back to article Uh-oh! Microsoft has another chatbot – but racism is a no-go for Zo

Microsoft has officially unveiled its AI chatbot Zo, and a series of bot-building applications all geared toward improving machine communication. Many major technology companies are locked in a race to build the best AI assistant, and interest in chatbots has intensified. Conversational agents feature heavily in Microsoft’s …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge

    How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

    Perhaps it's some kind of bland-bot that doesn't express any opinion, in which case I can download Eliza.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

      How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

      Because that's possibly now reserved for the incoming President? I strongly suspect that some of his tweets were actually Microsoft Tay, which may explain the early morning timing of some of them :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

        This story should be lead...

        ... by an image of Politically Neutral Dog

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

          Actually it should be lead by this fantasy activity log. Don't know if anyone still gets the reference.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

        Pah. If one chose to go balls-deep into that festering mess of tribal stupidity and flawed logic commonly labelled "Identity Politics" then it is only totally just deserts when that Other Tribe, the Bad People Tribe, finally acquires the "Magick Boot of Righteousness" - and shoves it all the way up the arse of the Good People Tribes. As they did to them, before.

        Trump, Brexit, Le Pen, AFD and Wilders wouldn't be a thing at all - if the so-called "Liberals" and "Experts" were not generally such a bunch of clowns and vindictive arseholes to boot. Pathetic.

    2. TheVogon Silver badge

      Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

      The previous bot never said anything racist as far as I am aware. Anti-Semitic, yes, but not anything actually racist. nb - Jews (just like say Muslims and Christians) are a religion and not a race. For instance there are black Ethiopian Jews...

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

        But you cannot just walk into the Jewish religion. This ain't Islam (which was cunningly engineered for maximum propagation).

        (Ok, you can, but "I elect to become one of the Chosen People according to Book #1" just doesn't sound right, eh? Better have the correct DNA for better soul security, too)

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

          Thumbs down, eh?

          The multiculturalism, it burns!

        2. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

          "But you cannot just walk into the Jewish religion"

          But it's still just a religion and not a race. Exclusivity does not equal ethnicity...

          "It's both a religion and an ethnic identity"

          You could often say that about Islam and Christianity too.

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

        It's both a religion and an ethnic identity. Without realizing that, the concept of "secular Jews" makes no sense. I've even known atheists who identified as Jews.

        Even anti-Semites don't treat it like it's a religion. In their eyes anyone with Jewish ancestry is generally considered a Jew, although they differ as to what portion is necessary to make you one.

      3. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

        Anti-Semitic, yes, but not anything actually racist. nb - Jews (just like say Muslims and Christians) are a religion and not a race.
        Semites are the Jewish and Arab races. Anti-semitic means anti-Jewish and anti-Arab. How is that "not anything actually racist"?

        1. MrDamage

          Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

          Well, if you want to play semantics, then there was no genocide in WWII. There are still people of jewish descent walking this Earth, so it was "merely" attempted genocide.

          1. Taylor Dakscz
            Headmaster

            Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

            "Well, if you want to play semantics, then there was no genocide in WWII. There are still people of jewish descent walking this Earth, so it was "merely" attempted genocide."

            Anti-Semanticism is a Hate Crime!

            There is no "merely" about attempted genocide, I'm not happy they tried but I'm personally very glad they failed, so yes, there is a difference.

            and Pompous Git above, well done sir, I'm now close to needing two hands to count the number of people I've met who know the meaning of the word 'semite'.

        2. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

          "Anti-semitic means anti-Jewish and anti-Arab. "

          Technically yes, and indeed according to studies, Palestinians are apparently more Semitic than Israeli Jews - who are commonly European in genetic heritage.

          However - in practice I have only ever seen it used to mean anti Jewish. As was the case in this bot instance. And as per the above, Jews are a religion not a race, so it wasn't racism. Just like say insulting Islam or Christianity wouldn't be racism.

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge

            Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

            Jews are a religion not a race
            My father was an Ashkenazy and a Roman Catholic. That is, he was a Jew with a non-Jewish religion. You appear to be claiming this is impossible. If you have any evidence that non-Jews can be recruited into becoming Ashkenazy, Sephardi or Levite, please present it. You might also want to explain why there are genetic differences between these Jewish groups and how recruitment causes these differences.

            1. TheVogon Silver badge

              Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

              "If you have any evidence that non-Jews can be recruited into becoming Ashkenazy, Sephardi or Levite, please present it"

              That's rather like asking for evidence of how non Christians can become English, Scottish or Welsh Christians. Converts to Judaism are widely accepted... see for instance http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism/beliefs/conversion.shtml

              1. Pompous Git Silver badge

                Re: How can it not be gamed into saying something sexist, racist, whatever-ist?

