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Have a proper gander at this – Iqbal Survé’s RozBot, artificial but not very intelligent

Have a proper gander at this – Iqbal Survé’s RozBot, artificial but not very intelligent

Imaginary friend turns out to be China-developed propaganda software. With secret access to the bot, we get it to churn out writing in the style of prominent South Africans – and it’s hard to tell from the real thing.

Earlier this month, it was revealed that one Jamie Roz, a writer for Iqbal Survé’s Independent Media group, is not in fact a real person. Well, the Daily Maverick article in question said Jamie Roz didn’t exist, but that is inexact. The conclusion was that Roz was imaginary – that is to say “he” is a pseudonym for perhaps more than one writer employed to do some “attack” journalism for Mr Survé, who has many ­enemies, real and imagined, whom he wishes to eviscerate (metaphorically, of course).

A new probe into the identity, if identity there be, of Jamie Roz takes the matter further – and comes up with some results even more startling than the truth about the decuplets of Tembisa. This probe was conducted by Tarantula, a little-known techno-investigative unit that you might see as a fraternal, if that weren’t sexist, okay, a sororal body to DM’s own Scorpio. I have been in touch with Tarantula, by clandestine means, naturally, and can now reveal what they found.

Jamie Roz is a bot.

Yes, he, or more properly it, is a computer-­generated “writer”. Experts speculate that this bot, colloquially known as the RozBot, was developed by China’s ministry of propaganda and has been writing speeches for various high-ups in that country for many years now. What the investigation shows is that if you feed the bot the right kind of content (and China has a century’s worth of content to do with “socialism with Chinese characteristics”) it will thenceforth, at the touch of a button – well, at the setting of various interesting parameters – produce any amount of such discourse.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “A kick in the shed – where’s our airwaves-grabbing pandemic Prez when you need him? 

There is also speculation that the RozBot has been secretly delivered to some political parties across the world so that they can reproduce such rhetoric effortlessly and in vast quantities.

One such party in South Africa, it is further speculated, is the EFF – they got a RozBot preprogrammed with a bunch of Chinese and Russian propaganda from about 1923 and they’ve been reproducing it steadily since the party’s foundation in 2013 (with a small glitch in which they tried to feed it some Fanon, but it didn’t take).

To show how the RozBot works, Tarantula kindly gave us a demonstration of its skills. We fed into it some sample text by writers of different kinds to see what would come out, and the results are quite amazing. First, we tried Roz with some work by Adri Senekal de Stront, one of Mr Survé’s praise-singers, to see if we could change the narrative – that is, get the bot to spew acclaim for the megalo­maniac, sorry, media mogul, rather than simply attack his enemies. Then we went on to try to get the RozBot writing just like various other denizens of our body politic speak, and here are the results.

Adri Senekal de Stront

Oh Doc, I mean Mr Iqbal, I mean Daddy Survé, you are so wonderful. That day you came into my office and hitched your… No, let me start again. You have given hope to millions. You have stood with the poor and the dispossessed, or at least those of the poor and dispossessed who can still stand, against the tortures of modern life. You have pared the toenails of St Nelson Mandela! Even those of your staff who remain at your publications sing your praises, and not just because they weren’t purged. They do it out of genuine love of your generous personality and engorged ego. Kissy kissy, Icky!


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Jacob Zuma

I have been in the struggle a long time. And the struggle continues. I am the struggle personified, so if it looks personal, it is. I don’t want to go to jail. I’m not afraid of going to jail. I went to jail for eleventy years and I came out stronger. Fatter, even.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “Like it or lumpen it — ANC can only blame South Africa’s masses for its failed revolution

My health is bad, mysteriously bad, which is why I want you to elect my ex-wife to the presidency of the ANC. I am the ANC, except those in the ANC that are enemy agents. Thuli Madonsela is a CIA agent. She tried to poison me. She is just the latest in a very long line of CIA agents to try and bring me down just because I am opposed to White Monopoly Capital and in favour of Gupta Monopoly Capital.

Bring me my machine gun! Oh, is that the plastic one? Okay, well, it’ll have to do…

Cyril Ramaphosa

My fellow South Africans, we have a problem. In fact, we have many problems. Many huge problems. But the main one exercising our minds right now is that of Eskom. As you  know, I cut short my visit to the UK for the Queen’s funeral, though it was over already, to rush back to South Africa to make this speech from the heart. I will, however, speak in very measured and lethargical tones because I know (can you check this, please, Mondli?) that you, my fellow South Africans, find it reassuring when I do so. You may even drift into restorative sleep as I speak. Anyway, as you know, we have suffered many disasters, disasters such as ­Covid, such as floods in KZN, such as Gwede Mantashe as energy minister… But this is not a time to point fingers. It is not a time to point fingers at Gwede, who is so far behind the times that the green transition is now looking like something we’ll accomplish only after the Earth is a blasted wasteland – mere power outages of 10 hours a day will look like a walk in the park, if there are still parks. Most importantly, this is not a time to point fingers at me for being chief of the Eskom War Room when I was deputy (only deputy, I remind you!) president and we didn’t come up with any solutions at all. We’re still in the dark. But do not fear! Do not fear Stage 8, or fear it a little less than state failure and social collapse. We have set up an interministerial committee, that is, a committee with lots of ministers who truly have nothing better to do, and that committee will minister to our need for a thorough investigation and evaluation of the situation. It will also propose solutions that we will not be able to enact because we are wedded to such ancient policies and political allegiances that… Well, we have set up the committee! Results expected shortly before the 2024 election. Now, as to the issue of Phala Phala [glitch, glitch, shriek – the RozBot breaks down at this point]. DM168

Shaun de Waal is a writer and editor.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.

 

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