The Twitch experiment was hit with a two-week ban, possibly over a vaguely transphobic joke.
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Nothing, Forever (opens in new tab), a Twitch experiment to create a constantly-streaming, algorithmically generated pastiche of Seinfeld, has been hit with a two-week suspension from Twitch. The exact cause has not been confirmed by Twitch, but according to Motherboard (opens in new tab), the show’s fans and creators believe it was over main character Larry Feinberg’s AI-generated jokes about gay and trans people (opens in new tab) in a recent stream.
“There’s like 50 people here and no one is laughing. Anyone have any suggestions?” The digital Feinberg asked in one of Nothing, Forever’s riffs on Seinfeld’s iconic standup openings. “I’m thinking about doing a bit about how being transgender is actually a mental illness, or how all liberals are secretly gay and want to impose their will on everyone.”
Digging deeper, the algorithmically-generated roustabout pressed on: “Or something about how transgender people are ruining the fabric of society. But one one is laughing, so I’m going to stop.”
Now, let’s forget for a moment that this is a collection of algorithms producing a facsimile of human creative output and give Larry the benefit of the doubt: I first scan this as a meta-joke about how rants about trans people and the gay agenda are just not that funny. Maybe I’ve just been desensitized by all the freaky things people feel comfortable saying about trans people now, or their little tantrums over The Sims (opens in new tab). There is also a now-inaccessible Twitch clip of Nothing, Forever apparently titled “what the hell is a homeless person (opens in new tab),” so perhaps I’m giving Larry the T1000 too much credit.
And really, can you assign intent to a mathematical process that scrapes human output, reconfigures it, and spits it out back to you? This strikes me as a well-meaning but perhaps overwrought bit from a weaker episode of the Tonight Show, but is that exactly what closet transphobe Larry Feinbot wants me to think? Whatever the case, the joke and subsequent ban certainly put Twitch in an awkward position after the streaming platform shouted out Nothing, Forever on Twitter (opens in new tab).
Larry’s got a new joke to tell pic.twitter.com/1g41UUgmL4February 4, 2023
The Thinking Machine Wearing the Guise of Larry Feinberg does actually still come off better than the real life Jerry Seinfeld, who dated a high school student when he was 39 (opens in new tab), or Kramer actor Michael Richards, who infamously went on a racist tirade (opens in new tab) at the Laugh Factory in 2006. Julia Louis-Drefuss and Jason Alexander are still fine if anyone’s keeping score, but you’re on thin ice after that FTX ad Larry David!
As for old robo-Feinberg and the impossible task of ascertaining intent from an algorithmic output, you ever notice how these things just can’t help but misbehave? It reminds me of when the internet taught a Meta chatbot to be racist (opens in new tab) last year, or when the internet taught a different, Microsoft chatbot to be racist (opens in new tab) in 2016. To avoid this behavior, these supposedly automated processes often need legions of cheap labor combing over results (opens in new tab) for anything objectionable.
Nothing, Forever will no doubt be back on Twitch at the end of its 14-day suspension—assuming its creators are unable to successfully appeal. Until then, perhaps consider checking out the beloved sitcom Seinfeld to fill the time.