2021-02-17 Fascism and AI

Sadly, I don’t have much. But this quote is worth remembering. Perhaps I’ll be able to expand on the idea in the future. Or have a link collection, at least.

“Extremist communities, especially in the social media era, bear a disturbing resemblance to what you might expect from a conversation held among similarly trained GPT-3s. A growing tide of cognitive distortion, rote repetition, incoherence and inability to parse facts and fantasies within the thoughts expressed in the extremist online landscape signals a dangerous contraction of understanding, one that leaves its users increasingly unable to explore, share and build an understanding of the real world with anyone outside of their online haven.” – The Thoughts The Civilized Keep, by Shannon Vallor, for Noëme

Something I called poetic reasoning in the past.

Association: Similar things can be used to make a point: This is beautiful and elegant, it must be good.

Wishes: Preferable conditions can be used to make a point: People are fundamentally peaceful creatures. That’s why nobody is going to vandalize our site.

Metaphors: Invoking unrelated strong imagery can be used to make a point: Like ants building their ant-hill, humans collaborate peacefully when sharing a common goal.

And then, just like in a dream, keep associating freely. People don’t ask for congruency or stringency of arguments.


I actually agree with the broader thrust of the essay, that understanding – a model of the world and not just a model of language – is necessary for useful intelligence. However, the quote you pulled is kind of self-congratulatory to centrists. You can find exactly the same kind of repetitive, stereotyped discourse in self-identified centrist communities. Look at Reddit’s /r/neoliberal for a good example, or anyone with a KHive pfp on Twitter. I’d suggest that the real trigger for this behavior or pattern of thought is a reliance on short-form writing rather than long-form, though I may have an incomplete picture.

GCU Prosthetic Conscience 2021-02-17 13:33 UTC

I think it reflects pretty well on how Switzerland is dealing with the pandemic, for example. Or how the right wing in Switzerland deals with foreigners. To me, so many things are clearly wrong: a sentence or two are correct, the next is a gross simplification, then a feel good ur-fascist statement, then something that contradicts what was said before but is offered as a counter argument to what I just said, then a distraction, something designed to feel good, something reusing the words we used to teach each other how to be scientists, like research, facts, or metaphors like safety regulations for cars, reused, repurposed for their exact opposite, in a free wheeling circle of association.

I’m not sure where the centrists come in, and I don’t feel like delving into Reddit, specially not with that subreddit name, and certainly not when you tell me that what I’m going to find there is all wrong. That’s a waste of time.

I don’t know what “a KHive pfp on Twitter” is. Something about fake follower counts?

In any case, I’m not sure that the way the Swiss government is reacting to the pandemic is a consequence of how Twitter has shaped our writing, but rather that we’re seeing an age old mechanism at work, exploited on a different medium, but not different from the use of Radio by the Nazis, or the printing press by the reformation. Any kind of unhappiness, exploited, via the inability of the public to form a coherent position.

The contradictory picture I describe was not the result of tolerance but of political andideological discombobulation. But it was a rigid discombobulation, a structured confusion. Fascism was philosophically out of joint, but emotionally it was firmly fastened to some archetypal foundations. – Umberto Eco, Ur-Fascism (1995)

I think to argue that a reliance on short-form writing might be involved is not enough, as the common denominator of all simple messaging is shortness of the messages themselves. But there is more to it, I think.

– Alex 2021-02-17 13:55 UTC

I see Sandra also wrote a blog post, Re: The Thoughts The Civilized Keep. 😄

– Alex 2021-02-17 17:31 UTC

I’m not sure where the centrists come in, and I don’t feel like delving into Reddit...

As well you shouldn’t. Centrists enter into it because the quote describes this kind of language as typical of “extremist” communities. But that subreddit is an example of that kind of circular/incoherent discourse in a “centrist” community – the name of the subreddit is unironic. The KHive are described here: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/kamala-harris-khive-toxic-side_n_5f4fa573c5b69eb5c037473e; they are often distinguished by a gold ring around their pfp (avatar). If you don’t want to look into it, the upshot is that they are vicious Twitter trolls who stan a centrist politician.

I think you’re right about simple messaging being the core, rather than short-form reading (social media) as such. But social media means people see much more simple messaging than ever before.

GCU Prosthetic Conscience 2021-02-17 20:01 UTC

I don’t like being part of a dogpile of criticism against any one particular writer, it easily gets redundant. I can’t in all honesty wash my hands of it, just own up to it. I shoulda held off on the essay and polished it so it was less about Vallor’s text and more about my own hangups around AI and AIP.

Sandra 2021-02-17 23:43 UTC

I miss when neoliberals and randroids where the enemy, they were more fun to talk to than climate deniers and social conservatives (including racists and sexists).

Sandra 2021-02-17 23:46 UTC

Re the bad KHivers I remember in 2016 (and I do think that Bernie was the best candidate in ’16) talking to some people who were saying there where no toxic Bernie Bros. Wait, that sounds like I’m saying they were “no true Scotsman”-ing the toxic members. That’s not quite right. Instead they denied the harassment outright. “That’s not true, that never happened, that’s just propaganda.” I’d see the harassment with my own eyes and the denial with my own eyes.

Now, this was in YouTube’s comment section so false flag on one or both of those seemingly contradictory things certainly possible, but, that’d leave us with the no true Scotsman again. The harassments happened (as in often) and made the Bernie faction a difficult place to be around.

Sandra 2021-02-17 23:56 UTC

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