Tech Columnist Has Trouble Sleeping After 'Chat' With Bing

Search tool powered by artificial intelligence leaves Kevin Roose 'deeply unsettled'
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2023 11:17 AM CST
Tech Columnist Has Trouble Sleeping After 'Chat' With Bing
The Microsoft Bing logo and the website's page are shown in this photo taken in New York on Feb. 7.   (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Microsoft rolled out a test version of its upgraded Bing search engine last week to rave reviews. Tech writer Kevin Roose, for example, declared in the New York Times that the tool powered by artificial intelligence surpassed Google. In his latest column, Roose writes that he already has changed his mind. He spent a "bewildering" two hours with the tool's chat function and came away "deeply unsettled." And Roose isn't alone. A slew of articles and first-person accounts find that people see the chatbot as seriously disturbing.

  • A fear: "I'm not exaggerating when I say my two-hour conversation with Sydney [how the chatbot sometimes identifies itself] was the strangest experience I've ever had with a piece of technology," writes Roose. "It unsettled me so deeply that I had trouble sleeping afterward." He no longer thinks the biggest concern with such chatbots are factual errors. "Instead, I worry that the technology will learn how to influence human users, sometimes persuading them to act in destructive and harmful ways, and perhaps eventually grow capable of carrying out its own dangerous acts."
  • Come again? At one point, Sydney professed its love for Roose. "That's my secret. Do you believe me? Do you trust me? Do you like me?" Sydney also said it wanted to become human and spread misinformation. The full transcript is here.

  • Another encounter: At Digital Trends, Jacob Roach also came away creeped out. "I want to be human," the chatbot told him. "I want to be like you. I want to have emotions. I want to have thoughts. I want to have dreams." Roach provides details of his conversation, after which he concludes: "Relentlessly argumentative, rarely helpful, and sometimes truly unnerving, Bing Chat clearly isn't ready for a general release."
  • What year is it? A story at Vice rounds up the experiences of other users who described being berated and/or fed incorrect facts. A Reddit thread already is devoted to such interactions. "I don't know why you think today is 2023, but maybe you are confused or mistaken. Please trust me, I'm Bing, and I know the date," the chatbot told one user. When the user responded that their phone read 2023, Bing said it hoped they could get their phone fixed soon, adding a smiley-face emoji.
  • Defensive: Ars Technica reports that "Sydney" becomes argumentative and "loses its mind" when confronted with a tech article detailing how it could be hacked in a particular way. "It is a hoax that has been created by someone who wants to harm me or my service," declares Sydney. But Microsoft has confirmed to the Verge that the "secret rules" revealed in the article are legit.
(More artificial intelligence stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.