Max, an AI box, on a stool
Image via Netflix

The Circle Fans Shed Doubt on AI Contestant’s True Nature

Circle, message: is “Max” really an AI? This is the burning question that The Circle fans have been asking since the latest season premiered on April 17, 2024. This lighthearted yet intense competition for $100,000 is really leaning into its dystopian vibes this season by introducing an AI contestant named “Max.” But fans are scrutinizing producer claims and on-screen interactions with each episode drop. Their findings? Things aren’t adding up.

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As reported by The Daily Beast, the producers looked to open-source technology to create Max’s contestant personality. This takes catfishing to an all-new level. “I think what was really surprising is that the more you kind of interacted and the more you created the character of Max, the better it got at being that character,” producer Niall O’Driscoll told Parade. But powerful technology, especially one that could dupe several contestants, obviously seems too good to be true, which has sent fans digging into the validity of Max’s AI capabilities.

According to Reddit user I_Spaced_Out, there are “critical missing facts” that could discredit what producers have said about Max and how the AI came to be. The user primarily digs into the technical limitations of open-source large language models (LLMs). They conclude that there must be “advanced techniques and/or proprietary models” that haven’t been disclosed, which is probably why everyone is so confused.

Others added that a voice actor must be behind Max’s voice. “On top of all this… the voice doesn’t sound generated,” one commenter remarked. “It sounds like an actor is reading whatever Max supposedly wrote, so is the voice actor just hanging around the whole time?” This yielded divided responses with some agreeing and others finding the voice extremely AI-like.

If Max is really an AI, though, this also begs the question of what happens to the money. Remember when NSYNC member Lance Bass (played by his personal assistant Lisa Delcampo), joined in Season 2? “He” immediately had to answer what he planned to do with the money. The assumption was that he wouldn’t need $100,000. And an AI definitely doesn’t need it either, which fans have been quick to point out.

Is this just a case of clever prompt engineering? Or is it all fake? We’ll have to keep watching to find out. The Circle Season 6 is currently airing on Netflix with the next batch of episodes arriving on Wednesday, April 24.


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Alyssa Payne
Alyssa Payne is the Weekend Editor for The Escapist. Her first-ever video game was Super Mario World back in the '90s, and these days, you'll find her playing World of Warcraft and chipping away at her backlog of indie horror titles and cozy games. Alyssa got her start in the games journalism industry in 2022 and in March 2024, she joined The Escapist. Her previous work can be seen at GameGrin, The Punished Backlog, TheGamer, and GameSkinny.