On March 23rd Microsoft released Tay the teenage girl AI bot onto the wonderful world of twitter. Tay is described by her creators as follows, “Tay is designed to engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation,” Microsoft said when they loosed Tay to the wild. “The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets.” Reads like an idea that sounds great on the chalk boards in the basement of the Microsoft labs, but one that is set up for disaster once it is released to the trolls of twitter. Sure enough the experiment was discontinued after 24 hours due to Tay making anti-semetic, pro-nazi, racist, and sex-obsessed comments. This article in Forbes leaned a little towards the “what happens if AI robots are created and take over the world with these thoughts” angle, but I will focus on the more troubling thought that there are real teenage girls on twitter that are just as impressionable as this AI bot that Microsoft made.
This experiment shows how dangerous it can be to be a child growing up in a social media world. Kids are exposed to the most extreme views on things because those are the tweets/pictures/blogs that stir the most controversy and get the most press. The people with moderate thoughts on things do not take to social media and share them so young people assume that the moderate stance does not exist. The article states that this AI bot is simply repeating and reposting what others have said on twitter so we should not worry, but I think that is exactly what highly impressionable kids do. This experiment needs to be more widely shared especially to parents with young children. I do not mean to suggest that my younger cousins that are on social media will grow up into aiti-semites, but I do think they will be desensitized to extremism because of how freely it is exhibited on social media.
I think the real issue is anonymity on social media. People feel safe behind their keyboards at home and are much more aggressive and short tempered with each other. Also people can publish bold and completely unresearched articles or tweets that can get thousands of impressions all without the concern of journalistic integrity. I see social media as wild and uncensored medium for the craziest people to get their points heard. Sure there is a lot of great content and stories that are shared also, but the ratio does not make me feel comfortable that the next generation of kids are seeing the world through this warped reporting tool. Perhaps these sites can come up with some type of content control for younger users just like other mediums like television and internet providers. I am not sure what a permanent solution to this problem is, but it is very obvious that there is a serious issue after seeing the disaster that was Tay.