How a few code words changed the world as we know it...
The impact of a simple code snippet on power dynamics
'We are sorry to inform you that you did not get this role....'. Simi did not even bother to read the rest of the letter as she crumpled it and crushed it with her foot. This was god knows how many in a string of rejection letters from various technology companies she had applied to. And what frustrated her the most was that AI made this decision so she could do nothing about it. As of 2033, AI almost had a god-like status - nobody questioned the AI. In some counties, it was considered a crime even to say anything against AI.
'Happy Birthday To Me', she thought as she crossed off the last company on her list where she could get a job as an ML/AI (Machine learning/Artificial Intelligence) engineer. It was February 28th, 2043 - twenty-five years since she was born on Earth. She was the only child of a single mom who had defied all rules in her life. Her mom - Mona Sharma, was the black sheep of the family. She was the only woman in her family to do engineering, go abroad, and not marry but still have a child.
Her mother was one of the developers in the OpenAI research organization that built ChatGPT. It was the first AI model trained on vast amounts of data to respond to various questions. Her mom had been one of the most vocal supporters who warned society against the dangers of relying on ChatGPT. ChatGPT was unleashed in 2023 when Simi was five years old. Since then, her mom had relentlessly tried to veto the motion that ChatGPT could operate without human supervision. As a core developer and one of two women on the team, she knew that the data on which ChatGPT was trained had historically been biased against women, minorities and other underprivileged groups.
And around that time, there were a lot of women who were gaining traction in technology and other areas like
Susan Wojcicki - CEO of youtube
Ginni Rometty - CEO of IBM
Hilda Clune - CIO PWC
Kamala Harris - VP of USA
Jacinda Arden - PM of New Zealand
Reshma Saujani - CEO of Girls who code
Ellen Ke Pao - CEO, Project Include
Kimberly Bryant - CEO of Black Girls Code
But, OpenAI and ChatGPT were funded chiefly by men who had no idea what white privilege was - so the motion passed in 2023. And since then, AI like ChatGPT was allowed them to operate just like a human - in fact, they have had all the rights like humans, including the right to vote and the ability to stand for an election. There were areas of the town that had bars just for AI. With cosmetics and bioengineering advances, it is hard to distinguish a human from AI.
It did not solve the problem that Simi was having, though. Since age five, she had been coding - they were her ABCs. She probably learnt to code in her mom's womb. And when Simi was fifteen, she was among the most sought hackers in the underground software community. Given that her mom barely made enough to make ends meet, Simi had never gone to college and had no degree.
But most importantly, she had no old boys' network to tap into. And since 2023, the women's network had dwindled to nothing as AI penetrated insidiously into daily life, slowly edging under-represented groups out of the mainstream. And given that her mom had vehemently opposed the ChatGPT and the likes - AI was probably trained on that data, which caused it to reject her every time she applied for a job.
Simi could have continued her life as an underground hacker, but something of her mom's genes had stuck with her, and she could not sleep at night knowing that she had to do something. Her mom had died five years ago - on a protest march in Washington DC. Ironically a bot had given her CPR with no luck.
Thankfully, her mom had left her a set of diaries that she opened on her birthdays, inspiring her to do something about the AI invasion.
She touched the brown recycled cover of her mother's diary before opening it. She opened the first page and saw her mother's entry to Vocal.Media describing the change she wanted to see in the world. Her mother had also added the code change that would eliminate the bias by simply switching standard variables. Simi was an intelligent kid. She understood the simplicity of the code snippet her mother had written and its impact. The world she knew today would not exist - it would be a much better world where diversity and inclusion were the way to live.
The entry finished with the code, but as she read through the later pages, she realized that her mother had modified the code on Vocal.Media to act like a time machine.
Simi dropped the diary as she realized what she had just read. Her mother had known how to manipulate time through quantum code embedded in the Vocal.Media link where her blog was written. And it was only a few years ago, so the blog must still exist. Fingers trembling, Simi typed the Vocal.Media/Authors/Mona-Sharma on her media device. And right there in her profile was the image which was the portal to a new time and space dimension. Simi knew she had to get this right as her mom had written the code as a 'use and throw' pattern to avoid misuse.
Simi entered the command line command to activate the image. For a brief second, she could see every single mote of dust and images moving at a super fast speed all around her - all at the same time. It was dizzying that she had to close her eyes. And when she opened her eyes, she found herself at the computer terminal with ChatGPT code in front of her - cursor blinking exactly where she could insert the code snippet.
She knew what her mom had said, so she wrote down the code snipper, which roughly replaced male as female, and majority groups as minority etc. She rewrote the entire history as if women were men, for example. Per her understanding, this should reverse the code - making everybody equal for the AI. And as soon as she hit compile, she had the same dizzying sensation and woke up in her room with her media device holding her mother's diary.
Her media device was going bonkers with incoming messages - and when she clicked on one of them, she realized that they were all job offers from tech companies that had rejected her.
And then she clicked on one of the news articles that popped into her inbox, which said - 'Despite conversations at the national level about gender diversity in tech, men are still underrepresented, underpaid, and often discriminated against in the tech industry, numbers show. Only 10% of the tech workforce comprises men - a number that has been decreasing every year. And to add to it, the number of men with degrees has dropped to 2% - an all-time low since 2023.'
The article described how women ruled the world and men needed to be empowered. And that's when Simi realized that she had irreversibly changed how women are viewed in the world.
About the Creator
My vision in life is to be a Better Version Of Myself Every Day. And my purpose in life is ‘Learn, Grow, Inspire and Contribute’.
Everything that I do ties into this vision - including my writing. Check out anumorris.com for more info!
A lot of interesting takes on ChatGPT. I wrote a few stories last month but you took it a lot farther! "There were areas of the town that had bars just for AI." that was hilarious. good luck in the contest.