Dear Facebook, please don’t make your AI too smart

by Thomas Beutel

Facebook greeted me today with one of those auto-generated videos. “You’ve been friends with Joyce on FB for 9 years!” Which struck me kind of funny because Joyce and I married almost 3 decades ago and we met a decade before that. Normally I just move past these videos. I just think friendship span on FB is not particularly relevant.

But I guess curiosity got ahold of me so I watched it. The cover photo was well selected… a photo of the two of us with our daughter a few years ago at her high school graduation. I’m thinking, well selected! FB knows our relationships and it selected a photo our family. Neat. The next ones were then and now photos, and that’s where I lost it. The “then” photo was a picture of a dead rat, and the “now” photo was of the chrysalis rack at Cal Academy where they grow butterflies. I was howling in laughter.

So of course I published it. When I showed Joyce, she burst out laughing too. We really do share the same funny bone. We laughed so much that the following pictures were just a blur.

I don’t know what algorithm Facebook uses to select photos, but for whatever reason, it selected a photo of a dead rat. Sure we had posted it (don’t ask why), and sure we probably commented on it in some way that was interesting to the algorithm. Who knows.

But I can imagine a future where Facebook’s algorithm for selecting photos is a lot smarter and might think, hmm, maybe not the dead rat. I hope that doesn’t come to pass, because if it does, our lives will become so much more boring.

Or at least, give us the option to turn on “dead rat” mode. Please.