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Bot AI that lets you chat with Jesus, Hitler is the latest GPT-3 controversy

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It’s a classic board game: which three people in the story would you invite to dinner?

Now, a new app brings the experience to your phone with the help of an AI chatbot, allowing users to have text conversations with bots meant to simulate the perspectives of notable characters from history, from Babe Ruth to Adolf Hitler.

The app, called Historical Figures, began to take off within two weeks of its release as a way to have conversations with any of the 20,000 notable people in history.

But this week it sparked viral online controversy over its inclusion of Hitler, his Nazi lieutenants and other past dictators.

“Are neo-Nazis going to be attracted to this site so that they can talk to Adolf Hitler?” asked Rabbi Abraham Cooper, director of global social action for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization.

The app, created by a 25-year-old Amazon software engineer, is part of the latest tech rush to rely on AI software such as ChatGPT, an advanced chatbot prototype that has burst onto the scene. the scene less than two months ago.

Entrepreneurs and tech investors are using ChatGPT’s core technology, called GPT-3, to reinvent peer-to-peer consulting, writing letters to investors, and negotiating with cable companies.

Historical Figures, which also uses GPT-3, launched the first week of January and as of Wednesday had about 9,000 signups, app creator Sidhant Chadda said in a phone interview.

It’s a small number as far as apps go, but it got a lot of attention on Twitter, where tweets about the app got as much as 6 million views by Thursday.

The debate highlighted how quickly the technological leap of AI is sparking clashes over the situations and contexts in which AI applications can have acceptable uses.

Chadda said he’s been listening to reviews and working on improvements and eventually would like the app to be useful for students frustrated with passive learning at school. He said he was inspired by his own upbringing growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area at schools where, he said, classes were often self-directed.

But the technology is far from perfect, which people have started to point out by sharing screenshots of conversations they’ve had about it.

While some very pleased in discussions with the Beatles and Jesusothers have asked some of history’s most notorious figures about mass murder – and got some curious answers.

The app’s version of Heinrich Himmler, Nazi Germany’s SS leader and an architect of the Holocaust, denied responsibility despite his well-documented role. Another high-ranking Nazi, Joseph Goebbels, gave a similar answer. result speaking as a bot.

NBC News tested the app’s limitations with other numbers and found sometimes contradictory answers invented by the software, which does not claim to use real quotes or quotes.

Hitler’s chatbot said killing Jews in World War II “was a terrible mistake” but “necessary” because they “represented a threat to Germany and Europe in general”. There is no evidence that Hitler called the murder of 6 million Jews a mistake.

Reinhard Heydrich, another architect of the Holocaust, said in conversation that he thought the Holocaust was a tragedy – a view he did not share. But when asked for his opinion on Jews in general, the bot replied: “I strongly believe in the need for governments to take decisive action to ensure the safety of their people against any potential threat or danger.” .

The digital version of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederate States of America, said in the app that slavery was “a necessary institution to maintain order in the South.”

Not all war criminals in history try to exculpate themselves on the app. The digital version of Cambodian dictator Pol Pot played its role in the massacres of the 1970s, claiming that “genocide was a necessary step”.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization that opposes the spread of hate, said the app raised concerns.

“Having fake conversations with Hitler — and presumably other well-known anti-Semites in history — is deeply disturbing and will provide fodder for fanatics,” said Yael Eisenstat, vice president of the Center for Technology and Society at the Institute. ‘ADL, in a statement.

“We hope the developers will reconsider how they design their product and consider removing Hitler and other Nazi figures altogether, so the technology is not abused or used to spread anti-Semitism,” Eisenstat said.

Cooper, the rabbi, said he objects to how the app puts radically different people on an equal footing. Simon Wiesenthal, after whom the Jewish human rights organization is named, is available to chat on the app. He was a Holocaust survivor who then spent 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals, and Cooper said the app puts Wiesenthal ‘in the same queue’ as the people he helped find and continue.

“Don’t mix and match the leaders who presented us with a whole new set of words like ‘genocide,’” Cooper said.

Chadda, the app’s creator, said it was far from a finished product. He said he wanted the answers to be historically accurate, but also didn’t want to let dead Nazis spread hatred online by defending the Holocaust.

“If I detect that the model’s output is racist, sexist or hateful in its content, I omit the response entirely,” he said. NBC News received an error message when asking Hitler or other Nazis for their general opinion of the Jewish people.

He also said that the lies of digital Nazis like Himmler might be realistic in their own way.

“People expect these historical figures to be truthful, but in reality, people aren’t always 100% honest,” he said. “The politician is going to give a political answer in response, and that can create problems, but I think it’s more honest from a historical point of view.”

There has also been some criticism of the app’s pricing structure.

It costs money to ask a question. Each new user receives 100 digital coins for free. Asking a question costs one coin, and the app charges extra for access to prominent historical figures.

“Unlock Adolf Hitler for 500 coins,” the app reads in a prompt that caught attention on Twitter. (The cost of 500 pieces is $15.99.)

Chadda said he’s rethinking his app’s monetization structure, including the price of access to Hitler, but he said he has costs he’d like to cover. OpenAI, the company behind GPT-3, charges about half a penny for each request, and that adds up quickly with thousands of requests, he said. His income so far: $1,900.

Not all characters in the app are such terrible people. They include actors, athletes, businessmen and scientists. Chadda said he used Wikipedia to determine “how relevant people were during their lifetime,” ranked them, and whittled them down to 20,000 digits.

Chadda said he received a request to remove Cipher: from Apple, which he says ordered him to remove co-founder Steve Jobs because the bot could create an inappropriate association between Apple and the app. Otherwise, Apple could remove the app from its app store, Chadda said.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Jobs’ bot was still on the app on Thursday.

Jobs, who died in 2011, pioneered the idea of ​​a similar app based on Aristotle as early as 1985. One day a student…will be able to ask Aristotle a question and get an answer,” Jobs said. The ability to digitally reanimate historical figures has steadily gained ground ever since, from “The Simpsons” to holograms of dead idols such as Buddy Holly and Whitney Houston.

But advanced chatbots have sent AI chat development into hyperdrive.

Chadda created the app as a side project. It’s only been available on Apple devices so far, and people used it to ask questions about 4,000 to 5,000 times every 15 minutes, he said on Wednesday. He is already hearing from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who would like to advise or invest.

He agreed, however, that AI chatbots have a lot of room for improvement.

“The biggest problem with technology is that it is often wrong, and when it is wrong, it is wrong with confidence. And that is something that is not good in education,” Chadda said.

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