The Global Panic Around AI's Co-Option Of Children's Play and Cultures

Category Machine Learning

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AI's infiltration into children's lives is causing tremendous anxiety and sparking fear about its inhuman modes of intelligence. AI has been used to create cultural artifacts such as stories, books, films, and dolls. Culturally, there is a long history of anxiety surrounding dangerous interactions between children and technology, dating back to the world's fascination with Poltergeist (1982). These themes have been echoed in later works of fiction, such as M3GAN (2022) and The Artifice Girl (2022).

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As artificial intelligence becomes mainstream, its infiltration into children's lives is causing tremendous anxiety. The global panic around AI's co-option of children's play and cultures has manifested unpredictably.Earlier this year, a Swiss comedian created a film trailer for an imagined remake of the beloved children's story Heidi using the AI tool Gen-2.Heidi's more than 25 film and television retellings (including the most famous 1937 version starring Shirley Temple) are key to cultural archetypes of childhood innocence .

AI has been used to create various cultural artifacts, such as stories, books, films and dolls

The viral AI-generated version sparked headlines for being a godless abyss, nightmare fuel and absolutely soulless and detached from humanity.This isn't the first time AI has been used to re-imagine representations of childhood through the creation of cultural artifacts. Researchers trained a deep learning algorithm using children's books by Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak and others, with the resulting storybook images described as an apocalyptic nightmare and visions from hell .

AI has been used to imitate childhood authors such as Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss

When a technology worker used ChatGPT and Midjourney to create a children's book, he received death threats.M3GAN and AI dollsOne of the most successful horror films of 2022, M3GAN, depicts the disturbing results of a grieving girl's friendship with an ultra-lifelike AI-powered doll.A clip of M3GAN dancing (her face expressionless as her body emulates moves from youth dance trends on social media) went viral to an extent the director called "unbelievable .

The trend of childhood technophobia has been around for decades, starting with Poltergeist (1982)

" M3GAN strikes a cultural chord, embodying our discomfort with how AI co-opts and twists children's culture.The Artifice Girl (2022) depicts an AI-generated nine-year-old designed to lure predators online, highlighting debates about AI ethics. Reviewer Sheila O'Malley compared this to Blade Runner (1982), asking:"If a memory is implanted into an android's brain, a 'personal' memory of a childhood that never happened, then isn't that memory a real thing to the android? The android can't tell the difference .

In Switzerland, a comedian created a film trailer for an imagined remake of the beloved children's story Heidi using the AI tool Gen-2

It feels real. At a certain point, what is or is not 'real' is irrelevant. This is when things get unsettling, and The Artifice Girl sits in that very unsettling place."AI tools sit uncomfortably with our imaginings of childhood. The constellation of play, games, stories and toys that constitutes children's social worlds is symbolic of innocence, naivety and freedom from the darkest burdens of adult life .

The 2022 horror film M3GAN depicts an AI-powered doll

Childhood studies link mythologies of freedom and innocence to faith in humanity. When AI tools pervert children's culture, they spark our deepest fears about AI's inhuman modes of intelligence.AI's ability to mimic human creators, while hallucinating and twisting reality, gives us reason to worry.The long history of childhood techno-phobiaCultural anxieties about AI's infiltration of children's culture continue a long history of pop cultural preoccupations with dangerous interactions between children and technologies that cannot be trusted .

The Artifice Girl (2022) tells the story of an AI-generated nine-year-old internet predator

With Poltergeist (1982), the world was enthralled by five-year-old Carol Anne's haunting statement, "They're here…" She was listening to poltergeists through the family's television.This resonated with a generation of children fascinated by the power of technology and activated our deepest nightmares around AI.

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