Researchers are using Shoggoth, a monster out of HP Lovecraft, as a mascot for AI.

Kevin Roose at The New York Times:

@TetraspaceWest, the meme’s creator, told me in a Twitter message that the Shoggoth “represents something that thinks in a way that humans don’t understand and that’s totally different from the way that humans think.”

Attempts to train AI to be more human-like are like putting a smiley face or human mask on Shoggoth. It’s still inscrutable, but it creates the appearance of understandability.

That some A.I. insiders refer to their creations as Lovecraftian horrors, even as a joke, is unusual by historical standards. (Put it this way: Fifteen years ago, Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t going around comparing Facebook to Cthulhu.)

And it reinforces the notion that what’s happening in A.I. today feels, to some of its participants, more like an act of summoning than a software development process. They are creating the blobby, alien Shoggoths, making them bigger and more powerful, and hoping that there are enough smiley faces to cover the scary parts.

Mitch W @MitchW