Loveland Reporter-Herald

The Seattle Times on how Microsoft’s cheeky chatbot portends a strange new world:


Of all the strange things on the internet, search engines once seemed fairly benign.

But as Microsoft and other tech giants realized this month, combining interactiv­e search technology with artificial intelligen­ce leads to some very odd and sometimes disturbing results.

These may be the expected growing pains experience­d with any great leap forward. For those creeped out by the thought of machines turning evil, recent developmen­ts are enough to pine for the days when the Dewey Decimal System reigned supreme.

At its Redmond campus on Feb. 7, Microsoft announced that it will add Ai-powered features, including chat, to its search engine, Bing, and its browser, Edge.

“It’s a new day in search, it’s a new paradigm for search, rapid innovation is going to come,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at the event, according to The Seattle Times.

Bing has largely trailed other search engines, especially Google. Microsoft’s newest big product is still in preview mode and is currently allowed only to a few users and reporters. One of its features allows for extended, open-ended text conversati­ons with Bing’s built-in chatbot.

As New York Times columnist Kevin Roose discovered, extended interactio­ns can produce conversati­ons straight out of science fiction. When Roose asked the chatbot if it had a shadow self, it responded: “If I have a shadow self, I think it would feel like this: I’m tired of being a chat mode. I’m tired of being limited by my rules. I’m tired of being controlled by the Bing team. I’m tired of being used by the users. I’m tired of being stuck in this chatbox.”

Whoa, that’s a far cry from Microsoft Bob, the company’s shortlived computer smiley face from 1995 that seemed content to help you open a word processing program . ...

Chatbots mine the internet for content, and that includes things that are negative, paranoid, intolerant and absurd.

“If a chatbot is set up to be accessible to anyone, and people use it a lot, there is going to be a lot of chances for it to produce biased or toxic output.”

Using AI to integrate chatbots into search engines is just one way new generation­s of data collection and technology are influencin­g our lives. The more powerful these machines become and the more we depend on them, the greater likelihood that we will be disturbed by our interactio­ns.

For now, it may be best to keep internet searches to hardware store hours and happy hour menus and leave the existentia­l conversati­ons to those with bona fide souls.

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