                That's rather like asking for evidence of how non Christians can become English, Scottish or Welsh Christians.
                No it's not! For example, as an Ashkenazim, I have a genetic susceptibility to Bloom Syndrome, Canavan Disease, Cystic Fibrosis, Familial Dysautonomia, Familial Hyperinsulinism, Fanconi Anemia C, Gaucher Disease, Glycogen Storage Disease 1A, Joubert Syndrome 2, Lipoamide Dehydrogenase Deficiency (E3), Maple Syrup Urine Disease 1B, Mucolipidosis IV, Nemaline Myopathy, Niemann-Pick Disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Tay-Sachs Disease, Usher IF, Usher III, Walker Warburg, 3-Phosphoglycerate Dehydrogenase Deficiency, Abetalipoproteinemia, Alport Syndrome, Autosomal Recessive Arthrogryposis, Mental Retardation and Seizures, Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, Carnitine Palmitoyltransferase ll Deficiency, Congenital megakaryocytic Thrombocytopenia, Congenital Disorder of Glycosylation la, Dyskeratosis Congenita, Autosomal Recessive Ehlers-Danlos VllC, Fragile X Syndrome, Galactosemia, Multiple Sulphatase Deficiency, Polycystic Kidney Disease, Autosomal Recessive Retinitis Pigmentosa 59, Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome, Tyrosinemia l, Wilson Disease, and (deep breath) Zellweger Syndrome.

                If an Englishman, Scot or Welshman converts to Judaism, they do not suddenly develop these susceptibilities. Nor can an Ashkenazim reduce the risk factor by becoming a Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 3 Ashkenazi Jews in the US is a carrier of at least one of the above Jewish genetic diseases and preconception screening is now commonplace.

                I suspect that converts to Judaism are glad they do not thereby become susceptible.

    3. Michael Strorm

      Tell Me More

      "Perhaps it's some kind of bland-bot that doesn't express any opinion, in which case I can download Eliza."

      What makes you say it's some kind of bland-bot that doesn't express any opinion, in which case I can download Eliza?

  2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Flame

    ..using chatbots provides not only a quicker service to customers, but also allows a company to build a better profile of the customer, as data can be extracted from the conversations.

    All the better to sell us more crap and force more targeted adverts down our throats...

  3. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    Windows

    “Conversation isn’t just about getting things done. Chitchat establishes some kind of connection.” It relies on analysing and reacting to speech, gestures, expression and tone and requires emotional intelligence.

    Yeah, 'cause humans do so well at this in on-line forums.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "“Online Chatting is just about getting nothing done. Trolling establishes some kind of connection.” It relies on sh*t-talking and raging to speech, gestures, expression and tone and requires 12-yrs old intelligence.""

      Fixed for accuracy.

  4. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Right. So it won't be a Nazi.

    Who wants to place bets on what it does become instead? My money is on a conspiracy theorist - probably chemtrails or climate change.

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Joke

      @Caffeine Addict

      Donald Trump?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Caffeine Addict

          She said "won't be a Nazi".

          Congratulations, you found a single photo of a political candidate waving, from a year where their primary activity was been waving, taken at a particular angle, which makes it look a bit like a Nazi salute.

          Besides which, Hitler would likely not be amused. Just look at that lack of Finger discipline! The Fingers should be straight out, aligned and ordnung! Now drop and give me zwanzig! Schnell!

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

          2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

            Re: @Caffeine Addict

            "Podesta is into Satanism!" etc. etc.

          3. ShadowDragon8685

            Re: @Caffeine Addict

            AC, I laughed. I laughed HARD... But still, switch to decaf, man.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Who wants to place bets on what it does become instead?

      A nazi that can't use mean words. The bot's absolute lack of context can lead it to say some pretty amusing things, you just can't use any of the naughty trigger words - otherwise it'll just return a message along the lines of "I don't want to talk about that".

      This site is absolute trash, I'm afraid, but at least it has screencaps: http://heatst.com/tech/looks-like-microsofts-new-chatbot-zo-is-already-turning-into-a-right-wing-misanthrope/

    3. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        > right-wing-misanthrope

        Not sure whether that is better or worse than a left-wing-misanthrope.

        No wait. Left wing misanthrope are per definition impossible! Or are they?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Left wing misanthrope are per definition impossible! Or are they?

          You could ask Jeremy Corbyn. Or Gordon Brown. They'd know.

      2. Pompous Git Silver badge

        careful with labelling calling climate change proponets conspiracy theorists
        Because that's what they are? I have yet to come across one who can explain why Oke's Boundary Layer Climates, the standard tertiary text, contains no mention of CO2, or why there is no more recent tertiary level text that does. Or why the world map of climate zones is virtually identical today to what it was a century ago. Tasmania has a temperate maritime climate and a hundred years ago it had a temperate maritime climate. Oh noes, the sky's falling in, the sky's falling in!

