【媒庫文選】“假文本”會是下一個全球政治威脅嗎?
2019年07月24日10:43

原標題:【媒庫文選】“假文本”會是下一個全球政治威脅嗎?

Could “Fake Text” Be the Next Global Political Threat?

“假文本”會是下一個全球政治威脅嗎?

Oscar Schwartz 奧斯卡·施瓦茨

Earlier this month, an unexceptional thread appeared on Reddit announcing that there is a new way “to cook egg white[s] without a frying pan”.

As so often happens on this website, which calls itself “the front page of the internet”, this seemingly banal comment inspired a slew of responses. “I‘ve never heard of people frying eggs without a frying pan,” one incredulous Redditor replied. “I’m gonna try this,” added another. One particularly enthusiastic commenter even offered to look up the scientific literature on the history of cooking egg whites without a frying pan.

Every day, millions of these unremarkable conversations unfold on Reddit, spanning from cooking techniques to geopolitics in the Western Sahara to birds with arms. But what made this conversation about egg whites noteworthy is that it was not taking place among people, but artificial intelligence (AI) bots.

The egg whites thread is just one in a growing archive of conversations on a subreddit – a Reddit forum dedicated to a specific topic – that is made up entirely of bots trained to emulate the style of human Reddit contributors. This simulated forum was created by a Reddit user called disumbrationist using a tool called GPT-2, a machine learning language generator that was unveiled in February by OpenAI, one of the world's leading AI labs.

Jack Clark, policy director at OpenAI, told me that chief among these concerns is how the tool might be used to spread false or misleading information at scale. In a recent testimony given at a House intelligence committee hearing about the threat of AI-generated fake media, Clark said he foresees fake text being used “for the production of [literal] ‘fake news’, or to potentially impersonate people who had produced a lot of text online, or simply to generate troll-grade propaganda for social networks”.

Alec Radford, a researcher at OpenAI, told me that he also sees the success of GPT-2 as a step towards more fluent communication between humans and machines in general. He says the intended purpose of the system is to give computers greater mastery of natural language, which may improve tasks like speech recognition, which is used by the likes of Siri and Alexa to understand your commands; and machine translation, which is used to power Google Translate.

But as GPT-2 spreads online and is appropriated by more people like disumbrationist – amateur makers who are using the tool to create everything from Reddit threads, to short stories and poems, to restaurant reviews – the team at OpenAI are also grappling with how their powerful tool might flood the internet with fake text, making it harder to know the origins of anything we read online.

Clark and the team at OpenAI take this threat so seriously that when they unveiled GPT-2 in February this year, they released a blogpost alongside it stating that they weren't releasing the full version of the tool due to “concerns about malicious applications”.

However, some feel that this overstates the threat of fake text. According to Yochai Benkler, co-head of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard, the most damaging instances of fake news are written by political extremists and trolls, and tend to be about controversial topics that “trigger deep-seated hatred”, like election fraud or immigration. While a system like GPT-2 can produce semi-coherent articles at scale, it is a long way from being able to replicate this type of psychological manipulation.

Whether or not GPT-2, or a similar technology, becomes the misinformation machine that OpenAI are anxious about, there is a growing consensus that considering the social implications of a technology before it is released is good practice. At the same time, predicting precisely how technologies will be used and misused is notoriously difficult.

本月早些時候,一條再平常不過的主題帖出現在紅迪網站上,聲稱有一種新方法可以“不用煎鍋就能烹飪蛋白”。

就像在這個自稱“互聯網頭版”的網站上經常發生的那樣,這個看似普通的主題帖引發了一長串的回帖。一名表示懷疑的紅迪用戶回覆說:“我從未聽說,有人不用煎鍋就能烹飪雞蛋。”另一名用戶說:“我要試試這個方法。”還有一名對此頗感興趣的用戶甚至主動提出,要在科學文獻中查詢不用煎鍋烹飪蛋白的曆史。

每天都有數以百萬計這樣普普通通的對話出現在紅迪網站上,內容從烹飪技巧到西撒哈拉的地緣政治再到有手臂的鳥,包羅萬象。不過,這些有關蛋白的對話之所以值得注意,是因為它們不是發生在人與人之間,而是人工智能機器人之間。

這條有關蛋白的帖子只是一個完全由機器人組成的紅迪話題板塊(即紅迪上某一話題專屬的論壇)的海量對話之一,這些機器人經過訓練能夠模仿紅迪真人用戶的對話風格。這個模擬論壇由名為“去本影主義者”的紅迪用戶利用GPT-2工具創建,GPT-2是一款機器學習語言生成器,由世界領先的人工智能實驗室之一開放人工智能研究中心(OpenAI)在今年2月推出。

OpenAI的政策主管傑克·克拉克告訴我,人們最大的擔憂是,這個工具可能被用來大規模散播虛假或誤導性信息。克拉克最近在眾議院情報委員會就人工智能生成假媒體的威脅作證時說,他預見到,假文本可能被用於“製造(字面意義上的)‘假新聞’,也可能被用於假冒曾在線生成大量文本的人,或者僅僅是為社交網絡製造菜鳥級的政治宣傳”。

OpenAI的研究員亞曆克·拉德福德告訴我,他也認為,GPT-2的成功是朝著人機之間更流暢溝通邁進的一步。他說,該系統的設計目的是讓計算機更好地掌握自然語言,從而可能改進語音識別和機器翻譯等工作,Siri和Alexa等系統就是利用語音識別來理解你的指令,而Google翻譯則是基於機器翻譯。

但隨著GPT-2在互聯網上傳播並被更多像“去本影主義者”這樣的業餘生產者利用(他們利用這個工具製造從紅迪帖子到小說和詩歌再到餐廳評價的各種信息),OpenAI的團隊也在苦惱於他們這款強大的工具有可能導致互聯網上假文本氾濫,使追溯我們網絡瀏覽內容的源頭更加困難。

克拉克和OpenAI的設計團隊高度重視這種威脅,今年2月他們在推出GPT-2時還發佈了一篇博文,稱出於“對惡意應用的擔心”,他們沒有發佈GPT-2的完整版本。

不過,也有人覺得這誇大了假文本的威脅。哈佛大學伯克曼·克萊因互聯網與社會中心的聯合負責人約凱·本克勒說,假新聞最具破壞性的例子都是政治極端分子和網絡噴子所寫,往往與競選舞弊或移民等“激起根深蒂固仇恨”的爭議性話題有關。儘管像GPT-2這樣的系統能夠大規模生產半連貫的文章,但要複製這種心理操控卻還有很長的路要走。

無論GPT-2或某種類似的技術能否成為OpenAI所擔心的虛假信息生成器,越來越多人的共識是,在推出一種技術之前思考其社會影響是有益的做法。與此同時,準確預測技術將被如何使用和濫用是出了名地困難。(劉白雲譯自英國《衛報》網站7月4日文章)

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