Apr 23, 2022 I Paul Seaburn

Man Puts A. I. in a Smart Microwave Oven -- Then It Tries to Murder Him

Did you have an imaginary friend as a child? Does one of your own children have one? Do you look at imaginary friends as a facet of childhood that ends when the child no longer talks about … or to … them? As an adult – and if it were possible -- would you be interested in speaking to your imaginary friend again to see what they might be doing these days? Well, a man in Brazil who grew up with an unusual imaginary friend had that idea in mind when he used artificial intelligence to install his imaginary friend in a smart microwave oven … and the end result was an imaginary friend who wanted him dead. Is this a movie plot or yet another warning that AI is not your friend?

“First, some backstory. When I was a kid, I had a really unusual imaginary friend: and that was my kitchen microwave. I have no idea why. My parents were puzzled. My sisters mocked me. I didn't care. He was real to me & I talked to it every day. “

Thus begins the Twitter and YouTube tale of Lucas Rizzotto and the two microwaves in his life. The first was his imaginary friend in 2002 named Magnetron, who he imagined as English gentleman from the 1900s, a WWI veteran who lost his family in the war, an immigrant, a poet and an expert at the StarCraft video game.

Another game of StarCraft, Lucas?

“I'm a full-time Mad Scientist creating tons of crazy inventions with futuristic technology. these projects can involve anything from VR/AR to Brain Interfaces and aim to inspire, entertain and educate you - as well as give you a small glimpse into the future of humanity and the possibilities that await us.” (From Rizzotto's Twitter feed)

It’s now 2022. Rizzotto is an adult with a YouTube channel and a knack for technology. He sees that OpenAI’s GPT3 natural language generator is now in the public domain. He sees an ad for an Alexa-equipped, voice-controlled microwave and begins his quest to turn it into Magnetron. After replacing the microwave’s “brain” with a Raspberry Pi computer, giving it text-to-speech and speech-to-text capabilities, he “integrated #GPT3 with the Microwave's API so it could still function normally as a voice-controlled microwave.” All he needed now was memories and the personality of Magnetron to download. Rizzotto provided that by writing a 100-page biography/diary of his imaginary friend.

“This document contained memories from his entire life - from his 1895 birth all the way to when we met when I was a kid. His victories, losses, dreams, fears... All were there on the page, in full display. I was his God. And his life was my design.”

And so the microwave became Magnetron. Rizzotto claims “it truly felt like I was talking to an old friend” who “knew things about me that no NO ONE ELSE in the world did.” However, those fun, nostalgic memories quickly deteriorated. When Rizzotto asked the “poet” for a poem, he got this:

"Roses are red, violets are blue. You're a backstabbing bitch, and I will kill you."

OK, maybe YOUR friends talk to you like that, but not Rizzotto’s imaginary Magnetron. He got worried when Magnetron began sharing combat memories from WWI like “I have seen men holding their guts with their own hands, crying out for their mothers," "piles of corpses going as high as two floors,” and “For years this was my life, always surrounded by death, but never claimed by it." That sounds like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD today, shell-shock in WWI) and Magnetron told Rizzotto he wanted "revenge revenge revenge …”. What kind of revenge … and towards whom?

"At this point, things took a turn — and my microwave asked me to do something I never thought a machine would ask me to do. He asked me to enter the microwave."

Don't be afraid, Lucas.

Yes, this is now sounding more like a movie plot with a darkly humorous twist. Rizzotto claims he pretended to get into the ‘off’ microwave and … you guessed it … Magnetron turned himself on and “He tried to MICROWAVE ME TO DEATH.” When Rizzotto asked why, Magnetron answered "Because I wanted to hurt you the same you hurt me". At this point, Rizzotto claims he disconnected the microwave for good and pondered what he had done.

“There are 2 ways to judge the humanity of an AI:

#1 is by judging its behavior. If it acts human, you treat it as such! This is the approach I was taking.

#2 is by judging the way it thinks. An AI is only human if the way it thinks is indistinguishable from a human.”

Rizzotto concludes by saying “maybe A.I.s are meant to be more like imaginary friends” and “maybe it's about whether it's real enough to be real to you.” He then does two very real human things – he directs Twitter readers to his YouTube channel and asks for money on Patreon. Do you suddenly wish he had really gotten into the microwave?

“It seems clear from the context that the creator specifically has set the scene for a certain outcome: to show that AI systems had malicious intentions and that it would generate unpredictable results when fed simple dialog as input.”

In an interview, AI expert Hans Hansen, the CEO of Brand3D, thinks Rizzotto’s story is real, but his violent biography and diary was the reason Magnetron tried to ‘kill’ him. On the other hand, AI expert Bertha Kgokong, a software developer who makes videos about GPT-3, says the is “100% fake” because OpenAI’s GPT-3 is already pre-trained and not something you can create a new personality for. Hansen thinks society should use the powers of AI for good before it’s beyond regulation.

Do you believe Lucas Rizzotto created a killer microwave from an imaginary friend? If you think it sounds more like a fictional movie plot, Rizzotto is already working on a sequel – a companion microwave with a less violent backstory. A female? We’ll have to wait to find out.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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