It seems like a funny coincidence that these pixel-character stickers have started popping up at the same time that there’s growing concern over AI-generated art, writing, and chatbots that quickly turn racist, sexist, or threatening. And not everyone’s concerned, which just makes the problem worse. Neil Clarke, editor of the science fiction magazine Clarkesworld, has just written a piece titled “A Concerning Trend” about the rise in AI-generated submissions. It’s bad enough that they’re getting harder to spot. He also says:

Yes, there are tools out there for detecting plagiarized and machine-written text, but they are prone to false negatives and positives. One of the companies selling these services is even playing both sides, offering a tool to help authors prevent detection.

Call me cynical but I don’t believe only one of the companies is playing both sides, and even if it is only one now it won’t be long before others get into the game too. If it’s profitable they’ll do it.

Also, and a little ironically, I tried a Google reverse-image search because there was something familiar about those pixel characters. They looked a little like some of the Space Invaders, from the version I played as a kid on my friend’s home Atari console, or like monochrome 8-bit Mario Goombas. Nothing turned up. They’re probably someone’s entirely original characters, which just underscores the point that there’s a person behind these stickers. Someone made them.

I never really know the intent behind the street art I find, but the one thing I always know is that there’s a person behind it. And I know I’m a person responding to it. The intent is, at best, secondary. Without people it wouldn’t exist.  

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  1. mydangblog

    Whenever I look at those Chatbot chats, I can’t help thinking there’s an actual person behind them. When we were away a few weeks ago, we had a ‘virtual assistant’ but when things got serious over the insects in our room, it became very flustered and started making a LOT of typos! I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist but it wouldn’t surprise me if those AIs are just a bunch of people who got laid off from call centres!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I just read an article about the past, present, and possible future of AI. One of the big takeaways was that as much as some programmers really want people to believe that their programs are “conscious”, and some even want to believe it themselves, so far there hasn’t been any sign of any program that’s able to operate independently in a way that shows real awareness of its environment. A machine can be taught to recognize a cat but it needs instructions to be able to do anything with that information. The scary part is the possibility of a program that starts making its own decisions.


    I’m just grateful for humans like you, Chris.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 3703: Only humanMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Even if we hadn’t met I’d always know you were a real person, Ann, because only a real person could be so smart, funny, and kind.


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