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PETA Wants Punxsutawney Phil Replaced With AI Groundhog

The animal rights organization says that the animal should be replaced by an animatronic and an artifically intelligent weather-predicting algorithm because 'watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn't even worthy of a text message.'

This story originally appeared on PC Mag

Animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) wants the famed groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who is used each year to predict the end of winter, should be replaced by an "AI Phil."

Christina Horsten | Getty Images via PCMag

Every Feb. 2 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Phil emerges from his burrow. Legend has it that if he sees his shadow, we're in for six more weeks of winter. If not, spring is upon us.

But in a letter addressed to Bill Deeley, President of The Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, PETA Founder Ingrid Newkirk said the groundhog should be replaced by "technologically advanced electromechanical devices such as animatronics" like Aibo, which "which walks, plays, misbehaves, and responds to commands" in a way the organization says would be more progressive than using a real animal.

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"Today's young people are born into a world of terabytes, and to them, watching a nocturnal rodent being pulled from a fake hole isn't even worthy of a text message," Newkirk wrote.

PETA also suggests using weather-predicting algorithms to better forecast winter, something that technology companies are already working on. Google currently has a machine learning system that can produce "nearly instantaneous" forecasts around one kilometer, and at a latency of between five and 10 minutes. Or, of course, Pennsylvania could use a weather app, which is likely to be significantly more accurate than relying on a marmot.

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The annual event, however, is a big draw for the region. In a statement, Bill Deeley said the tradition must be doing "something right to keep attracting people and keep them coming. Why would they make a movie about it all if we did something wrong?"

According to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, Phil lives in a manmade zoo that is climate controlled and light-regulated. PETA argues that groundhogs "actively avoid humans" and that "when Phil is dragged out of his hole and held up to flashing lights and crowds, he has no idea what's happening."

There, of course, have been groundhog snafus before. In 2014, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio accidentally dropped the Staten Island groundhog; she died a week later.

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