Shiri’s Scissor

Grinning woman with shears

Fun story, presumably fictional, about an online advertising startup that uses a “deep learning” network to generate maximally controversial statements – assertions precisely calibrated to split people into opposing groups separated by a wide gulf of incomprehension and hatred.

The program is first used to spit out a divisive statement about the company’s product design, provoking an immediate civil war within the coding team. As the company dissolves into chaos, the program – dubbed “Shiri’s Scissor” – is applied to the Reddit forum dedicated to Mozambique, where it generates an explosively controversial headline regarding the African nation. A mysterious insurgency rocks Mozambique soon thereafter (this is actually real). The narrator even begins to suspect that a Scissor-like program has been set loose in American politics.

The story made me think of this very divisive auditory illusion. I am still convinced that people who heard something other than what I heard are literally insane.

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