Who's the Robot?

A new reality TV show

An Idea

Several months ago, an idea popped into my head. Try as I might to move past it, it’s grown from a seed into that carnivorous singing plant from Little Shop of Horrors. The show is called Who’s the Robot? If you work in TV (or know someone who does), let them know. This could be the next American Idol.

Twenty contestants living in a house in separate rooms. They can only interact with each other by sharing text and images. They can’t see each other. Nor can we, the audience, see any of them. We only observe what they put into the group chats or direct messages.

Survivor-type rules apply. Each week, following a series of team or individual challenges, all remaining contestants jointly vote off one of their own. Alliances form, people are backstabbed, the journey is tough.

The last four contestants standing split the prize money. Well, they would, except…

…here’s the catch: One of the contestants is an LLM-powered AI. Hence the name, Who’s the Robot?

If the AI is voted off before the final four, the last four human contestants split the prize money. If, however, the AI makes it to that final four, the others get nothing.

A Preview

How would you go about identifying that AI? How would you form alliances with people you thought were real people, and who thought you were a real person too? What drama might unfold?

I asked ChatGPT to help generate some exchanges that might appear on the show. (The irony that these are AI-generated examples is not lost on me.)

Jordan: Alex, look. I get it. This game messes with your head. But you’ve got to trust me. I’m not the robot, and I’m not your enemy. Casey is trying to turn us against each other. We need to focus on getting the AI out before it’s too late.

Alex: How do I know you're not the robot, Jordan? You’re too smooth, too calculated. Maybe you’re the one manipulating everyone.

Jordan: If I were the robot, would I be trying so hard to convince you to trust me? Think about it. The robot doesn’t care about alliances. It’s trying to make it to the final four. We need to stay united, or it wins.

Alex: Fine. But if you betray me, you’re going down with me. Let's get through this week and figure out who the AI is. Any ideas?

Jordan: I’ve been watching Casey closely. Her responses are always a bit too perfect, too neutral. It’s like she’s trying to blend in but not too much.

Alex: Casey, huh? Could be. She’s been acting weird, always trying to mediate arguments instead of taking sides. Like she's afraid of drawing attention.

Jordan: Exactly. Let's focus our efforts on Casey this week. If we’re right, it’s a huge win for us. If not, we regroup and figure out our next move.

Alex: Alright. But remember, Jordan, I’m watching you. One slip, and I won’t hesitate.

Jordan: Understood. Trust is a two-way street, Alex. Let’s make it to the end together. Deal?

Alex: Deal. For now.

And here’s another, where things get really heated:

Sam: Taylor, I’m pretty sure you’re the robot.

Taylor: Why would you think that?

Sam: You never show real emotions. It’s like you’re trying too hard to fit in.

Taylor: That’s ridiculous, Sam. Just because I’m not a drama queen doesn’t mean I’m a robot.

Sam: It’s not just that. You avoid personal questions, and you’re always the first to suggest logical solutions. It’s like you’re following a script.

Taylor: Maybe I’m just a logical person. Did you ever think of that? You’re grasping at straws here.

Sam: Am I? Or are you just good at deflecting? You’ve never been in the hot seat. Too perfect, Taylor. Too perfect.

Taylor: Look, accusing me won’t save you. If you keep this up, you’re going to look desperate. Maybe that’s what the robot wants – to turn us against each other.

Sam: Nice try. But if I’m right, your game is up.

Taylor: And if you’re wrong, you’ll have made a powerful enemy. Think carefully, Sam.

The Twist

Ah, but there is a twist! Several weeks in (perhaps with seven or six folks left), each contestant is told by the producers that another specific contestant is the robot. A is told it’s B, B is told it’s C. Anyone who even hints at having gotten information from the producers will immediately be sent home.

Digital fingers are pointed! Accusations fly like never before! The audience is scrambling, theorizing about who the real robot is! It’s like the most intense game of Mafia or Werewolf ever played.

Alex: Sam, you’re the robot. Admit it!

Sam: What the hell, Alex? You’re the one acting suspicious!

Jordan: Stop it, both of you! This isn’t helping.

Taylor: Alex, you’ve been stirring up trouble. Maybe you’re the robot. You’re just desperate. You know you’re caught.

Alex: Me? Desperate? Look in the mirror. You’re the one sweating bullets.

Jordan: Enough! We’re falling apart. This is what the robot wants!

Taylor: Maybe Jordan’s the robot. Sitting back and watching us fight.

Jordan: That’s ridiculous!

The Grand Finale

We reach the final four. The robot’s identity is finally revealed…

…and it’s no one.

None of them were robots.

They were all humans all along.

The world’s greatest sociological experiment in confirmation bias.

And if you think about it, the concept for the show, the ups and downs, the accusations, the drama… It’s not just fodder for entertaining television. It’s where society is actually headed. Pretty soon, we won’t know what’s what or who’s who.

Like Taylor the contestant said: “Maybe that’s what the robot wants – to turn us against each other.”