  5. Pompous Git Silver badge

    forging an emotional connecti

    Microsoft has been working on forging an emotional connection between people and bots
    Presumably the "bots" being Microserfs. Of course many of us were singularly unimpressed by the "emotional connection" forged by repeated forced downloads of w10.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: forging an emotional connecti

      and to add,

      And have rebelled and rejected all attempts by Redmond to get us to become a

      Slurpborg

      clone.

      Has Ms may have done a deal with Canonical to get this included in Ubuntu in return for letting 'bash' be available on windows?

      We shall have to wait and see on that one.

      But at least with Lunix we can move distros to avoid any contamination. With windows it is a lot harder. Even the W10 refusenicks are in danger these days with the new patching policy where it is harder to reject individual patches.

      Redmond must really be desparate to get all that lovely ad revenue from google.

    2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

      Re: forging an emotional connecti

      "Presumably the "bots" being Microsurfs"

      Like that 60s pop group from California, the Beach Sperms.

      1. Pompous Git Silver badge

        Re: forging an emotional connecti

        Like that 60s pop group from California, the Beach Sperms.
        Pah! They were nothing compared to Captain Goodvibes! Who could forget such songs as Born Dead, or Drivel Of Babylon?

  6. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Joke

    Obviously, they are working on a GPP feature. Let's hope Zo doesn't develop a pain in all the diodes down its left side

  7. MrXavia
    Facepalm

    "misspells words and sends a message damning her typos straight after."

    WTF? why would you want a chat bot that makes such mistakes?

    As an interface between humans and machines, one that makes mistakes is NOT one I would trust...

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge

      that's true, *if* you know it's a chatbot, not a person

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Coat

        It's all done in order to pass the Chatting Test.

  8. SVV Silver badge

    Welcome to a brand new hell...

    "Microsoft’s Bot Framework has been used by 67,000 bot developers, who are building chat interfaces for business purposes".

    Hi Steve, how was yout customer experience?

    -- $%^&* awful

    Is there anything else you'd like me to do?

    -- go $^%( yourself

    Soory Steve there we have no record of a place called $^%( yourself

    --Oh just go away

    We have a great new list of holiday destinations and bargain flights. Where would you like to go?

    Anyway, to any businesses that try and force this sort of shit on me when I visit their websites, just because they think it's new and trendy and have wasted a lot of money on it, I won't be coming back your site again ever.. Or please tell me that when you say "used by" you actually mean "downloaded by" and we don't need to worry too much. Yet.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Welcome to a brand new hell...

      Time to throw the NutriMatic cup, so to speak.

  9. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Human vs Bot

    Obligatory commitstrip.

    here

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    gonna be one boring as fuck bot then.

    I like a bit of character in my automatons and a hint of a few isms is the perfect thing.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      How boring is fuck bot?

      Maybe metal studs can help?

  11. Aqua Marina
    Linux

    Go fish!

    I wonder how it will pronounce the word 'Ghoti'!

  12. earl grey Silver badge
    Facepalm

    I am not a robot

    No, really; ask me anything.

    Ok, does your animal have four feet?

    No.....

  13. Anonymous C0ward
    Trollface

    A Japanese schoolgirl bot?

    I've seen enough hentai to know where this is going.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A Japanese schoolgirl bot?

      Tentacle bot to the rescue!

      1. MrDamage

        Re: A Japanese schoolgirl bot?

        And then it turns out that schoolgirlbot I actually a futabot with a penchant for "port interfacing".

  14. bombastic bob Silver badge
    Devil

    "EQ" is _highly_ overrated

    if you consider that even HUMAN helpdesk operators have to hold back their own emotions (think: internet help desk, 3 trolls in a baggie) and try to be as UNemotional as possible to calm a frantic or angry person on the other end of the line, giving a BOT "emotional" capabilities is likely to backfire in both spectacular and comedic ways.

    Instead, Micro-shaft should focus on idioms, metaphors, similes, mispronunciations, and the recognition of outright falsehoods and snark.

    I mean, if foreign-based tech support already have a "boiler plate" that they must follow, replacing them with BOTS is the natural evolutionary path. And, we all know how well THAT "works"...

    [besides, there's way too much "FEELING" going on out there already. You cannot FEEL an emotion _AND_ think at the same time. THINKING is more 'rational' by definition, and without emotion getting in the way, THINKING will get you to a more REASONABLE place much more quickly. That "FEELING" crap needs to be eliminated. But, coming from Micro-shaft, who "gets it wrong" more often than not these days, I can see why they went with it. They're being WRONG again. Stupid "feelies" *FEELING* that FEEL is better than THINK]

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Imagine a child socialized by twitter, what did they expect.

      > Linux vs Windows vs OSX vs BSD.

      Silly thing? About as silly as a discussion about Soylent Green vs. homegrown veggies.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. uncommon_sense
    Terminator

    Robot speaks common sense, robot gets censored.

    Where is the NEWS?

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