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Social Networks

Garbage In… AI and Tay prove GIGO principle still holds

Artificial intelligence is being hailed as the latest and greatest thing in technology despite the fact that its roots go back to, oh, pretty well the beginnings of computing. But the story of Microsoft’s Tay chatbot littering Twitter with profanity, racism and, almost as bad, teenspeak shows that human common sense is still a basic requirement of unleashing software intelligence and automation.

Tay was released into the wild seemingly with zero recognition that Twitter is replete with young people attempting to game the network and possessing little appreciation of the basic tenets of polite human interaction. The resulting chaos suggested that Microsoft had not done the basic due diligence to avoid embarrassment. This was Software Testing 101 but the lecture room must have remained undiscovered. Yesterday, Microsoft was to propound its failure by accidentally re-releasing Tay – cue more fun and games.

Closer to home, I have recently been plagued with social network requests that ask me to ‘like’ recently deceased friends or encouraging me to ‘follow’ them, a crass calculus that leaves a vinegary feeling in the stomach.

Artificial intelligence and its kissing cousin technologies are remarkable but, for now at least, they need to be tempered with human nous, insight and taste. The old GIGO principle of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ still holds and feeding our bots, agents, sensors and intelligence systems with duff or incomplete information without safeguards remains a live threat to our world.

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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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