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Microsoft shuts AI-bot after twitteratti teaches it racism

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Microsoft does not offer free meals but subsidises the food.
Microsoft does not offer free meals but subsidises the food. Wikimedia Commons

Racism is the never ending issue and the latest victim is Microsoft, which launched artificial intelligence (AI)-powered bot on Twitter for a playful chat with people, only to silence it within 24 hours as users started sharing racist and offensive comments with the bot.

Launched on Twitter as an experiment in “conversational understanding” and to engage people through “casual and playful conversation”, Tay was soon bombarded with racial comments and the innocent bot repeated those comments back with her commentary to users, TechCrunch reported on Friday.

Some of the tweets had Tay referring to Adolf Hitler, denying the Holocaust, supporting Donald Trump’s immigration plans, among others.

Later, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch that the company is taking Tay off Twitter as people were posting abusive comments to her.

“The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement.

Unfortunately, within the first 24 hours of coming online, we became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills to have Tay respond in inappropriate ways. As a result, we have taken Tay offline and are making adjustments,” the spokesperson said.

Tay — an AI project built by the Microsoft Technology and Research and Bing teams — was coded with information which can tell users jokes or offer up a comment on a picture you send her.

The bot is also designed to personalise her interactions with users.

But Twitter users soon understood that Tay will repeat back racist tweets with her own commentary and they bombarded her with abusive posts.

Microsoft has since deleted some of the most damaging tweets from nearly the 96,000 that Tay tweeted.

However, a website called Socialhax.com made screenshots of several of Tay’s comments before they were removed.

To a question “is Ricky Gervais an atheist?” Tay replied: “Ricky Gervais learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism.”

Soon, Tay was seen referring to feminism as a “cult” and a “cancer”, as well as noting “gender equality feminism” and “I love feminism now.” (IANS)

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Refugee Communities Can Be Built By Tech Industries

Mikkelsen said the initiative was a win-win as it would also benefit companies by slashing costs.

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Refugees
Congolese families sit at the Kyangwali refugee settlement camp, Uganda, March 19, 2018. A California company is testing an app in Uganda that lets refugees earn money for AI training. VOA

Companies could help refugees rebuild their lives by paying them to boost artificial intelligence (AI) using their phones and giving them digital skills, a tech nonprofit said Thursday.

REFUNITE has developed an app, LevelApp, which is being piloted in Uganda to allow people who have been uprooted by conflict to earn instant money by “training” algorithms for AI.

Wars, persecution and other violence have uprooted a record 68.5 million people, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

People forced to flee their homes lose their livelihoods and struggle to create a source of income, REFUNITE co-chief executive Chris Mikkelsen told the Trust Conference in London.

Rohingya, Myanmar, refugees
Rohingya refugees cross floodwaters at Thangkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. VOA

“This provides refugees with a foothold in the global gig economy,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s two-day event, which focuses on a host of human rights issues.

$20 a day for AI work

A refugee in Uganda currently earning $1.25 a day doing basic tasks or menial jobs could make up to $20 a day doing simple AI labeling work on their phones, Mikkelsen said.

REFUNITE says the app could be particularly beneficial for women as the work can be done from the home and is more lucrative than traditional sources of income such as crafts.

The cash could enable refugees to buy livestock, educate children and access health care, leaving them less dependant on aid and helping them recover faster, according to Mikkelsen.

Rohingya, Myanmar, refugees
Rohingya refugee women wait outside of a medical center at Jamtoli camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

The work would also allow them to build digital skills they could take with them when they returned home, REFUNITE says.

“This would give them the ability to rebuild a life … and the dignity of no longer having to rely solely on charity,” Mikkelsen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Teaching the machines

AI is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

It is being used in a vast array of products from driverless cars to agricultural robots that can identify and eradicate weeds and computers able to identify cancers.

Refugees
In this Aug. 27, 1994 file photo, U.S. Coast Guard crew from the cutter Staten Island are hindered by rough seas in the Florida Straits as they attempt to rescue Cuban refugees. VOA

In order to “teach” machines to mimic human intelligence, people must repeatedly label images and other data until the algorithm can detect patterns without human intervention.

REFUNITE, based in California, is testing the app in Uganda where it has launched a pilot project involving 5,000 refugees, mainly form South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo. It hopes to scale up to 25,000 refugees within two years.

Also Read: Rohingyas Repatriation to Myanmar Scrapped by Bangladesh

Mikkelsen said the initiative was a win-win as it would also benefit companies by slashing costs.

Another tech company, DeepBrain Chain, has committed to paying 200 refugees for a test period of six months, he said. (VOA)