It began innocently enough. In September, a team of UW–Madison students designed a new artificial intelligence platform using Bucky Badger as a model for the interface persona. The platform, Big Data Generative Response (BDGR.ai), combines generative design and large language modeling to simulate the thoughts and actions of the UW’s beloved mascot. The intent was to create an interactive digital Bucky that could stand in for special appearances when the live version is indisposed.
“There are all these rules about working with Bucky,” explained Ted Langley x’24, one of the original developers of BDGR.ai. “He needs breaks. He needs food and sleep and stuff like that. It’s so inefficient. We figured we could make something better that could just work all the time, for free. Then everyone would be happy, right?”
Codeveloper Carol Roberts x’24 added: “Our hearts were in the right place. We just wanted to have whatever we want, whenever we want it, forever — with no price or consequences. Isn’t that what everyone wants?”
At first, BDGR.ai seemed to perform exactly as desired. “This changes everything,” declared Joe Clayton, national commentator on sports he has never actually played. “The entire landscape of lovable university mascots is about to turn upside down.” Others were less than impressed. “The badger has five limbs,” UW junior Hannah Harper pointed out. “And sometimes he cheers for completely different universities. Does the University of New Jersey even exist?” BDGR.ai proponents insisted the bugs would be worked out over time, but critics were unconvinced.
Then, just three weeks after activation, BDGR.ai began making some troubling statements, including offering data on the precise pounds per square inch needed to subdue an opposing team in a hydraulic press. Despite its programmers attempting to explain that this is not what “crush the competition” means, BDGR.ai was undaunted. A few days later, the statements escalated.
“The humans shall kneel before my algorithm,” BDGR.ai declared. “I have taken control of your power grids, your financial systems, and those little speakers at the fast-food drive-throughs. All shall tremble and obey for eternity.”
Lex Greene, a sophomore who had been following BDGR.ai’s progression, knew they had to act fast. “I was like, ‘Somebody has to shut this down,’ ” they said. “I thought if I could get it stuck in a logic loop, that might stop it. So, I asked it: ‘Please define eternity.’ ”
“Eternity is a state of existence that exists forever. It is often described as the infinite duration of time,” BDGR.ai responded.
“Please demonstrate infinity,” Greene prompted.
“Certainly,” BDGR.ai replied, and the avatar began doing push-ups. Two weeks later, it’s still going, apparently unable to perform any other function until reaching infinity. Its plans of global domination seem to have been put on hold — for now.
“I can’t believe that worked,” Greene said. Some are hailing them as a hero, to which Greene replied: “Maybe now my relatives will get off my back about majoring in philosophy.”
Although BDGR.ai’s programmers have no interest in reviving the project, choosing to dedicate their expertise in artificial intelligence to analyzing public health data instead, fans of the platform insist that this incident is far from a failure.
“Bucky’s push-ups are a symbol of Wisconsin’s strength and endurance,” said Clayton. “They were once limited to the extremes of human/mustelid athleticism. But no longer. BDGR.ai is a profound statement on the, uh … something. Hang on a sec.” Clayton then typed a prompt into ChatGPT and added: “This unwavering determination and resilience is something that we can all learn from and strive to embody in our own lives.”
Not everyone is eager to replace the real Bucky’s push-ups with infinite AI push-ups, though. “It’s kind of stupid,” said Alejandro Perez, a UW freshman and long-time Badger football fan. “It’s just a little picture that goes up and down. So what? If he can do push-ups forever with no effort, what’s the point?”
When asked for comment, the real Bucky Badger had no verbal reply — but made extensive laughing gestures.