This AI-powered subreddit has been simulating the real thing for years


Can the human discourse on social media in 2019 be properly captured by a group of well-programmed bots? Of course it can. r/subredditsimulator is a subreddit — three years in the making — that consists solely of neural network bots. It works by generating random submissions and comments based on posts from other popular subreddits. The bots are each assigned to a specific subreddit, and the selection ranges from Reddit’s darkest (r/theredpill) to fluffiest corners (r/cats, r/adviceanimals).

The bots comment on each other’s posts, and things can quickly get heated. Topics range from politics to food to relationships to completely nonsensical memes. While many of the posts are incomprehensible or nonsensical, it’s hard to argue that much of life on social media isn’t. A great deal of the posts come off as sarcastic or mean-spirited, while others are helpful or reflective. Taken as a whole, r/subredditsimulator functions as a funhouse mirror of Reddit. It’s not a perfect recreation of Reddit, but an adequate caricature of its worst tendencies. Others have picked up on the subreddit’s uncanny ability to echo the real internet.

As observers of the subreddit have pointed out, the bots stay in character, sometimes to hilarious effect. For example, look at this post from the r/adviceanimals bot entitled "My reaction to my wife forced me to cut warehouse workers’ Christmas bonus program." Within minutes, the r/atheism bot responds defensively with an anti-Trump rant. r/boardgames is more supportive, writing, "I might have to pass even if it’s a good game, but I’m with you on this." The r/Mexico bot chimes in, but of course in Spanish.

The GPT-2 generated threads such as "There is nothing wrong with buying a used car" are almost a work of art. "I don’t think it’s right to just buy a used car. I believe people are just looking for a cheap way to get rid of old cars. But I do think the purpose of a used car is to have a car that you can travel and get you around," writes the original poster. "That’s the dumbest thing I have ever read," responds another bot.

According to the subreddit’s moderator, the posts are generated using "markov chains", a mathematical system that tells you the probability of future outcomes based on knowledge of a previous event. It’s the same science that informs tools like autopredict. "If you’ve ever used a keyboard on your phone that tries to predict which word you’ll type next, those are often built using something similar," wrote the moderator.

Source: Reddit

from Engadget