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What did they know, and when did they know it? The Microsoft Bing edition.
A new discovery that makes a curious story a whole lot more curious
We all know by now just how off the rails Bing can get.
Here’s a timeline, deliberately leaving out one surprising thing out until the end.
March 23, 2016: Microsoft releases the chatbot Tay. Under the malign influence from some users, it quickly begins to spout racist rhetoric. Tay is retracted at after 16 hours later, for being a “racist asshole”.
Over the next several years: Lessons are learned. Don’t release stuff too soon; be careful when your products can learn from the open web. That sort of thing.
June 21, 2022: Microsoft releases their Responsible AI Standard, “an important step in [the] journey to develop better, more trustworthy AI”.
November 2022: OpenAI release ChatGPT to incredible acclaim
Also November 2022: that other thing that I am saving for the end.
Feb 2, 2023: Microsoft President Brad Smith, an attorney who was once their General Counsel, positions Microsoft as the responsible AI company, with the first boldfaced principle being “First, we must ensure that AI is built and used responsibly and ethically”, and noting “First, these issues are too important to be left to technologists alone.”
Feb 6, 2023: Bing chat is released, in tandem with OpenAI, to enormous initial acclaim.
Week of Feb 15, 2023: Internet goes wild with reports of Bing chat (code named Sydney) going off the rails.
Many of us knew all that already. But then….
… someone on Twitter sends me a tip this morning. My first reaction was to think it’s a hoax. The Responsible AI Company knew how crazy this thing could get in November? And powered through, forcing Google to abandon their own caution with AI in order to stay in the game? No, can’t be true. That would be too crazy, and too embarrassing.
But no, it’s not a hoax. I go over to Mastodon, still not sure, trying to trace sources.. There’s more there. Eventually I find the link to the original, on Microsoft’s own website!
Scrolling down, I seem more morsels—like this one (from December 5, 2022)—fully anticipating the epic combination of the world-class gaslighting and passive-aggressive emoticons that the rest of all more recently came to know about:
All I can do personally is to shake my head.
I leave it to readers, Congress and investors to reach their own conclusions.
Gary Marcus (@garymarcus), scientist, bestselling author, and entrepreneur, is a skeptic about current AI but genuinely wants to see the best AI possible for the world—and still holds a tiny bit of optimism. Sign up to his Substack (free!), and listen to him on Ezra Klein. His most recent book, co-authored with Ernest Davis, Rebooting AI, is one of Forbes’s 7 Must Read Books in AI. Watch for his new podcast on AI and the human mind, this Spring