Elon Musk is hyping the imminent release of his ChatGPT competitor Grok, another example of how his whole personality is just a biological LLM created by going all over Reddit and 4chan. Grok seems to have followed in many ways from Elon’s worst excesses, with the sense of humor of a desperately unfunny and regressive internet troll, and biases informed by someone whose terrible, dangerous prejudices are completely which cannot be seen by itself.
There are all kinds of reasons to be wary of Grok, including the standard reasons to be wary of any current LLM-based AI technology, such as assumptions and inaccuracies. Layer on Elon Musk’s recent track record for damaging social sensitivity and often destructive approaches to issues that shape the world, and we’re looking at even more cause for concern. But the real risk may not be so easy to grok, simply because we have little understanding of the extent of the impact that the widespread use of LLMs has in our daily and online lives.
One important area where they already exist, and should have more impact is user-generated content. We’ve seen companies that have already deployed first-party integrations start to embrace some of these features, such as Artifact with AI-generated thumbnails for shared posts, and Meta that adds chatbots to everything. Musk debuted Grok on X, as a feature reserved for Premium + subscribers initially, with a rollout that should begin this week.
Clearly, Musk aims to dangle Grok as a carrot to attract more subscribers to his more expensive subscription level for the dumpster fire X. X will also announce Grok, which is itself the cause of concern given how far the network has fallen in terms of being a source of reliable information even from not particularly stellar days like Twitter.
The real threat isn’t even a pathetic disinformation-filled chatbot deployed on a scale across a network once heavily criticized by its current owner for being overrun with bots; no, the real danger is what happens when Musk’s AI mini-me starts drowning out the rest of the discourse – and what happens when other moneyed megalomaniacs see it working for him.
Musk’s special ability as it stands is a sycophantic following that is willing to accept his interpretation of reality, no matter how twisted or shown to be untrue. But that doesn’t compare to an LLM trained in basically the same drivel, who is capable of not only parroting but also creating highly accurate novel ‘opinions’ and ‘views’ made from the clay of their creator, and then spread it immediately without restricted access to a network that still includes tens of millions of influential users.
The only advantage many, many people who aren’t billionaires currently have over those who are is their wealth – the masses are the masses because of their masses. Despite what I’m sure are many clandestine attempts offshore to clone billionaires as an answer to this sticky math problem, it remains relatively unstoppable. However, the advent of LLM-based chatbots threatens to destroy the idea of popular opinion, by drowning out the voices of real users with countless artificial ones that are almost indistinguishable from real people. .
We have already seen the demagogues of late-stage capitalism try to claim a ‘populist’ view that has no basis in the actual will of the people. So far, however, most of them have done so through bald boasting; within a few iterations of the future attack of LLM-powered chatbots, they will have artificial, but convincing, numbers to back up their destructive interpretations of the world.