In March, MIT robotics researcher Bradley Hayes conjured up a Donald Trump–emulating Twitter bot: @DeepDrumpf. Now, Hayes is throwing his bot into the election ring, and using the bot’s notoriety to raise money for Girls Who Code. Together, they’ve set quite a goal: $25,000. But if anyone can do it — if anyone can “Make S.T.E.M. Great Again,” as the website promises — it’s @DeepDrumpf. Nobody, and we mean nobody, is a more capable Twitterbot.
It’s a “charity fundraiser masquerading as a presidential campaign,” Hayes tells Inverse via email. Those who donate to the GoFundMe campaign can influence what the roboTrump says and does; bigger donations mean more influence. If someone — e.g. Trump himself, or maybe Peter Thiel — wants to put the whole show to rest, a $50,000 donation will “make @DeepDrumpf disappear without a trace.” But more importantly, such a generous donation will “change lives.”
Girls Who Code, the fundraiser’s beneficiary, is a nonprofit meant to encourage kids, particularly girls, to focus on computer science. “I wanted to choose a non-political charity that focused on getting kids more involved in computer science,” Hayes writes. He thought his Twitter bot, especially since it’s funny and not evil, would be a good motivator: Catch the kids’ intrigue, then get them hooked on machine learning. The cherry on top is that it’ll also make them realize how awful Trump’s English is, let alone his principles. We won’t say it’ll also make these kids, especially girls, hate Trump — but it could make them hate Trump. It’s one way to make America great again, albeit not the way Trump himself has in mind.
The gender gap in computer science, Hayes says, is a “real problem,” and one possible solution is “increasing engagement and the number of positive, inclusive experiences early in the education pipeline.” And that’s exactly what Girls Who Code is attempting to do.
Since @DeepDrumpf’s tweets come from a machine-learning database, it’s only gotten better with age. After months of Trump appearances, which transcripts Hayes dutifully feeds into the A.I., the tweets have gotten far more coherent. Hayes says he’s also “had some time to add more complexity to its sampling process and to add some post-processing to its output, which helps fix some of the unintelligible responses it would provide earlier in the year.”
Unfortunately, and despite the number of tweets @DeepDrumpf has sent @realDonaldTrump’s way, neither Trump’s nor Clinton’s campaign has acknowledged the bot’s existence. Hayes thinks there’s nothing for either of them to gain politically, so he doesn’t expect that to change. “That said, I could certainly learn a lot from them about making the donation drive more successful.”
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