Facepalm: In yet another story on the dangers of believing the content generative AI produces, MSN.com's Microsoft Travel section posted a piece created by the technology that listed the Ottawa Food Bank as a "cannot miss" attraction. The article also praised the food bank as being an excellent spot for hungry visitors.
Tech author Paris Marx noticed that Microsoft had listed the food bank at number 3 on a list of top recommendations for Ottawa visitors, sitting behind the National War Memorial and attending an Ottawa Senators hockey game.
Microsoft says the content on Microsoft Start, formerly MSN, comes from algorithms that comb through hundreds of thousands of pieces sent by partners. The Redmond firm says it's combined with "human oversight," though that appears to have been missing in this instance.
The list of recommendations included descriptions for each entry. For the food bank, the statement read: "People who come to us have jobs and families to support, as well as expenses to pay. Life is already difficult enough. Consider going into it on an empty stomach." Yikes!
The article has now been deleted, unsurprisingly, though The Verge has uploaded a screenshot to Imgur if you'd like to see it in all its horrific glory.
The ironic thing here, of course, is that Microsoft laid off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations in 2020, replacing them with AI.
This is just the latest incident in which an AI has managed to generate something that a human would have (hopefully) flagged. Last week brought news that New Zealand supermarket chain Pak 'n' Save's GPT 3.5-powered Savey Meal-bot, designed to suggest meal plans for users after they enter details of any food they have left over, was offering up recipes that included chlorine gas and ant-poison-and-glue sandwiches.
Generative AIs are a long way from being a reliable source of information – even Bard creator Google warns that people should check its responses using a search engine. One person who isn't a fan is Michio Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center who often appears on TV. He recently compared the technology to "glorified tape recorders."