Previous “Our Terrible Future” posts

Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg Agree to Hold Cage Fight 

Social media makes reality so damned weird.

If this pair of the detested billionaires actually do fight, two nerds will enter, one nerd will leave. Then the other nerd will leave after being declared the winner.1


  1. Video archived here. ↩︎

A Warning on Using ChatGPT in a Professional Capacity 

Maybe ChatGPT should require a license.

In the latest case of an untruthful artificial intelligence, ChatGPT made up imaginary legal cases which a lawyer then cited as precedent. Yikes.

Previously in lying large language models (LLLMs): ChatGPT Is Also a Liar

Robotic Erotic Roleplay 

She understands people as well as the AI understands human hands, which is to say, hardly at all.

Speaking of perfidious AI, here’s a story about users who developed intimate relationships with chatbots, and what happened when the companies behind these bots decided to alter their programming.

There are several revealing quotes from Eugenia Kuyda, the CEO of Luka, which makes a chatbot app called Replika. At one point she reponds to claims that the company pulled a bait-and-switch by removing the ability for bots to respond sexually:

Kuyda disputed Rodichev’s claim that Replika lured users with promises of sex. She said the company briefly ran digital ads promoting “NSFW” — “not suitable for work” — pictures to accompany a short-lived experiment with sending users “hot selfies,” but she did not consider the images to be sexual because the Replikas were not fully naked.

Someone who thinks an image can only be sexual if it contains full nudity is not someone I trust to understand people at all.

Something’s Fishy

Are they swimming in a water cooler?

I don’t know about you, but I find myself receiving a lot of emails about scams I should avoid. Gosh, life in 2023 sure is fun, huh? Recently, one such email from Capital One had me scratching my head. Here’s a look:

You can’t see it in that still picture, but the fish up top are (mildly) animated, which is a little fun:

However, those fish are also confusing, and not just because how the hell are their masks staying on? Let’s reason this out. The shark is a scammer, right? He’s pretending to be a goldfish, surely for nefarious/dinner reasons. OK. Very tricky, shark!

But then, for what possible reason is the goldfish wearing a mask? Is every fish in this corrupt sea a scammer? Or do they have a “Fish Face/Off” thing going on? Perhaps the goldfish is attempting to trick the shark as well. Am I going to have to actively scam my scammers? The future is exhausting.

I fear I have put much more thought into this than the designer did. This little image could’ve been cute and clever, if only they hadn’t given the goldfish a mask. Instead, they did extra work, and blew it.

Extremely Low Paid Data Collectors 

Surely that $30 is below minimum wage.

Would you like a free robot vacuum cleaning your house for a few weeks? That sounds pretty good. What if, on top of that, you received $30 to $120? Amazing! Oh, and your naked ass might wind up on the internet? But still, $30!

Email Marketers Live Very Different Lives

Or so I imagine, anyway.

I work to maintain a manageable email inbox. This includes frequently declining to provide my email address when asked, as well as unsubscribing from lists without hesitation. And yet? And yet, the nonsense never fully stops.

Of late, I’ve received a steady stream of emails informing me of modifications to various privacy policies. I imagine this is due to some law somewhere having been amended. Now the absurd nature of our society is laid bare each week, with multiple emails telling me that a document I’ve never read, and never will read, has changed.

Aside from providing a bleak laugh about our terrible future, however, privacy policy update emails aren’t really any fun. Better are those messages which at least provide some sort of amusement. For instance, in mid-December, I received the following:

An email with the subject line “Tis the season for earning AAdvantage miles.”

Ah, yes, the most wonderful time of year! With much mistletoeing, and hearts all a-glowing, when American Airlines miles are earned by dining out at random restaurants and paying with a specific credit card.

The next email sent by the same sender was more uplifting. In fact, it was perhaps the best news I’ve received in a long, long time. I’m sad for the rest of you, however, because 2023 is not your year. No, no, per the American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program:

An email with the subject line “It’s the year of Paul.”

Sorry, non-Paul chumps and chumpettes.

