A new technology patent received by Microsoft sparked a series of online debates.
In December of 2020, Microsoft received an eyebrow-raising patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Its title is “CREATING A CONVERSATIONAL CHATBOT OF A SPECIFIC PERSON”.
Bots modeled on people
The patent outlines a method for constructing a chatbot modeled after a “specific person”.
According to the file, this can be a “past or present entity” – meaning a dead person or a living person – “such as a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure…”
You might associate a “chatbot” with the automatized “Hello! How may I help you?” instant message box that pops up as you’re booking a hotel room or shopping online.
The filing, however, appears to go beyond that. A section of the patent reads: “A 2D or 3D model of a specific person may be generated…”.
So, the patent effectively paves the way for creating not only a “conversational chatbot”… But a lifelike, life-size, 3D version of anyone from your favorite fictional character to your deceased grandparents.
How would it work?
Data like “images, social media posts, messages, voice data and written letters”, behavioral attributes such as “user interests, opinions, etc.” and demographic information such as “age, gender, education, profession, income level, relationship status, etc.” would be taught to the bot.
The goal would be a bot that could “converse and interact in the personality of the specific person.”
According to the patent, this means: “Conversing in the personality of a specific person may include determining and/or using conversational attributes of the specific person, such as style, diction, tone, voice, intent, sentence/dialogue length and complexity, topic and consistency.”
, agreed Microsoft’s General Manager of AI Programs Tim O’Brien.
O’Brien’s Tweet followed online shock at the patent, with people comparing the situation to a certain Black Mirror episode and expressing concern over privacy and ethics.
“Benefits” and “issues”
O’Brien commented on the benefits and issues of the technology on Twitter, ultimately concluding, that the patent is “just not a scenario we’re working on”.
It’s completely unclear, however, what Microsoft will do with this patent it now holds in the future.
Based on outdated ethics levels?
Microsoft filed an application for this technology in April of 2017, which O’Brien claimed “predates the AI ethics reviews we do today.”
2017 was only four years ago and well into the age of AI development.
But apparently, that was too early for a non-“disturbing” AI ethics strategy at Microsoft.
That’s not to raise questions about Microsoft, only.
Another player’s ethics and processes should be evaluated, too – those of the US government body that approved this patent as is.
What do you think about this patent?
Source: #Norway Today, #NorwayTodayNews
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