Beware the AI ‘Botshit’

This title comes from a recent OpEd piece in the Guardian by Andre Spicer, a professor of organisational behaviour at the Bayes Business School at City, University of London. “Unless checks are put in place, citizens and voters may soon face AI-generated content that bears no relation to reality”.

Referring to an AI-generated fake video of Hillary Clinton, the former Democratic Party presidential candidate and Secretary of State, praising and warmly endorsing a Republican presidential hopeful, Prof. Spicer argues that “generative AI could profoundly reshape politics in the near future”.

Concerns about the impact of generative AI on elections have become urgent as we enter a year in which billions of people across the planet will vote. During 2024, it is projected that there will be elections in Taiwan, India, Russia, South Africa, Mexico, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, the European Union, the US and the UK. Many of these elections will not determine just the future of nation states; they will also shape how we tackle global challenges such as geopolitical tensions and the climate crisis. It is likely that each of these elections will be influenced by new generative AI technologies in the same way the elections of the 2010s were shaped by social media.

– Prof. Andre Spicer in The Guardian OpEd

Prof. Spicer references a recent paper he co-wrote with colleagues, in which they attempted to understand the botshit and how it worked, which he explains in the piece this way: “It is well known that generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT can produce what are called “hallucinations”. This is because generative AI answers questions by making statistically informed guesses. Often these guesses are correct, but sometimes they are wildly off. The result can be artificially generated “hallucinations” that bear little relationship to reality, such as explanations or images that seem superficially plausible, but aren’t actually the correct answer to whatever the question was.”

“But at the moment its negative uses are most obvious, and more likely to affect us imminently. It is vital we strive to ensure that generative AI is used for beneficial purposes and does not simply lead to more botshit,” Prof Spicer concludes.