Man Recreates Childhood Friend With AI, Then It Tries to 'Murder' Him

A YouTuber has documented how his microwave appeared to have become overcome with murderous intent after he engineered artificial intelligence software into it.

Lucas Rizzotto is known for his YouTube channel Lucas Builds the Future, in which he posts videos on technology from virtual reality to video games.

Earlier this month, Rizzotto published a now-viral Twitter thread in which he detailed how he decided to recreate a childhood imaginary friend—a microwave he called Magnetron. He also published a video about the experience on his YouTube channel.

To do this, he purchased a microwave and said he intended to merge it with GPT-3, a sophisticated text-based artificial intelligence system developed by the Elon Musk-founded AI research company OpenAI.

GPT-3 is designed to mimic the human language, creating original sentences when given a prompt. During its development, GPT-3 was fed vast amounts of data. Everything from Wikipedia articles to Reddit posts to news articles.

Based on what it's learned, the AI can put together many different types of prose—poetry, news articles, even entirely fictional conversations—if given the correct prompt from a human first. As of 2020, people could sign up to play with GPT-3 according to tech news outlet Vox, but there was a waiting list.

In order to turn GPT-3 into a good imitation of his childhood friend, Rizzotto said he wrote an entire backstory that the AI could refer back to in order to stay in character. In the Twitter thread, Rizzotto claimed he wrote a "100-page book detailing every moment of [Magnetron's] imaginary life" and gave it to the AI as a prompt.

When he was ready, Rizzotto obtained a "smart microwave" that had the capability to be operated by voice commands. He said he then modified it so that GPT-3 could also send commands to the microwave. He also set up a text-to-speech and speech-to-text recognition system so that he could communicate back and forth with GPT-3 via his voice.

Rizzotto described the way in which he claimed to have enabled the AI to communicate with the microwave. "I trained it to say a string with special characters whenever it wants to turn the microwave on—'MICROWAVE ON 30 SEC'—and as we talk to each other a javascript bot is looking for those commands in the GPT-3 chat logs in real time," he wrote. "Whenever it finds a command, that JS bot connects to the Microwave API and triggers it to do what GPT-3 is telling it to."

Rizzotto described the conversations with his new microwave AI as "both beautiful and eerie" and that GPT-3 created the illusion of being a real person that "was accurate enough to hold". The downside was that the character Rizzotto had created through GPT-3 "would exhibit sudden bursts of extreme violence towards me", the YouTuber said.

At one point, the microwave appeared to ask Rizzotto to "please enter the microwave". Rizzotto then pretended that he had done so and confirmed this to GPT-3, at which point the AI appeared to send a command to the microwave to turn on.

Newsweek could not independently verify Rizzotto's claims as presented in the video.

It is unclear to what extent Rizzotto prompted GPT-3 to come out with some of the responses that it did and how much of the microwave's responses were staged. Rizzotto wrote in another comment that several elements of his video were not real—including edited newsreels at the start and an interview with a fictional AI expert in the middle of the video—and that this was done to help viewers "suspend your disbelief". He stressed the project itself was real, however.

On Twitter, Rizzotto acknowledged that skeptics could be right in dismissing GPT-3 as "just a language model" but added: "It all ties down to your definition of humanity/intelligence & whether you are more conservative or liberal in your interpretation."

Rizotto's microwave is one of the latest examples of technology taking on human attributes, others include a robot that was taught to open doors in Japan and Ameca, a robot that went viral on TikTok for rejecting a man that was hitting on her.

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A YouTuber claimed his microwave tried to murder him after he programed it with AI software. Language-based AI can sometimes give a convincing impression of intelligence. therealLuxPhoto/Getty