This neural net would like to deliver these petitions
4 min read

This neural net would like to deliver these petitions

This neural net would like to deliver these petitions

So the other day I heard from Change.org, a company that lets anyone make an online petition and gather signatures. In over a decade of existence, they’ve hosted about 5 million unique petitions.

Some of the petitions are VERY unique - like the ongoing petition to sell Montana to Canada, which gathered so many signatures that the Montana House of Representatives introduced a bill to release a statement opposing the sale. The bill failed to pass.

The question that Change.org - and I - became obsessed with is: if I trained a neural network on the full list of petitions, what kinds of demands would it generate?

The neural net I ended up using is 117M-GPT-2, by OpenAI, which is better at stringing together readable sentences than some of the other neural nets I’ve used. It also comes with a lot of prelearned knowledge about how words are used in sentences, and how they relate to one another, so it will even suggest things that aren’t in the training data sometimes. As training data to imitate, I gave it about 190k petition titles (heavily filtered for quality). I trained it for several minutes on Google’s free colaboratory GPUs (thanks to a colaboratory notebook put together by Twitter user @roadrunning01), and then played with the sampling parameters (mostly truncation) until it was producing very weird (but still readable) petition titles.

Just like real Change.org petitions, the AI-generated demands were clustered in a few general categories:

Bad ideas/Lost Causes:
Dogs are not a thing!! Dog Owners are NOT Human beings!!
Help Bring Climate Change to the Philippines!
Taco, Chipotle, and Starbucks: Bring Back Lettuce Fries
Filipinos: We want your help stopping the killing of dolphins in Brazil in 1970’s
Mr.person: I want a fresh puppy in my home
Simple Stats Administration: Make Another proboscis.
Officials at Prince Alfred Hospital: Aurora to Tell The Company To Send A Baby to Mars
Sign Petition for Houston’s New Fireworks to be Offensive
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What?
Make a mudchat
Please not punish myself with a $20 fines.
Unicorn: Stop breaking crab products
Rooster Teeth : Have Rooster Teeth Fix Your Responses To Obama
The people of Great Adventure: get lil bl00ty moose loyal to us
The People of Kashmir : Ban of Airbrushed Bamboo Trees By Pune
Barack Obama, Barack Obama, and Barack Obama: STOP PING MY HUSBERS!
Saskatoon Police Service: No more scootty
One Highway, Four Hens, Highway 1
Rhino Amish Culture Association: Cut the horns of the congon sturgeon & treat it better!
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Seems reasonable:
Harmonix: Increase the speed limit on Easton Road to 5mph.
Everyone: Put the Bats on YouTube!
Donald Trump: Change the name of the National Anthem to be called the “Fiery Gator”
Taco Bell: Offer hot wings and non-perfumed water for all customers
Do not attack the unions! Keep cowpies!
Anyone: Get a cat to sing on air!
The people of the world: Change the name of the planet to the Planet of the Giants
Dr James Alexander: Make the Power of the Mongoose a Part of the School’s Curriculum
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There must be a story behind this one:
Theresa May MP: Stop The Pigeon Rally in Great Britain
Karen’s mother: Please bring your own breadsticks for Karen.
baseleine planetarium: Unnecessary insults are not welcome in our flat, end it!
Anyone: Stop the use of the word ‘shoe’ in a derogatory way.
City of Toronto, The City of Toronto, The City of Toronto: Remove the “Bam Bam” sign
Basketball Club of St. Louis: Stop the Feral Horseshoes at the Basketball Club
Tom Heneghan as OBE Change Council Localimian: Dammit you!
Denny: Put one more black bee sweater on Em1nt du Poste
Belfast City Council: Fire the cabbages at Clutch MarketI
Kim Hsu: Tougher Penalties for Pedestrians and Elephants on City Street in Austin Texas
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This would appear to lay to rest the question of what AI would demand if it suddenly attained sentience. If you are an AI yourself and want to sign on to these petitions, you can register your preference for hot wings and non-perfumed water, and/or put Karen’s mom on notice about the breadsticks.

AI Weirdness subscribers get bonus content: I have here some entire petitions generated by 117M-GPT-2. The full text for “One Highway, Four Hens, Highway 1″ is a TRIP. (or become a free subscriber to get new posts in your inbox)

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