It seems there was a recent point in time where neither OpenAI’s ChatGPT nor Google Gemini chatbots appeared to be capable of giving an answer as to who won the last US presidential election.

I don’t think it’s that the robots joined QAnon, because they also wouldn’t reveal prior results of other countries' elections. But it’s clearly deliberate, further reinforcing the idea that if we’re going down the route of a world where people increasingly rely on these robot brains to inform them about what is true about the world then the creators of these products will have a disturbingly high influence on what facts will be considered worthy enough, or ‘safe’ enough, to reveal.

In the case of LLM chatbots and their continuing tendency to make things up, ‘safe’ probably has to mean ‘safe even if we give the wrong answer’, which I imagine (I hope!) is why the bots were programmed to keep their mouths shut on these matters given the prevalence of now AI-ingested source content available on the internet that is…misinformed.

This isn’t a new problem of course. Reference material that claims to answer questions about what’s going on in the world has always had more than its fair share of gatekeepers.

In practical terms, what people learn via e.g. Google search is very highly influenced by what results Google designs their engine to return first (and it’s increasingly a mess). But at least they present options, of a kind. The sort of one-stop-shop certainty and “you don’t need to look elsewhere” authoritativeness that the chatbots have been designed to project when answering questions I think potentially might make things worse. That said, of course, even the Encyclopedia Britannica can hardly be said to be free of bias; if nothing else then in the sense of what facts its creators deem as worthy of inclusion vs not.

In the past few days though it looks like ChatGPT has been altered so that it now will reveal the result - Biden won very definitively, in case you were unsure, even though Trump sure continues pretended he did - all 50 states, would you believe? (no).

Gemini still won’t respond to those types of query though, and instead suggests you use Google Search to find the answer - which these days I’m not entirely sure is always the most reliable way to find the truth of political matters either.