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AI Emma, just another woman on the internet
If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that my boyfriend and I created “AI Emma” on Sunday for fun, after reading this NYT piece on AI mastering language. “AI Emma” was trained via an OpenAI GPT-3 model using my biographical information, a few of the articles I’ve written in this newsletter, and a couple of pieces of knowledge that I’ve shared in the Diem universe – it’s pretty cool, you can ask “AI Emma” anything and she generates answers based off the data she’s been trained on.
“AI Emma” started as a light-hearted experiment. We asked her a few questions that we typically disagree on as a couple, and I decided to share it out on social media as a little hint of the future we want to build for Diem. The idea being that you can use a specially trained AI model to query the collective knowledge of an individual (or collective knowledge of the whole Diemverse) to discover answers in a way that is safe, accessible and highly informative, saving many hours for all involved.
Fun! Simple! Joyful! Easy! Informative! Right?
Wrong. Men on Twitter had to ruin it.
In the first few hours after I shared “AI Emma,” nearly 1,000 searches poured in. A quick analysis (upon time of writing) found that 72% of these included words like: penis, sex, blow jobs, whore, slut, porn and waaaaay too many questions about Jews (while I am technically Jewish, I’m not public about it). Don’t get me wrong. I really, truly, can take a joke, and at first I laughed at how simplistic people (men) can be after the first few “what’s your favourite sex position?” questions rolled in. But it quickly became apparent that the anonymous nature of the exercise got the better of the majority, and suddenly it all seemed....weirdly violating? Now, it all feels gross.
I recently learned from a friend who runs a gaming company that there’s an acronym often used in game design called TTP (“Time To Penis”). The term is used when anything in gaming is open-sourced or user-generated—it quite literally refers to the time it takes for the first penis reference to happen. So this is a thing. Of course, I’ve also experienced my fair share of internet harassment over the past decade, and I thought I was pretty well prepared for our AI experiment to get a little out of hand.
But I really didn’t anticipate that the vast majority of questions AI Emma would have to field would be quite as sexualized as they were. Perhaps I’m too optimistic, but are women really still so objectified that even their AI gets asked about its virginity or if it “eats semen”? Do we still tolerate “college humor” so much in our culture that it’s acceptable to ask women deeply personal sex questions and find it funny? (Don’t worry, I know the answer is yes). Even with the “fun” of trolling an AI considered, I am genuinely asking, why do you—(not all) men of Twitter—want to know? Is that what you’re thinking in the back of your mind when you see my profile online? Do questions around my virginity just swirl in your brain without a second thought? Again, it’s all so gross.
I think a lot about how search bars are a look at the inner psyche of human beings. Data suggests that about 70% of Google searches that start with the words ‘is it normal’ pertain to the female experience (meaning women believe they’re somehow “abnormal”). Data also tells us that, in 2021 two of the five top-searched questions in Google that began with “how to” were about looks. If we indulge in this idea for a second—that search bars give us an insider’s perspective into the human brain—my question becomes this: When you have the opportunity to query the AI of an intelligent, capable woman, and the first thing you do is sexualize it, what does that say about you?
While I really can’t wait until you can query the collective knowledge of the community in Diem (and I believe the future of AI is so exciting), I can’t help but feel slightly disheartened by what just happened to me (and AI Emma) online. It’s clear that misogyny is so close to the surface, and all it needs is an anonymous search bar next to a female-presenting AI to trigger an outpouring of violating questions. On the bright side—this is another data point that proves why Diem is designed for women and non-binary people first. If you question that, “AI Emma” will be happy to share with you the questions she’s received.
What We’re Reading...
👗 Can fashion designers really learn to be sustainable? An exploration. (The Cut)
Who we’re Dieming with…
Conversations in Diem feel like you’re dialing in to a call with your most knowledgeable friends. Here’s a selection of wisdom going live (in the Diem app) this week.
Getting honest about plastic surgery with former beauty editor, Grace Clarke. Now live. Listen in here.
Navigating Post-Partum Life as an Entrepreneur with Dayna Trocki DeStefano. Going live today 6pm EST. Listen here.
Motherhood & Ambition with LaToya Cox & Amy Fraser. Going live today 7.30pm EST. Listen here.
The power of online presence talking with personal branding expert Lisette Calveiro on the power of online presence. Going live Wednesday 12.30pm. Listen here.
Say goodbye to imposter syndrome with Jaz Broughton. Going live Wednesday at 1pm. Listen here.
Immigration: personal & professional impact with me(!) and Neada Deters. Going live Wednesday 5.30pm EST. Listen here.
The BRCA2 Gene & Preventative Masectomy with Darcy More. Going live Wednesday 8.15pm EST. Listen here.
The importance of preventative health with Attia Taylor, founder of Womanly Mag & Digital Editor at Planned Parenthood. Going live Thursday at 12.30pm EST. Listen here.
Decoding where a brand is sustainable with Robyn Davies. Sunday at 8pm EST. Listen here.
See you next time,