It’s pumpkin spice season and America’s first pumpkin-spiced presidential candidate is in his fetid prime. Even on the Internet, we lack the column inches to list everything that Donald Trump has done in the past week, but suffice it to note that he was caught on tape bragging about what is unequivocally sexual assault, was subsequently accused of sexual assault by numerous women, and denied that he had ever sexually assaulted anyone while also maintaining that nobody is more respectful of women. Yuck.
It is a safe bet that a candidate unwilling to release his tax records will not be sitting down to take the Turing test any time soon. That has not stopped the fine folks at MIT from exploring the intersection of Donald Trump and artificial intelligence. [Insert joke about organic intelligence or the lack thereof here.] Here’s the gist of it, as reported by Quartz:
Creator Bradley Hayes was inspired by a similar neural network trained to simulate Shakespeare quotes, as well as a recent report that Trump generally speaks at an elementary-school level. “Trump’s language tends to be more simplistic, so I figured that, as a modeling problem, he would be the most manageable candidate to study,” Hayes said in a release.
The Trump AI was trained on a few hours of Trump’s speeches, randomly choosing letters to start sentences and then building them out letter-by-letter. As MIT explained in a release, if the bot chooses the letter “M,” it will potentially be followed by the letter “A” and then “K,” until it spells out Trump’s favorite hat-based saying, “Make America Great Again.”
In any other election, the attack ad would write itself: Do you want a man so simple he’s used as a training case for AI—and not even the SIRI variety—to control the nuclear launch codes? But this is not any other election year, and consequently the story becomes our domain. Hello, dear reader. We’re glad you’re here.
Naturally, the Trumpian AI has been turned into a Twitter bot. Here, for your consideration, is a choice sample of its output:
We have competence. Our people don’t need anybody. I have smart people.
— DeepDrumpf (@DeepDrumpf) March 3, 2016
This raises an interesting artistic question: Is accuracy the key to a good Trump bot? Deep Drumpf, a reference to a John Oliver line that is now well after its sell-by date, is syntactically excellent. It’s enough to make you assume the tweets were sent from an Android and not a staff-operated iPhone. But there are still things humans do better. Owen Ellickson’s ongoing Trump Twitter fiction—don’t call it fanfiction—cuts more to the core of the man. To the extent that Trump has yet to pass the Turing test, neither has his bot self. If you want pathos, turn to a human writer.
TRUMP: I cancelled my Hannity interview. Can't risk someone that hard-hitting.
TRUMP: What're you eating?
RYAN: Bunker beans
— Owen Ellickson (@onlxn) October 13, 2016