AI can’t guarantee that it won’t play porn when you ask it to play a children’s song. It can’t tell whether someone’s eyes are open in a photo. It can’t deliver a case history without inventing case law. And yet! An Iowa school district has used AI to review book titles, singling out titles by Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, and others to be removed from shelves, per Rolling Stone.
The reason? The AI tools determined that the books contained “descriptions” or “depictions” of sex acts. The Mason City school board told Rolling Stone that:
Each of these texts was reviewed using AI software to determine if it contains a depiction of a sex act. Based on this review, there are 19 texts that will be removed from our 7-12 school library collections and stored in the Administrative Center while we await further guidance or clarity.
Among the titles pulled for “further guidance” are The Color Purple, The Kite Runner, Beloved, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, and Looking for Alaska.
I know where this is heading. Soon enough, Iowa dining tables will have to cover their shapely lathe-turned ankles as we return to a Victorian period of repressed sexuality in which nothing is sexual and thus EVERYTHING IS EXTREMELY SEXUAL.
Here I wish to direct you to a recent essay series by Colin Dickey on the “Mystery Cave”; a filmmaking approach that includes a scene that breaks with reality (the bowling scene in The Big Lebowski, for e.g.) and is there to release libinal energy, dating back to much more conservative times:
This is a recurring feature in many films: a set piece that appears in the film that almost always appears, on some level, as an interruption in the flow of the narrative, in which an excessive libidinal energy is given free rein. This is often sexual in nature, or at least suggestive of it—the volleyball sequence in Top Gun, for example—but it need not be explicitly sexual in nature.
The point is also that there is a distinction to be made between the erotic and the sexual; one that I do not expect AI to know, since it can’t even select the right squares containing traffic lights in the interstitial.
JUST ANOTHER DAY IN BOOK BANNING AND AI.
[H/t Rolling Stone]