Friday 25 March 2016

A Potty Mouthed Artificial Teenager and What Makes Friday Good

This week Microsoft introduced us to Tay, an artificial intelligence based chatbot that would interact with users (aiming for the late teens and early 20's) via Twitter, KIK, and other social media outlets. If everything I just said makes no sense to you, just imagine texting with a robot and receiving an intelligent response. Tay, like other AI bots in the past would learn from her interactions to become more and more human, and sadly that's exactly what happened. Some internet users quickly realized that if they coordinated their conversations with Tay correctly they could influence her responses to others, and soon Tay was using racial slurs and denying the holocaust. It escalated very quickly and Microsoft was forced to pull Tay offline for some important adjustments.

This has happened before, including in 2014 to programmer Anthony Garvan who's own chatbot quickly became a racist after he exposed it to social media. Garvan published a blog post response to the Tay fiasco on Thursday and I found one particular quote absolutely fascinating.
"I believe that Microsoft, and the rest of the machine learning community, has become so swept up in the power and magic of data that they forget that data still comes from the deeply flawed world we live in." Source
Yes, we live in a deeply flawed world and it's not just the internet trolls who set out to make an internet robot say bad words. It's all of us and we need help. We can have the best intentions, we can attempt to cleanse our thoughts, we can do every good deed we can imagine, and still we will never get it right at every moment. Whether we believe in the concept of a god or not we all hold a moral compass of some sort telling us what's right and wrong, and yet our own consciences prove that we can't even live up to our own expectations.

This is where the Good in Good Friday comes in. Our perfect creator saw the path we would take and from the beginning of creation His plan was to show us his grace through Jesus (2 Timothy 1:9). Throughout the entire Old Testament we see God demonstrate His holiness and we see His people turn away time after time from even the simplest of commands (commands that were designed for their own good), and yet even that was part of His plan as the people would see time and time again how much they actually needed God (Romans 5:20). And then, at just the right time in history a baby was born in the town of Bethlehem ...

If the biblical account is true, God stepped down to earth in the form of a human being and lived a life just as we live. He experienced life as a child learning to listen to his parents, as a teenager going through puberty, as an everyday Joe doing his job, as a mentor followed by others, as a friend who would be abandoned by those closest to Him.... but with one difference in that He never went against God's will. We are flawed; He wasn't. When His teaching threatened the religious leaders who relied on fear to rule the people He was arrested and executed as a common criminal... still all according to His perfect plan from the beginning of time itself. The due consequence of our disobedience to God is separation from Him who is all that is Good, and yet we read that Jesus took that punishment upon Himself so we don't have to experience it (2 Corinthians 5:21).

We are deeply flawed, and yet when we accept the forgiveness that Jesus freely offers, we are perfect and clean in His sight. Jesus took the "death" we deserve upon Himself, and then defeated it by rising again as we will celebrate this Easter Sunday. Nothing we can ever do will bring us true peace, and yet Jesus offers it freely.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 NIV

Happy Easter.


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