Artificial intelligence is not to blame for the recent book bans in Iowa schools. The real culprits are Republican politicians who have enacted legislation censoring school libraries. The Mason City Community School District in Iowa used ChatGPT, an AI language model, to scan books and flag them for “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act” in compliance with the new law. However, this is not an example of a dystopian future controlled by AI, but rather the result of reactionary social control and bureaucratic appeasement.
The law signed by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds aims to eliminate gender nonconformity, anti-racism, and basic reproductive education from schools, while reinforcing conservative family values. The decision to ban certain books, including works by Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood, aligns with the agenda of fundamentalist Republicans who seek to censor literature that challenges their beliefs.
Assistant Superintendent Bridgette Exman clarified that AI will not replace the district’s existing book banning process, which allows parents to request reconsideration of books. The use of AI in this context simply highlights a common problem: the application of technology to give a semblance of neutrality to political actions. Predictive policing algorithms, for example, perpetuate racist patterns of criminalization based on biased data.
The ChatGPT algorithm used in Iowa’s book ban was directed by a prompt that didn’t consider context. A list of “commonly challenged” books, already targeted by conservative groups, was fed into the AI program. Exman’s comments reveal the operational dynamics involved, highlighting bureaucratic obligation rather than a genuine concern for children’s well-being.
Doomsday narratives about AI’s power tend to serve the interests of Silicon Valley, distracting from the more immediate issues at hand. Although the use of ChatGPT in this case may raise concerns, it’s crucial to address the harm caused by current AI tools, which are often flawed and inaccurate, while also benefiting harmful state functions.
The unreliable and inconsistent results of the ChatGPT book selection process emphasize that accuracy was not the primary goal here. The myth of AI efficiency and neutrality, similar to the pretext of protecting children, provides a “defensible process” for those in power. Instead of fixating on the potential omnipotence of AI, it’s essential to challenge and resist the harmful actions of politicians who exploit technology to advance their agenda.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is artificial intelligence responsible for banning books in Iowa schools?
A: No, artificial intelligence is not to blame. The book bans in Iowa schools are a result of legislation enacted by Republican politicians.
Q: Why are certain books being banned from school libraries?
A: The banned books deal with topics such as gender nonconformity, anti-racism, and reproductive education, which contradict the conservative agenda of the Republican politicians.
Q: How is artificial intelligence involved in the book banning process?
A: The Mason City Community School District used an AI language model called ChatGPT to scan books and flag them for content that described or depicted sex acts. However, AI is not the driving force behind the bans.
Q: Are there concerns about the accuracy of AI in this context?
A: Yes, there are concerns about the reliability and consistency of the ChatGPT algorithm used in the book selection process. The AI model provided contradictory answers when queried about certain books.
Q: What is the broader issue with the use of AI in such cases?
A: The problem lies in the application of technology to legitimize political actions. By using AI, politicians can create a facade of neutrality while pursuing their own agenda. It is important to focus on challenging the harmful actions of politicians rather than fixating on the potential power of AI.