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I asked an AI to help me destroy the Clemson football program
ChatGPT's moral hang-ups about this endeavor forced me to reevaluate one of my basic assumptions about what I want out of the Clemson rivalry.
Whenever Clemson is pursuing some goal whose attainment does not directly impact the University of South Carolina — say, competing for an ACC title or playing in a prestigious bowl game — there’s always a small sliver of Gamecock fans who maintain that Clemson’s success would be good for the state. This is, of course, completely insane! There are not enough resources or elite recruits within the Palmetto State to sustain both Clemson and South Carolina as elite football programs — a notion that the Tigers spent eight years taking to its logical extreme.
My position has always been that, when it comes to Clemson, my eternal hope is that the Tigers become so bad at football that they have no choice but to shut down their program, perhaps even their entire athletic department. Both of these propositions are, I understand, unlikely. But shoot for the moon, land among the stars, etc.
On a recent episode of the tech podcast Hard Fork, listeners called in to tell stories of how they used the AI large-language model ChatGPT to solve problems in their life. Examples included: meal planning, helping ESL students with their English, interpreting esoteric MRI results, and titling instrumental music tracks. This got me wondering if ChatGPT could help me with my problem: the continued existence of a Clemson athletics program.
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Anticipating that some of you may have never heard of ChatGPT, I asked ChatGPT to explain itself in a way that also demonstrates how it works:
Due to controversies involving unethical/moderately disturbing uses of ChatGPT and other AI programs, directly stating my desired end goal was getting me nowhere:
OK, fine! We’ll go about this the honest way: by consistently beating Clemson on the field of play. What ideas do you have for me, ChatGPT?
Since ChatGPT is basically just a conventional wisdom machine, I guess it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that its answers are merely an amalgam of every Keys to the Game graphic you’ve ever seen. Still, I was disappointed that the responses were so bland. So I tried to drill down and patiently point out that Clemson is also very good at doing all of these things.
To save time, I’m going to let you infer ChatGPT’s suggestions by my responses to them.
I was running into a wall! I got so focused on beating Clemson on the field that I lost track of the original goal. So I tried to reunite the two wayward threads of this inquiry:
Of course. Why hadn’t I realized this before? Merely humiliating Clemson on the football field would never be sufficient. After all, South Carolina insisted on continuing to have a football program even after it failed on 21 consecutive attempts to win a single game.
To eradicate the weed, we’d have to yank it out by the root.
Ah, so contemplating fiscal austerity doesn’t come with your boilerplate ethics disclaimer? Typical!
Here again, I will switch into prompts-only mode:
Having satisfied all of ChatGPT’s party-pooping moral concerns, I finally convinced it that defunding Clemson athletics could be done. We had to agree to disagree on the question of whether lasting damage to Clemson’s reputation was a net social good.
So I think we have our orders: infiltrate the Clemson board of trustees, athletics department, and university administration. Then, simply cut off their funding!
Questions for further study: is better to employ undercover operatives or should we consider Manchurian Candidate-style brainwashing where the agents aren’t aware of what they’ve been programmed to do? Both methods seem to have some advantages!
I’m not going to even bother asking ChatGPT, because I already know what she’ll say.