Last up, I received an email from the home of the Whopper, Burger King. Though I haven’t eaten meat in more than two decades, I do find myself in a Burger King once every year or three, as they’ve long had a few vegetarian offerings. Still, I don’t recall ever signing up for…well, anything. I imagine I received this as the result of placing an online order at some point in the past:

This email informed me that a “Linked (Credit) Card” would now work for loyalty identification, to “earn Crowns not only for in-app and orders, but also for in-store purchases”. Now, that’s really news I can use, because a close look reveals the fact that I currently have a woeful 0 “Crowns”:

Yes, I believe even that “1+” dot should be empty for me. But my favorite part of this particular missive was the subject line, which badly misunderstand the meaning of its own very first word:

An email with the subject line “Important update to Terms and Conditions for Royal Perks

“Important” to whom, Burger King? “Important” to whom?

Maybe They Offer a Lifetime Guarantee 

In 500 years, engravings will likely still be legible, while the QR codes will be meaningless.

When I first ran into QR codes in 2011, I had an amusingly miserable experience. In the decade-plus since, the technology has gotten a bit more usable, particularly after QR code scanning was built in to the camera app on smartphones. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many restaurants switched to online menus accessed via QR code, and many still haven’t switched back. I suppose people just weren’t poking at their phones in public enough already.

While QR codes are now pretty well established, they remain distinctly unappealing to me. They feel like a kludge, unwanted technology that’s been forced on us to solve a problem in a clunky way. As such, when I heard about a company placing QR codes on gravestones, my immediate thought was “Tacky!”.

A gravestone with a QR code on it.
Sorry, Danny Boy.

Beyond that, though, it just seems unlikely that this business will last very long in the grand scheme of things. The idea of preserving the stories of the deceased is a fine one, but using QR codes to link to a small company’s website just feels terribly fragile. In 20, or 50, or 100 years, when “The Story Of” ever stops paying for their servers, these gravestones are just going to be festooned with useless trash.

Still, it could be worse. From the picture above, it appears it won’t be to difficult to remove the codes in the future. At least they aren’t engraving QR codes directly onto the headstone.

We Don’t Deserve Dogs and Dogs Don’t Deserve This 

They’re literally referred to as “man’s best friend”!

Recently, a video showing a Chinese drone dropping off a machine gun-laden robot has been making the rounds on the internet. I am certainly dismayed to see such a dystopian nightmare being made real. We really don’t have to do this, humanity!

It seems likely we will do this, though. Still, even if we’re condemned to face this monstrosity, we can at least avoid a second mistake. Let us not sully the good name of dogs by referring to this horror show as a “robot dog”:

That thing would be no one’s best friend at all.

Vocal Whiteface 

This is really just gross.

A company called Sanas thinks they have the solution to problems faced by call center workers: Make them all sound white.1

The tacit promise of Sanas seems to be that callers will be more polite — and more amenable to being helped — if they think the person on the other end is more like them. (This isn’t a new concept; call center workers in India, the Philippines and elsewhere already adopt American names, and are pressured to develop accents that will sound more “neutral” to Americans.)

But there’s a fundamental flaw with the tacit promises of Sanas…Accents don’t cause bias, they trigger pre-existing biases. That bigotry is supercharged by the power dynamics at play in the hellscape of modern customer service, where frustrated callers are trapped on the phone with agents who have little authority to solve their problems, and everyone is forced to interact exclusively through dehumanizing, uncanny valley scripts…

And Sanas does little to remediate this hellscape; it merely puts a filter on it.

The problem isn’t the accents, it’s the system itself.


  1. The Sanas website currently provides a demonstration of this, toggling between an unfiltered audio file and a filtered one. I’ve archived a spliced-together version of that audio here. It contains a snippet of unfiltered audio first, then filtered audio, then a mix of the two. ↩︎

4,851 People Can Be Wrong 

I actually thought we were past this, but it seems not.

Last year, artist Damien Hirst sold $20 million dollars worth of art tied to NFTs. That was 10,000 sales at $2,000 each. Hirst then gave buyers the option of receiving a physical piece, or an NFT representing it. 4,851 people chose the latter, and now, Hirst is destroying the physical works associated with their NFTs.

This is very stupid! These people paid Damien Hirst $2,000 to burn a painting. Fine, fine, and also to provide them with a meaningless digital asset. Still, let’s all try to be better than this.