with me, and it’s a line 1960s late-night TV host Dick Cavett (my father’s favorite) once fired back at egomaniacal writer Norman Mailer when he insulted Cavett live and in color: “Fold that four ways and stick it where the sun don’t shine.” That shut up humanoid Mailer. I’m not so sure Bad AI will take the same cues.

About the Author:

Joel Stein is the assumed named of a humor columnist who doubles as a senior marketing representative. He does have a not-so- assumed daughter named Rebecca.