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Google AI falsely calls Warhammer 40k Blood Angels traitors

Google’s experimental AI tool has been bingeing on Warhammer 40k fan fiction, and puts the Blood Angels Space Marines on the side of Chaos.

Google's AI mistakenly thinks the Warhammer 40k Blood Angels - pictured, a red armored warrior holding a sword - worship the plague god Nurgle

When asked a specific question, Google’s experimental AI Overview feature will tell you that the Warhammer 40k Blood Angels are “a legion of Heretic Astartes who are dedicated to Nurgle, the Lord of Decay”. This is completely wrong – the Blood Angels are as loyal as Space Marines come – but where did the answer come from?

After seeing screenshots of the strange AI Overview answer on Reddit, Wargamer editor Alex Evans was able to reproduce it by asking the question “40k are Blood Angels Catholic?” Since the Catholic religion is almost entirely forgotten by the time of the Horus Heresy, and totally gone in Warhammer 40k, it’s reassuring that the AI doesn’t answer this part of the question with a “yes”.

An AI overview provided by Google in response to the question "40k are Blood Angels Catholic?" with the partially correct repsonse saying they're not Catholic, but they are Heretic legionnaires

The rest of the answer seems to have been taken from the Dornian Heresy fan wiki. This is a fan made alt-history project that speculates on what would happen if Horus Lupercal had stayed loyal to the Imperium of Man, and Rogal Dorn fell to the 40k Chaos gods. Every Space Marine Legion swaps sides, except for the Ultramarines, who turn Ultramar into a high tech separatist Empire. And the Blood Angels fall to Nurgle.

This kind of factual error highlights the limitations of tools currently being marketed as ‘AI’. Large Language Model (LLM) systems start with training data, which is a huge volume of text or images that has been labelled by humans. LLMs then make rules that describe the relationship between the labels and the patterns in the data, more or less successfully. If given a ‘prompt’, they can generate new images or texts that follow the rules.

No part of this involves the machine understanding the data, though – it’s finding patterns in bits of data, not in words or image subjects. It has no capabilities at all to compare two sources, or reason about them. Hence data in a very big Warhammer 40k lore wiki looks the same as a Warhammer 40k fan lore wiki to Google’s ‘AI’, and is fair game for inclusion in a summary.

Suffice to say, we don’t need to call the Adeptus Mechanicus to banish any Abominable Intelligences just yet. However, it’s another reminder of the encroachment of so-called AI tools into our lives. If you’re interested in the topic, check out Mollie Russell’s deep dive into the impact of AI on the games publishing industry.