Blog: Dominic Francocci

Using GPT-3 to write pornography

Robot says: Pizza delivery!

You may have seen the recent article in the Guardian written by an AI (and edited by a human): A robot wrote this entire article. Are you scared yet, human? | Artificial intelligence (AI) | The Guardian

I thought I'd try it for myself, and found this tutorial for using AI Dungeon to access the GPT-3 language processor in a game environment: How to to get an early access to GPT-3 and how to talk to it

I followed the tutorial, and decided to give the AI this seemingly boring opening:

You are a building inspector. You notice a big crack on the side of a house. You knock on the door to speak to the owner.

After a few taps, the AI generated the following exchange without any input from me:

"Hello?" you say. "I'm an inspector for the city, and I need to see if this house is structurally sound."

The man looks at his watch. "Oh, sorry," he says. "It's just getting late. We're closed right now." He waves you away.

A few blocks away, you find another house that needs inspecting. This one has a sign out front saying it's being renovated. The owner opens the door and welcomes you in.

"Hi!" she says. "I'm Karen. How are you doing?"

"I'm fine, and you?" you respond.

She smiles.

From this response, I realised that my opening scenario could be loaded with double entendres, and replied in Carry On style - this was the result (my input is in italics):

You say "I'm just in the neighborhood looking for cracks. Do you have any cracks you need inspecting?"

"What? Oh, sure. I was going to have my house fixed after all, but... well, I'm still happy to inspect anything your profession requires."

Karen leads you to her kitchen.

You say "Nope. Can't see any cracks in here. Maybe there's a crack in the bedroom that needs filling."

She looks at you curiously. "You know, you're very smooth sometimes. I bet you say that to all the girls."

Oh, really? You must be the first one to actually call attention to it!

At this point I decided to stop before going full perv, and write up this article. Clearly the AI has been trained on a lot of content, which is bound to include a lot of porn. So it would be quite easy to set up the AI to generate endless porn scenarios.

Why a good story often gets in the way of the truth

A picture of a thumb held at arms length

Whenever someone asks for an explanation of something, what they expect in return is a nice story. A story that tells you about something that happened in the past, and what happened after that, and what that means now. So if you asked: Why do rainbows appear after a storm? Then I could say: It's because God put it in the sky to tell us that he's not going to send us another flood. It's a great story: It tells you what happened, why it happened, and what it means now. But it's just a story - you know it's just a story because you know the scientific explanation for rainbows, and that it's just a boring case of refraction of sunlight through water droplets.

So when I say: A good rule of thumb is to stay two seconds behind the car in front, what I mean is: This is a useful and approximate way of keeping a safe distance from the car front, because it would be impractical to continually measure the exact distance. That's what 'rule of thumb' means. But you might say: Rule of thumb - I wonder why we say that? And then you'd be expecting me to tell you a story. You don't want to hear that the origin is lost in the mists of time. So I clear my throat and say:

In days of yore, it was the rule that when a servant retired, he was allocated a piece of land by his master. And the master would hold up his thumb at arms length, and the parcel of land that was covered by his thumb would become the servant's. And that's why today we have the saying: Rule of thumb.

And you'd say: Is that true? And I'd say:

No - it's just a story - I made it up. But why let the truth get in the way of a good story.

How to block online ads for the whole household with a DNS setting in your router

I read a lot of web-based articles on my phone during the day. I don't object to advertising, and I understand that some publications rely on advertising for some of their income, but sometimes the quantity and style of adverts that are interleaved into the article can make it difficult to read.

I've used ad blockers in the past, which rely on installing software on your PC on phone, but a few months ago I discovered that you can filter out adverts at the router level using a different DNS server.

For the non-technical, the DNS server is the interface between the web addresses that you type in and the actual addresses of those pages. The DNS server is usually provided by your ISP and encoded in your router.

AdGuard is a provider of ad-blocking software, and now they provide an alternative DNS server which you can use to filter out most of known advertising and tracking sites. I followed AdGuard's set up guide, and here's my experience of setting it up and using it.

Set up

I set up the DNS server in my router so that it would work for everyone in the house using the router's WiFi or wired connections. You need to access the router by entering the router's address in any browser while your connected to your network. The address is usually something like: 192.168.0.1. It may be printed on the router itself, or with the router documentation.

I found the DNS settings - in my case there was a 'DNS server' tab, and on that there was an option to 'Use other DNSv4 servers'. I typed in the AdGuard server addresses and saved the details in the router.

AdGuard DNS settings

Use

The new DNS servers work immediately. When you access a website, the request goes via the AdGuard DNS server, and this filters out any requests to advertising and tracking sites. The missing advertisements appear as gaps or grey boxes in the article, so no distracting content when you're trying to read.

Screenshot

Some people worry that the AdGuard DNS server may not perform as well as your own ISP's DNS server, but in several months of use I haven't had any problems with delays. If anything, responses should be quicker, as the unwanted requests are filtered out, meaning less network traffic.

Occasional websites complain that I appear to be using ad-blocking software, and refuse to serve any content, but these are rare. If I really need to see them, I can switch to mobile data, which is unaffected. I also use my WiFi for streaming TV content, and there appears to be no problems with this. TV adverts are not filtered out, so content providers seem to be happy.

My partner and I both work at home and connect to our organisations' VPNs. I was worried in case these would be affected, but there has been no impact on this.

Conclusion

I spend a lot of time reading articles on my phone for entertainment and education, and the whole experience has been much calmer and easier with adverts blocked out.

Global time

Having different time zones in the world is a confusing system. When it's 12:00 in the UK, why does it have to be a different time in the Philippines? Time is just a number, isn't it?

The only purpose of the time zones is so that 12 noon in any time zone coincides with when the sun is at its highest in the sky. So it means there have to be 24 different noons all around the world at different times.

It's long been argued that a global time system would be better, where it would be the same time everywhere in the world.

The reluctance to adopt a global time system, is probably because it's assumed that it would be based on our current hours of the day. This would be unfair, as one time zone would retain its familiar hours of the day - work starting at 09:00 - midnight at 00:00 - whereas other time zones would need to get used to work starting at 10:00, or 16:00 for example, and midnight at different hours of the day.

This unfairness could be avoided if we simply gave our hours a name instead of a number. This is not such a strange idea: The days of the week have names, as do the months of the year. There would need to be international agreement on the names, and the chosen names would reflect this international nature.

For demonstration purposes, let's assume the names chosen for the 24 hours are all flowers. For example:

Tulip, Daffodil, Poppy, Sunflower, Bluebell, Rose, Snowdrop, Cherry blossom, Orchid, Iris, Peony, Chrysanthemum, Geranium, Lily, Lotus, Water lily, Dandelion, Hyacinth, Daisy, Crocus, Jasmine, Lavender, Marigold, Pansy

Now, when it is Tulip hour in London, it is Tulip hour all around the world. If you want to call someone at Orchid hour, then it will be Orchid hour in your calendar as well as their calendar.

Jane Austen pronounces on...

The celebrated 19th century novelist pronounces on a subject of her choosing.

This was a test video that I did for the Austen and Darwin series.