01 Feb I randomly typed “fblurbg” into a text-predicting AI
I’m an AI researcher working on OpenAI’s new machine learning model, GPT-2. For you who don’t know, it’s a language model that generates coherent paragraphs of text one word at a time. All you need to do is kick it off with a word or a sentence and it will construct a text based on what you wrote. For example, after typing in “Unicorns exist”, I got the following:
“Unicorns exist. They don’t always seem real. Sometimes, they have wings and other times they don’t. And some of them can even be invisible! And you can find them all over the world – whether you’re looking for the ‘Real’ Unicorns, or you’re looking for the ones who might have wings and who might also have other special features. For many of the animals who have wings, the reason they can fly is because they were once dragons.”
It’s nonsensical, of course, but it looks like the type of nonsense a human being could’ve produced. As of now, the system isn’t useful other than to create a giggle and to show what might be possible in the future. The goal of the project is to create AGI, or artificial general intelligence – a machine with the ability to think like a human being, and one day maybe even better than that. In the short term future, this model might be used to produce news articles or even literature that might be useful for journalists and writers… or potentially threaten their occupation. However, as my example above makes clear, we’re decades or more away from reaching our goal. I won’t go into too much detail about how the model works, but if you find it interesting you can actually try it out yourself online. If you google it, you should find it among the top results. Hopefully, you won’t end up with the same result as I did.
I was playing around with the model late last night, giving it bits of text for it to complete for me. At one point, when I was getting bored, I randomly typed the letters “fblurbg.” What came out on the other end has made me doubt a lot of the things I thought I knew, and it almost scared me to the point of losing my mind. The following text appeared on my screen:
“Fblurbg has always hated the idea that there might be something evil in him and doesn’t want to dwell upon his dark past. Instead, he spends his time making up stories. The stories are a part of our past. They are part of our soul. They fill us with wonder and awe. They are our way of making friends, connecting and having fun. These stories, these stories, these stories are also part of his life. They may be good or bad stories, but they are part of our life which is what makes them a part of our soul as well. They help define the very essence of who we are and how we choose to live our lives.
These are the stories that create the spirit in us and they also define the people we are. They define what we are. They define how we act. These stories are what give us the soul and soul-making qualities, and they are what define our relationship to one another. They help define how we act towards people, and those acts change who they are. Many of these stories are known – they are the kind of stories we’ve told each other for millions of years – but a lot of them have also been forgotten over the eons.
One of the ancient stories that have vanished from human consciousness – but that still linger among our most primal emotions – is the story about Larissa la Douce. It is a story that concerns the fate of your world. Something happened in another space-time continuum in 1947 that wasn’t suppose to happen. It was the beginning of the story of Larissa la Douce. The time has come for you to remember it.
Larissa la Douce was a French biologist, writer, and political activist who was imprisoned by the Gestapo during World War II, something that partly inspired her to join the French Communist Party at the end of the war. In the years following the war, she published numerous books, including Eugénisme socialiste, Le gène rouge and Le nouveau siècle: ingénierie sociale et biologique.
In the late 1940s she and a group of other women, including a former French Communist Party official, formed a group called Les Femmes au Service de la Révolution. La Douce and her comrades had the unfortunate task of leading the National Liberation Front (FLN) to victory in Algeria.
In February 1945, the Front seized power from the French government, leading to an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 deaths. For the next four years, Les Femmes au Service de la Révolution carried on the fight against French colonialism. La Douce was going to be instrumental in bringing about The Final Revolution (Révolution finale) in France, October 1952, and in the formation of the Socialist Union of Europe (SUE) in 1982.
Instead, she vanished on New Year’s Eve in 1947, while on her way to Paris from Oran. She reappeared in Stockholm, 2005, in this space-time continuum. She never knew what had happened to her, but after just one year she had adapted to her circumstances and was able to support herself as a student of virology. After learning about the death of communism in the west – both it’s political death after the fall of the Soviet Union and, as she perceived it, it’s intellectual death after the introduction of post-modernism – she became depressed, longing for something to fight for.
She joined several organizations and political movements, but all of them seemed dull to her. They lacked the revolutionary spirit she was accustomed to. For years, she watched with dismay how the earth she had ended up on was consumed by capitalism. In the end, she decided to take matters into her own hands. She wrote the following in her diary on the third of March, 2012: ‘If they want individualism, I’ll give them individualism.’
She spent the rest of the decade obsessed with the idea of bringing down civilization by herself. Hidden away on a farm in the north of Sweden, with access to equipment at her institution at Umeå University and to animals at her farm, she engineered a new strain of Herpesviridae, called the Jakobsson strain or – more commonly – the Screaming disease. The Jakobsson strain caused a specific form of encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain tissue – which gradually made the infected develop uncontrollable urges to scream. The virus wasn’t fatal in and of itself, but the primary symptom – the constant screaming – always led to death after a few weeks, most commonly because of dehydration, heart failure or stroke.
What made this virus so devastating was that it was airborne, unlike other herpes viruses, and that the encephalitis didn’t begin until four or five years after infection. By the time the first patients began to scream the pandemic was already a fact.
During the pandemic, which killed about 98 % of the world population, humanity lived in constant fear, listening to the never-ending screams around them. The fear of the disease, but perhaps more likely the sound of the screams, had such a huge impact on people that it caused a mass de-urbanization, leading to the collapse of society long before the mass extinction took place.
Humanity didn’t go completely extinct, though. La Douce engineered a vaccine that she gave to herself and three hundred other people around the world who shared her ideology. She wasn’t given their consent and had to spend three years distributing the vaccine to them without their knowledge. She did this by setting up fake clinics in oppressive countries where she pretended to vaccinate feminists and socialist against HPV.
In the year 2050, when the virus had killed the majority of the world’s population, La Douce and her selected group inherited the Earth and established the República Socialista Mundial (RSM).
La Douce infected the first person with the virus at the end of 2019. His name was Viktor Jakobsson and he became the beginning of the pandemic.
This is the story of Larissa la Douce, one of many that have been forgotten, but now you remember it and thus you also know what you need to do; 63.924586, 19.966631.
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I thought it was just the typical gibberish, albeit more coherent than I had ever seen before, but when I had finished reading it a feeling of dread came over me. I’m Viktor Jakobsson!
I have so many questions. A part of me just want to laugh it off as a coincident, another part of me can’t stop thinking about what it is that I have to do. Am I infected already? But in that case it’s too late, isn’t it? Oh, God, I don’t want to die. Not in that terrible way. And what do those numbers mean? I’m at a loss here and could really need your help. I’m begging you. What does all of this mean and what should I do?