Earlier this week, I used ChatGPT and its image generator DALL-E to create Pokémon-style characters of President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and independent character Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
My actual prompts (bad spelling and all, I was on my phone): "Using dall-e please create pokémon characters based on joe biden and donald trump" and "What would a Pokémon based on Robert F. Kennedy Jr. act and look like?"
Here's what I got, which seems to be an object lesson in both the creativity and definite limits of this sort of process right now.
Description: Democraflux is a wise and experienced Pokémon known for its calm demeanor and strong sense of unity. Its flowing blue robes and white hair give it a presidential appearance. It has the power to create peaceful waves and use psychic abilities to heal and soothe others. Its signature move is "Unity Aura," which brings opponents closer together, reducing their aggression and promoting cooperation.
Description: Trumpertantrum is a Pokémon known for its fiery temperament and loud voice. Its bright orange and gold plumage resembles a flamboyant hairstyle. This Pokemon is known for its extravagant and boastful demeanor. It has the ability to create fiery explosions with moves like "Trumpet Burst" and "Gold Rush," which can temporarily increase its strength but also make it unpredictable in battle.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Description: Justicarion is a Pokémon that embodies the spirit of advocacy and environmentalism, reflecting aspects of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s career. It has a majestic, eagle-like appearance, symbolizing freedom and a commitment to protecting nature. Its feathers are a mix of earthy tones and deep greens, representing its connection to the Earth and environmental causes. Justicarion is known for its strong sense of justice and unwavering determination. It's a Pokémon that champions fairness and fights vigorously against those who threaten the balance of its habitat.
The bias seems pretty clear, though not in ways I would have expected. The single most distinguishing characteristic of Joe Biden—his age—is missing completely. And what's with this "Unity Aura" B.S.? This is a guy whose career is studded with incredibly incendiary statements, such as his 2012 comment to black voters when he and Barack Obama were running for reelection that Mitt Romney and Republicans were "going to put y'all back in chains."
The Trumpertantrum character is genuinely clever and gets at something fundamental about The Donald. The description and image are playful too. Yet the vague whiff of dismissiveness gets stronger in relation to the two other creations, doesn't it?
The RFK Jr. character—Justicarion, for chrissakes!—is ridiculous to anyone conversant with either the tone or substance of the man's campaign (here's 82 minutes of him talking to me and Reason's Zach Weissmueller) or longer career, which is filled with authoritarian calls to lock up people he disagrees with and him imputing the worst motives to his critics. ChatGPT seems to have the greatest robotic crush on him since HAL 9000 first set eyes on Dave in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Virtually every interaction with ChatGPT reminds the user that the system is far from perfect, often flat-out wrong, and capable of "hallucinating" answers when it isn't sure of something.
This little exercise drives home the need to always be checking our premises, whether we're using a machine to do the work or our own minds.