Altar-3000 – An AI prophet in the age of digestible truths

Created by Vytautas Jankauskas, ‘Altar-3000‘ is a project and a device that explores the notion of an AI prophet, a automated totem of customised belief. The home altar connects to the internet to retrieve latest betting headlines from PredictIt, humanity’s financial positions on the near future IRL. The (smart home) altar is adorned with paraphernalia that might have meant a lot once but doesn’t reflect much in the age of digestible truths. The device evokes revitalised New Age aesthetics from the times of cyber hippies, when internet utopias constituted where gods and transcendence were to be found.

In 2018, then 25-year-old Patrick Cage made decent money by betting on political events. In recent years an array of bet on what you believe in websites such as PredictIt or its blockchain alternative Augur have been gaining popularity. These platforms allow average human to submit near future events of any kind on which users can bet. Over time, Patrick started noticing submissions that seemed completely off. For example, people were putting money on indictments of political figures, even if no such speculations had been reflected in the news. Naturally, Cage began betting against improbable odds all but wondering where they would be coming from. Somewhere in the Philippines, on a pig farm a few hours away from Manila, lives Jim Watkins, founder of some mediocre Japanese porn site and more infamously, owner and admin of 8chan, now 8kun, a reputed hate and conspiracy forum. 8kun accommodates the majority of original QAnon drops (posts) to date. On those platforms Patrick Cage eventually traced the discussions turned improbable bets. Championed as selected recipients of insider information from Q, people were not only further bloating and seeding conspiracies to more mainstream social media but putting money on them as well.

Vytautas Jankauskas

Trained on writings of prominent prophetic classics like Nostradamus, to more recent stars such as Yuval Noah Harrari, to compilations of Q’s drops themselves, lightly styled with a layer of politically-oriented poetry, the home shrine produces a short, prophecy-resembling, poetic yet often inconsistent message for a chosen bet headline. Upon vocal request, ALTAR-3000 will share the message with the global community by uploading it to 8kun conspiracy forum’s “random” section. If the post is blocked by caption verification, user will need to help the altar by spelling the captcha aloud; a prayer of sorts. As opposed to boring AIs and abstract, ephemeral algorithms quietly taking over parts of our life, ALTAR-3000 is blunt, bold, tangible, and Luddite-friendly. Should one disagree with such an object, the good old ethernet or power cables can be unplugged conveniently for a prompt disconnect. So far, ALTAR-3000 has not been banned on 8kun it appears.

ALTAR-3000 use a fine-tuned GPT-Neo algorithm, inspired by a research on Memorization of Conspiracy Theories in Text Generators, which outlines how a common issue in today’s text generator algorithms, lack of consistency, makes them ideal content creators for the purpose. The overall backend, web scraping, and voice interactions are made with Python (using Huggingface Transformers, Google Speech Recognition, Selenium, Image Search, and other modules). Visual screen output is handled by openFrameworks. Principal hardware consists of a Jetson Nano board and customised Yahboom Dofbot desktop robot arm.

Project Page | Vytautas Jankauskas