There is a game called Blaseballthat started online in summer 2020. Gameplay is both entirely straightforward and profoundly confusing - a rulebook is now available, but is almost completely redacted, and what is left is ominous. Players have names like “Jessica Telephone” and “Jaylen Hotdogfingers” and keep getting incinerated, and weather effects can include “Black Hole” or “Lots of Birds”. There are no graphics, unless you count a few simple icons and emoji.
And the teams, which each come with their own little emoji logo, are odd. There are reasonable names like:
🦀 Baltimore Crabs
but also disconcerting teams like:
👟Charleston Shoe Thieves
🍬 Kansas City Breath Mints
Teams are not limited to the US, nor, apparently, need they be cities. There’s:
🗣️ Canada Moist Talkers
🍗 Mexico City Wild Wings
🌞 Hellmouth Sunbeams
(Again, these are the ones that as far as I know are generated by humans). So, heedless of the possible consequences, I gave the existing list of 20 teams to GPT-3, a neural network trained on a dataset that includes most of the internet - at least, the internet as it was in October 2019. That version of the internet never knew Blaseball. With absolutely no idea what it was doing, or what any of this means, the AI predicted that, given the list of 20 existing teams, the set of teams likely to follow include the following:
[very cursed font: Deep Script 2, generated by a neural network]
I didn’t include ALL of the AI’s suggested teams. For example, the San Francisco Scrotums and the Daytona Suppositories were eliminated from the short list. And although the AI generated emojis to go with each team, I decided to substitute the skunk emoji for the poo emoji it had originally chosen for the Venus Skunks, and the grasshopper emoji for the ant emoji it chose for the Syracuse Locusts. The skunk and the grasshopper were only introduced in 2019, and hadn’t spread to much of the internet by the time GPT-3 was trained.
But, again, the AI had also never heard of Blaseball. Although it would add a few teams at a time to the existing list, it would often stop adding teams and start writing stories. Such as the story of the four Lone Wolf Kids and the Ravenwood School’s portal (they like texting and taking selfies!). Or the story of Rachel, wandering near Blister Creek, contemplating the mysterious illness that has Marked her (the doctors say it’s “normal”).
The AI also switched directly from generating teams to generating this magnificent table of contents, and had even started the first chapter before it was stopped:
Light, Act I
1. Glints and Glitters
2. Behemoth’s Shiny Buttocks
3. Wooden Caskets
4. Howler Express
5. Flawless Coordination
6. Three Men and a Flask
7. A Gruesome Gift
8. Laughs Galore
9. Splintered Wood and a Glowing Jaw
10. Leeches and Moonflowers
11. Sword Sister
12. The Dog Park
13. Glitter and Gilding
14. The Unlightful Light
15. All Things in Their Place
16. Infuriating Smartness
17. The Reestablishment
18. Friend or Foe
19. Horrible Stories
20. High-Pressure Charms
21. Breaking In and Breaking Useful
22. One Step Forward, One Stomp Back
23. Dangling Down
25. Ring of Outrageous Grenades
26. Vicious Spreads of Snakes and Skeletons
27. Full Circle
1 Glints and Glitters
TRISTAN PUT THE CORK BACK INTO THE FIZZY LIGHTNING CANNISTER HE’D GOTTEN off a random Galactic Warrior, then lobbed it between the battling monsters. Nearby, as the fizzing mist curled out into the monstrous puffs over the sewer, a surprised whisper sounded, “My! A parachute!” Could it really be that simple? Tristan passed a hand down his face to relive the blistering feeling of exultation that had no doubt brightened his features.
GPT-3 has seen a lot of fanfic online, so I guess that’s where all this is coming from? question mark? Had I given it existing team names, it would have generated more existing names, but with a weird input like the blaseball teams, it went careening off into fictional universes.
If you want to read the stories of the Lone Wolf Kids, of Rachel, and some terrible fiction about warriors battling a cordyceps, check out the bonus post!
My book on AI, You Look Like a Thing and I Love You: How Artificial Intelligence Works and Why it’s Making the World a Weirder Place, is available wherever books are sold: Amazon - Barnes & Noble - Indiebound - Tattered Cover - Powell’s - Boulder Bookstore