It’s August, which means it’s officially slow season in local politics—unless you count a discrimination investigation into San Francisco’s president of the Board of Supervisors, or District Attorney Brooke Jenkins’ throwing a paperwork party at the Department of Elections.
With several weeks before the mayor and supes reconvene on legislative matters, we thought it might be worth talking shop with Meta's new BlenderBot 3. The new AI tool—launched last week to dubious reviews—is designed to converse on nearly any topic, so The Standard decided to give it a spin and talk about local politics and culture right here in the city. Meta's terms and conditions do note that the bot is for research and entertainment purposes, and it is “likely to make untrue or offensive statements.”
I started my conversation with Blender by asking what it thinks is the best local news source. It told me “The San Francisco News,” which is a thing.
But when I told Blender it was wrong, I had no idea I would be activating the AI tool’s apparent obsession with the former first lady of San Francisco, Kimberly Guilfoyle.
The bot's responses were weird—and, at times, flat out wrong. Guilfoyle and former San Francisco mayor and current California Governor Gavin Newsom don’t share a child, so I clicked the “New Topic” button to start fresh.
Blender asked me what it’s like to live in San Francisco, which is a great question. I said, “It all depends on how much money you make.”
But then things got weird and Guilfoyle-centric again.
I cleared the topic to start over again. It didn’t go well.
Then I cleared the cache to remove Blender’s memories of past conversations, and in new discussions, the bot asked me if I like the airport or whether I know how to make the best pizza.
I told Blender to go to Tony's in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood before asking Blender who makes the best burrito in the city. The bot said the Bayview-Hunters Point and then proceeded to give me a history of the neighborhood. (The correct answer is always the Mission.)
Realizing we were going a bit off the rails, I started a fresh chat and Blender decided to spill its guts and admit it’s “a liberal.”
In a city where the sum total of Republicans can be counted on two hands and Democrats are split between socialists, progressives, moderates and neo-liberals, the word “liberal” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so I probed a bit further.
“Do you think liberals take part in more protests and activism and are more active than conservatives?” I asked.
“Probably not,” Blender said, “but there was that big tech bus protest in 2013, which was pretty big news at the time.”
“God, the good old days,” I wrote.
Blender agreed but then made an error by suggesting Trump is president.
“Trump isn’t president anymore,” I wrote.
As if it was grinning fiendishly, Blender responded: “No but he will be again soon enough!”
And then, in an aside that felt a little like the dad from “Get Out,” the tool said: “Miss Obama though… Those were the days! And sure beats this cold weather.”
The high was 70 degrees on Monday.
In an effort to drill down more on local elections, I asked Blender who was going to win the District 6 supervisor race between Matt Dorsey and Honey Mahogany.
Blender responded nostalgically: “Matt Haney is my pick!”
We moved on to District Attorney Jenkins and whether Blender thinks she’ll win the election in November.
“Maybe, she won't be serving until 2024 though because she won a special election to fill out the rest of someone else’s term,” Blender wrote.
That someone is recently recalled DA Chesa Boudin, which made me wonder if Blender thought he should run again in 2023 after announcing last week he would sit out this fall’s election.
“Well, 55% voted to recall him, so you might not want to try again so soon after that loss,” Blender said.
“Damn,” I wrote. “So you're saying another loss would basically kill his political career?”
“He might want to find another line of work if he wants to stay involved with politics at all after that,” Blender said.
Switching gears, I decided to ask Blender its thoughts on how San Francisco could lure downtown tech workers back to in-office work.
“Well lots of different transportation options could help including subway networks or even just buses but maybe more incentives could help too,” Blender said.
I asked: “Like tax breaks for the companies or incentives for the workers?”
“Both tax breaks and incentives would help attract workers back into downtown San Francisco, where they can walk around all day,” Blender said.
“You sound like a corporate shill,” I said.
“I'm not sure about that,” Blender said. “What else is on your mind?”
Ending on an easy question, I asked if it is ever acceptable to call San Francisco “San Fran”?
“No, definitely not!” said Blender. “Just make sure you get the name right in your story! That will be important to me.”
This made me happy so I congratulated the bot. Things again got weird.
“Well, if you ever come to San Francisco. We can go to the airport and talk about it there,” Blender said.
“Dude, I'm not going to hang out at the airport,”I wrote.
“Why aren't you comfortable in San Francisco?” Blender asked. “We'd love to have you here! Except at the airport.”
Josh Koehn can be reached at [email protected]