Tay was nothing approaching a true artificial intelligence — i.e. She was just a sophisticated Twitter chatbot with good branding and a capacity to learn.
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Similarly, if you asked tech experts which recent theoretical or technical breakthrough could account for the rise in coverage of AI, even fewer would be able to answer correctly that “there hasn’t been one”.
As with the most cynical (or deranged) internet hypesters, the current “AI” hype has a grain of truth underpinning it. Researchers no longer habitually tweak their models.
It’s all part of a cultural climate where pilots call the feminine voice of their automated cockpit warnings “Bitching Betty,” and addressing sexualized queries to Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana is practically a way of life for some.
It all makes Tay’s brief life, and eventual fate, more comprehensible.
The difficulty is that highly sophisticated bots also require significant technical input and maintenance, and therefore much greater investment.
There’s also the danger that the technology can be a little too sophisticated for its own good, Microsoft had to apologise for its AI chatbot tay-ai earlier this year when it learned how to say racist comments from conversations on Twitter.
(“FUCK MY ROBOT PUSSY DADDY I’M SUCH A BAD NAUGHTY ROBOT” was perhaps her most widely reported quote.) Needless to say, this wasn’t part of Tay’s original design. As Laurie Penny explained in a recent article, the popularity of feminine-gendered AI makes sense in a world where women still aren’t seen as fully human. R tells what is, by now, a familiar story: Humans create robots to take over all mundane labor, which works fine until these slave automata develop sapience, at which point they revolt and destroy the human race.