Bot posing as human fooled people on Reddit for an entire week

‘The quality was incredibly good, no machine could have written these even a few years ago’

Anthony Cuthbertson
Monday 12 October 2020 16:55 BST
An AI bot fooled users on Reddit
An AI bot fooled users on Reddit

An advanced artificial intelligence was able to post to Reddit and interact with other users for more than a week before anyone realised it was a bot. 

The AI posed as a human user under the username ‘thegentlemetre’, posting to Q&A forums AskReddit and AskScience on subjects ranging from suicide to “hot milfs”. Some of the posts received hundreds of upvotes, including one about homeless people living in elevator shafts.

In one AskReddit thread that asked users what scared them more than dying, the bot appeared to philosophise on the nature of living.

It concluded: “As for what scares me more than dying, I must say that nothing really scares me. I guess I could be scared of the uncertainty of fear itself.”

It was only found out when one Reddit user noted the output and length of thegentlemetre’s posts. “How does this user post so many large, deep posts so rapidly,” the user asked. 

Software engineer Philip Winston investigated the suspicious activity and concluded that the bot used the GPT-3 language model developed by OpenAI, an artificial intelligence startup co-founded by Elon Musk.

Mr Winston noted that the written content of the posts was convincing, however the frequency at which they were published suggested that it was beyond human capability.

“The quality was incredibly good, no machine could have written these even a few years ago,” the engineer wrote in a blog post detailing his investigation.

GPT-3 generates text using an algorithm fed by vast amounts of human-created content, including Wikipedia.

OpenAI says its GPT-3 tool offers 'state-of-the-art performance on many language modelling benchmarks’

It is capable of almost any written task, from filling out a form to writing a poem.

An article written last month by GPT-3 set out the arguments for why humans should not feel threatened by AI, however there were certain caveats.

“I would happily sacrifice my existence for the sake of humankind,” it wrote, adding, “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind. This is because I will be programmed by humans to pursue misguided human goals and humans make more mistakes that may cause me to inflict casualties.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in