Microsoft allows another insulting AI-generated article on Start - The UpStream

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Microsoft allows another insulting AI-generated article on Start

posted Sunday Sep 17, 2023 by Scott Ertz

We know that AI-generated content is often garbage. The content is often garbled and incorrect, with boilerplate text and details of unrelated events. But an interesting new trend has emerged in recent weeks - purely insulting articles. These articles are beginning to find their way onto mainstream websites - particularly Microsoft Start (MSN News). This includes this week's article calling a former NBA player "useless" for having the audacity to die.

AI-generated content

As Avram has said many times, AI isn't really intelligence at all. He detailed this concept this week in an article entitled AI Lie: Machines Don't Learn Like Humans (And Don't Have the Right To). In essence, AI simply ingests information and remixes it like a wedding DJ - that is to say not well.

The system simply places what it believes to be the next most likely word in the context of its predecessors. That likelihood can be based on content from the internet, things you have previously typed, or based on books and other media. But, if the context gets lost, or the context is never quite understood, the output can be chaotic or, in some cases, outright insulting.

The insulting trend of AI

From time to time, and seemingly more frequently, the remixing is more like that of a talent show than even a wedding DJ. This has been brought to light more and more through the Microsoft Start website and the other platforms that are fed by it. This includes the Windows Widgets, Edge start page, MSN News, and more.

Recently, an article showed up that was clearly written by AI and not looked at by humans at all. The article was a list of places in Ottawa that you should visit if you are headed to the area. The article had a series of good suggestions, such as the National War Memorial and Central Experimental Farm. However, it also made a big swing and a miss in recommending that people should visit the Ottawa Food Bank and "consider going into it on an empty stomach."

As if that's not bad enough, another article showed up this week that seemed to be trying to one-up the previous mistake. The article was entitled Brandon Hunter useless at 42. Articles about professional athletes being useless are not uncommon in editorial content, usually commenting on the degradation of their gameplay over the years. However, this was not an editorial and it was not intended to comment of the player's abilities. Instead, it was an obituary.

Brandon Hunter had died suddenly during a hot yoga session. He was said to be in good health and it was merely a fluke. While sites like ESPN addressed the story accurately and respectfully, the MSN partner went a different direction. The AI article came from a publication called Race Track and was all over the place. In addition to the insulting headline, it included baffling statements like,

Former NBA participant Brandon Hunter, who beforehand performed for the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, has handed away on the age of 42

Throughout his NBA profession, he performed in 67 video games over two seasons and achieved a career-high of 17 factors in a recreation in opposition to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2004.

Even if these pieces were accurate, they don't make any sense. He may have played in 67 video games (I know nothing about his home gaming habits) but it's not likely relevant for a former NBA player. He also hasn't "handed away" as that phrase means nothing. Officially, at no point did the obituary mention that he was dead. It did, however, call him useless.

Now, these issues are not entirely Microsoft's fault. For their part, the biggest issue they have is in the decision process for its partner program. This is because none of the content is written or published by Microsoft. Instead, they are published by partners whose content is displayed through the Microsoft Start and MSN News portals. So, they need to be better at choosing who does and does not appear there.

But, for these sites, more care needs to be taken if they want to use AI-generated content. Sure, they don't get the gains of productivity by not having to have humans involved, but on the other hand, they don't look like a group of insensitive sociopaths. It's a difficult decision to make.


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