BelenderBot: A Peculiar Pattern Indeed

September 1, 2022

Ah well. Consider us unsurprised. Mashable reports “It Took Just One Weekend for Meta’s New AI Chatbot to Become Racist.” Yes, smart software seems to be adept at learning racism. That is why some companies have put strict guardrails on how the public can interact with their budding algorithms. Meta, however, recently threw BlenderBot 3 onto the internet specifically to interact with and learn from anyone who wished to converse with it. Then there is the bias that usually comes from datasets used to train machine learning software. The open internet is probably the worse source to use, yet this is exactly where Meta sends its impressionable bot for answers to user questions. Reporter Christianna Silva tells us:

“Meta’s BlenderBot 3 can search the internet to talk with humans about nearly anything, unlike past versions of the chatbot. It can do that all while leaning on the abilities provided by previous versions of the BlenderBot, like personality, empathy, knowledge, and the ability to have long-term memory pertaining to conversations it’s had. Chatbots learn how to interact by talking with the public, so Meta is encouraging adults to talk with the bot in order to help it learn to have natural conversations about a wide range of topics. But that means the chatbot can also learn misinformation from the public, too. According to Bloomberg, it described Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg as ‘too creepy and manipulative’ in conversation with a reporter from Insider. It told a Wall Street Journal reporter that Trump ‘will always be’ president and touted the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that it was ‘not implausible’ that Jewish people control the economy.”

The write-up reminds us of a couple other AIs that caused controversy with racist and sexist perspectives, Google’s LaMDA and Microsoft’s Tay. Will scientists ever find a way to train an algorithm free from such human foibles? Perhaps one day—after we have managed to eliminate them in ourselves. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Cynthia Murrell, September 1, 2022


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