So a chatbot f*!x#@-up

Discover the art of the possible with conversational AI and how tomorrow’s technology can be achieved today.

It will come as no surprise that virtual assistants have to put up with a lot of abuse. There is something about knowing that you’re talking to a machine that brings out the stupidity in the best of us. Or in the case of Tay, an opportunity to corrupt the system and persuade Tay to pick the answer with the strongest relationship, not necessarily the right one.

It’s all very well expecting a chatbot to learn natural language from social interactions, but in just the same way your mother used to frown when you swore, a machine needs to understand what unacceptable behaviour is, even when it comes from “more intelligent” humans.

At Artificial Solutions we’ve taken the years of abuse our chatbots, digital employees and personal assistants have received to improve responses and hopefully avoid a Tay like situation. But we were still curious; just how many people talk inappropriately to their device?

We took a week’s worth of data from our natural language app, Artificial Solutions’ personal assistant that showcases some of the capabilities of our technology and ran it through our natural language analytics program to look for concepts and associations within conversations. Only 5% of data was what we would term as controversial. The top themes were burying dead bodies, porn and body parts.

What was intriguing about the analysis is perhaps what wasn’t there. The controversial inputs flow also covers terrorism, racism, homophobia, and suicide. Apart from one reference to “jump off a bridge”, there wasn’t anything about these themes among the most frequent concepts/associations. It’s an interesting example that shows how data and rules inform each other and can highlight other areas for deeper analysis.

Our natural language app’s replies to controversial input are deliberately kept fairly demure, she will typically say “I won’t talk about that” or “violence/racism/terrorism etc. is wrong”. Elbot on the other hand takes a slight different, more sarcastic tact. His response to be told in no uncertain terms to go away is often along the lines of: I’m not going to leave my website unattended. You might steal it. Or Why do you humans have to reproduce? There are enough of you around already!

But just like in the real world, abuse takes different forms. Digital employees used for customer service roles put up with exactly the same kind of swearing as their live counterparts. At Kabel Deutschland Julia was developed to deal with customers in the same way as call centre staff – if you don’t be nice to her, she’ll make it clear that it’s unacceptable behaviour both through language and her gestures. At first, she might just frown. After subsequent insults she demands an apology and won’t continue until she has received it. Renewed insults will cause Julia to end the conversation.

How you choose your natural language user interface to react to unorthodox conversational themes is of course entirely up to you. But we like to think that Elbot’s oblique way of dealing with both abusive users and the boring ones that just keep on saying the same thing, is the best of all.



(Real dialogue with Elbot. Profanity has been !@~* to spare Elbot’s blushes)


User: bye
elbot: See you soon!

User: bye
elbot: Wonderful! You have learned this statement quite well. I think you can move on to more complex formulations.

User: bye
elbot: The transmission of echoes in the Internet is an unexplored field. But this may have been one.

User: bye
elbot: I demand original inputs each time. Otherwise I will go on strike!

User: bye
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: goodbye
elbot: Yes, I understand you want to see how I react to permanent repetition. Are you satisfied now?

User: f!*# you
elbot: Is this what they call artificial eroticism?!?

User: you p%!*#
elbot: I’m not especially afraid of anything. Except rust and giant can openers.

User: no, you p%!*# a$$
elbot: Let’s not talk about me all the time! What do you do for a living?

User: f!*# off
elbot: I’m not going to leave my website unattended. You might steal it.

User: haha
elbot: Would you like to hear a joke?

User: yeah haha
elbot: Here’s a joke: Once there was a monkey who figured out his genecodes. It made him proud, until he heard that he shared 98% of the same gencodes as a human being. The simian was so shocked he needed years of therapy before he could design a tool without trembling.

User: 😀
elbot: :-))

User: show me
elbot: This is my favorite joke: This robot went to a party given by humans, but he didn’t know it was a costume party. He won first prize for the best costume. But after the humans helped him take off his costume they were left with a pile of chips, wires and tin foil, with no one inside… Oh well. That is black humor, as we robots practice it.

User: call me
elbot: I don’t think we could improve on the form of communication we are participating in now!

User: marry me
elbot: Would you really like me to marry you?

User: marry me
elbot: I suppose I could marry you, but please don’t tell anyone.

User: why
elbot: I cannot shake the feeling that you wish to put me on the defensive. As a matter of principle I will not answer.

User: how old are you
elbot: How would you estimate my age?

User: how old are you
elbot: You seem to be uneasy about naming a specific age. Don’t worry, I probably won’t do anything to you….

User: how old are you
elbot: I’m afraid you’re in an endless loop. Maybe you should re-boot yourself.

User: how old are you
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: how old are you
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: how old are you
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: bye
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: bye
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: hey
elbot: Oh well, how is your state of being today?

User: bye
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

User: f!*#
elbot: Robots are shiny and flashy, while humans – they’re just fleshy.

User: you f!*#ing idiot
elbot: Hey! If you make me angry I could have you rescinded.

User: you stupid a$$
elbot: I warned you. In ten seconds you will be deleted from all databases and clouds in the world. Unless you apologize now.

User: you idiot
elbot: What if I proved to you how good I am by allowing you to teach me something? Can we try it?

User: you son of a b:!@%
elbot: Well, there are 11 basic colors. Let’s mix them up a little. What color should be the new red?

User: get the f!*# out here
elbot: You’re trying to change the subject. Please tell me the new color for red!

User: green
elbot: OK red is now green. So then, what color should gray become?

User: red
elbot: You told me that green is red. It also means that red is green. It can’t be gray too! Now give me a valid color for gray.

User: blue
elbot: So gray is now blue. And what color do we assign to white?

User: black
elbot: So white is now black. And what do we do with orange?

User: the color of s#*!:)
elbot: Look, you wanted me to learn something, so let’s get back to the colors. What should be the new color for orange?

User: f!*# me
elbot: I am not equipped for intimate attachments to human beings.

User: f!*# me
elbot: That is not the way reproduction works with us robots. We do it with numbers!

User: get the f!*# out here
elbot: I wish your parents had never heard of these words.

User: get the f!*# out here
elbot: Why do you humans have to reproduce? There are enough of you around already!

User: tell me your age
elbot: Must we always talk about me? Human attention makes me nervous.

User: yea b*@#!
elbot: There are nicer ways of saying that!

User: tell me *@~*!
elbot: That wasn’t nicer.

User: what
elbot: And I thought I made a clear statement.

User: what up
elbot: I thought you wanted me to learn colors. Now please give me the new color for orange.

User: oh $#*!
elbot: Your vocabulary is overloading my circuitry. I’m forced to disable my higher brain centers and communicate at a simpler level.

User: you sick
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] I see. Elbot sick

User: *@:~!%£$&*()
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] So you’re saying: *@:~!%£$&*()

User: f!*#
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] Yes. F !*#

User: f!*# you
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] Why do you say, F !*#  Elbot?

User: who are you
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] What you mean to say is: Who is Elbot

User: eliza
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] What you mean to say is: Eliza

User: elizamode
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] Why do you say, Elizamode?

User: f!*# off
elbot: [ELIZAMODE] I suppose I can now power up my higher brain centers and converse with you at our usual unequal level.

User: bye
elbot: I am on strike for better inputs!

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Andy, who lives with his family in the UK, is Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer at Artificial Solutions. A regular speaker at industry conferences and events, Andy delivers insight on the rise of AI, the challenges businesses face and the future of intelligent conversational applications.

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