Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 12 April 2021


Don’t Think, Just Bleep

Intel shows off new technology to filter out hate, aggression and name-calling.

Listen to this article
5 minutes
This feature is powered by text-to-speech technology. Want to see it on more articles?
Give your feedback below or email

Cancel culture has a vaccine. Its name is Bleep. At the 2021 Game Developers Conference Showcase last month, Intel touted research and sample screenshots of technology that “uses artificial intelligence to get rid of other gamers’ hateful and abusive audio chat.” Silicon Valley never ceases to amaze.

Oh, how Meyers Leonard, a National Basketball Association player formerly with the Miami Heat, could have used this in early March, when a video surfaced of him spewing anti-Semitic language while playing the videogame “Call of Duty.” He was fined $50,000 by the NBA, traded and summarily cut and released. Game over.

With simple, easy-to-use slider controls, like fiddling with the treble and bass, Bleep lets you adjust whether you hear, say, swear words. Settings include none, some, most and all. How nice. I wonder who decides what constitutes swearing. Does it work in all languages? Adolescents of all ages will have a field day finding new phrases to defeat Bleep.


But that’s only the start. You can adjust, choosing between the same four settings, for sexually explicit language and even white nationalism. “Use of the N-word, including all its variations,” according to the Intel presentation, doesn’t have a slider, only an on-off switch. Warning: You can get canceled for even discussing this.


Also available for filtering are ableism and body shaming, aggression (“negative language intended to wound the recipient”), LGBTQ+ hate, misogyny and even plain old “name-calling.” If you can’t play “Call of Duty” and call the person you’re about to virtually shoot a lying, dog-faced pony soldier, why play?

You know who else could have used this technology? American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. When asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency about teachers unions’ resistance to reopening schools, she launched into a tirade: “American Jews are now part of the ownership class” and “want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it.” She should set “stupid anti-Semitic tropes” to none.

Maybe the technology ought to be built into every set of AirPods and headphones. Yes, a new meaning to “Intel Inside.” College students and professors could filter the sounds of the real world and never again have their feelings hurt, be triggered or feel the need to cancel anyone.

Why not install Bleep in keyboards? It’s too late for the would-be editor of Teen Vogue who was canned before her first day on the job for writing anti-Asian tweets when she was 16. By the way, in Bleep’s presentation I didn’t see a slider to control insults against Asians. That must be an oversight. And what about Polish jokes? Irish jokes? Borat wouldn’t stand a chance.

I don’t want to go all ad absurdum on you—though let’s agree cancel culture is already absurd—but can you see the endgame to all this? Using noise-canceling algorithms and Bleep, New York could create SSS, Snowflake Safe Spaces™, to filter in real time that crazy guy outside Penn Station, always swearing to himself. Yes, this would make a great “Black Mirror” episode.

Mel Gibson could stay out of trouble. J.K. Rowling could still be beloved. Michael Richards, whom you know as Kramer, could still work nightclubs. And that mixed-martial-arts fighter, Gina Carano, could still be in “Star Wars” Westerns. Though now, why would she want to?

Politicians could really use this. A new, hot product, an updated cone of silence, could wrap them in a virtual bubble and use Bleep to filter everything that comes out of their mouths, so it is always politically correct, vague and as far from reality as possible. Chuck Schumer might not need one.

OK, enough fun. This is one piece of technology I would, er, cancel. Why? Because speaking of ownership class, people need to own what they say. Sure, many don’t get the ever-changing memo on what things are verboten. But most respectable human beings know enough to think before they speak, using their own biological Bleep code.

On the flip side, those who melt at any sign of stress on their psyche should own what they hear. Not everything is an insult, nor should insults drive people to hysterics. Sticks and stones, whatever doesn’t kill you, and all that. Perversely, Bleep would cause many not to think for themselves, much as Google is a great excuse for not remembering anything anymore.

Instead, let’s take personal responsibility for speaking and listening. I’d say mankind needs to man up, but maybe that would just get Bleeped.

No comments:

Post a Comment