Microsoft AI suggests food bank as a “cannot miss” tourist spot in Canada


Enlarge / A photograph of the Ottawa Meals Financial institution warehouse.

Ottawa Meals Financial institution

Late final week,’s Microsoft Journey part posted an AI-generated article in regards to the “can’t miss” points of interest of Ottawa that features the Ottawa Food Bank, an actual charitable group that feeds struggling households. In its advice textual content, Microsoft’s AI mannequin wrote, “Contemplate going into it on an empty abdomen.”

Titled, “Headed to Ottawa? Here’s what you shouldn’t miss!,” (archive here) the article extols the virtues of the Canadian metropolis and recommends attending the Winterlude competition (which solely takes place in February), visiting an Ottawa Senators recreation, and skating in “The World’s Largest Naturallyfrozen Ice Rink” (sic).

Because the No. 3 vacation spot on the checklist, Microsoft Journey suggests visiting the Ottawa Meals Financial institution, doubtless drawn from a abstract discovered on-line however capped with an unlucky flip of phrase.

The group has been accumulating, buying, producing, and delivering meals to needy individuals and households within the Ottawa space since 1984. We observe how starvation impacts males, girls, and youngsters each day, and the way it could also be a barrier to achievement. Individuals who come to us have jobs and households to assist, in addition to bills to pay. Life is already tough sufficient. Contemplate going into it on an empty abdomen.

That final line is an instance of the type of empty platitude (or embarrassing mistaken abstract) one can simply discover in AI-generated writing, inserted thoughtlessly as a result of the AI mannequin behind the article can’t perceive the context of what it’s doing.

The article is credited to “Microsoft Journey,” and it’s doubtless the product of a large language model (LLM), a kind of AI mannequin skilled on an unlimited scrape of textual content discovered on the Web. Microsoft associate OpenAI made waves with LLMs referred to as GPT-3 in 2020 and GPT-4 in 2023, each of which may imitate human writing types however have frequently been used for unsuitable tasks, based on critics.

Because the announcement of deep investments and collaborations with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI in January and the emergence of Bing Chat the month after, Microsoft has been experimenting with integrating AI-generated content material into its on-line publications and providers, similar to including AI-generated stories to Bing Search and together with AI-generated App review summaries on the Microsoft Retailer. “Microsoft Journey” seems to be one other manufacturing use of generative AI expertise.

First noticed by tech writer Paris Marx on Bluesky, the publish on the Ottawa Meals Financial institution started to realize traction on social media late Thursday. In response to Marx’s publish, frequent LLM critic Emily Bender noted, “I can not discover something on that web page that marks it overtly as AI-generated. Looks like a serious failing on two of their ‘Responsible AI’ principles.”

Bender additionally pointed towards Microsoft insurance policies; one is “Transparency,” and reads, “How would possibly individuals misunderstand, misuse, or incorrectly estimate the capabilities of the system?” and the opposite is “Accountability,” which states, “How can we create oversight in order that people might be accountable and in management?”

Judging by the Ottawa article’s content material, it is greater than doubtless {that a} human was not liable for writing the article and that nobody totally reviewed its content material earlier than publication both, which implies that Microsoft is publishing AI-generated content material on the Web with little-to-no oversight.

Microsoft was not instantly accessible for remark by press time.

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