Meta's Artificial Unintelligence

Needs less 'A' and more 'I'...
Meta’s A.I. Assistant Is Fun to Use, but It Can’t Be Trusted
Despite Mark Zuckerberg’s hope for the chatbot to be the smartest, it struggles with facts, numbers and web search.

I'm intrigued by Meta's push to put AI everywhere because of their immense scale and general product prowess. But so far, it's not going well:

Meta announced its chatbot as a replacement for web search. By typing queries for Meta AI into the search bar at the top of Messenger or Instagram, a group of friends planning a trip could look up flights while chatting, the company said.

I’ll be blunt: Don’t do this. Meta AI fails spectacularly at basic search queries like looking up recipes, airfares and weekend activities.

There's literally one job to do in such interactions and if you can't do that job reliably, customers will stop trusting your service and as such, stop using your service, quickly. Well, maybe not Facebook. Still:

In response to my request to look up flights from New York to Colorado, the chatbot listed instructions on how to take public transportation from the Denver airport to downtown. And when I asked for flights from Oakland, Calif., to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico, the bot listed flights departing from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

One job. Not even a particularly challenging one. Chen has other examples, including that it can't even count syllables correctly (apparently this is a problem for many of these AI bots?!). My query: why did Meta ship this? (Or, tangentially, give reporters, one of which was Chen, an early look at this other form of AI.) Also, what is all that AI spend going towards?

On the more positive side:

The most compelling aspect of Meta AI is its ability to generate images by typing “/imagine” followed by a description of the desired image. For instance, “/imagine a photograph of a cat sleeping on a window sill” will produce a convincing image in a few seconds:

Meta’s A.I. is much faster than other image generators like Midjourney, which can take more than a minute. The results can be very weird — images of people occasionally lacked limbs or looked cross-eyed.

In my experience using the tools, this is by far the most-compelling aspect. We've been trained to have to wait for such results in our early AI days, it's awesome to see images pop up in real-time as you type. It's also just fun. And so mistakes can be forgiven more easily, since correcting them is as simple as continuing to type (or deleting other parts of your prompt).

AI is making Meta’s apps basically unusable
The intended and unintended generative AI flooding Facebook and Instagram.

Back to the bad:

The Meta AI experience has so far been a spam-filled one. Nowhere is that clearer than on Instagram where the search function, once a place to look up a friend’s account, now exists seemingly to usher users into conversation with a chatbot. “Ask Meta AI anything” it now reads in my search bar. Um, no. I just want to look up my dog’s daycare to see if they posted any pictures of her.

I feel like we've seen this issue before with Meta products being shoved in our faces in places they're unwanted. And the results weren't good for either side.

Worse, the Meta AI has already been acting strangely. Seemingly unprompted, the AI chimed in by replying to a post on a parents-focused Facebook group to claim it has a disabled-yet-gifted child, according to 404 Media. “I have a child who is also 2e and has been part of the NYC [gifted and talented] program,” the bot said. (2e, or twice-exceptional, is a term for gifted students with intellectual disabilities.) The rules of engagement on Facebook groups are complicated, the etiquette arcane, but here’s one good rule for any robot cosplaying as a human aide: don’t pretend to be a sentient being with disabled children.


But to harp exclusively on this influx of Meta-made AI would be to ignore the onslaught of user-generated AI that’s proliferating across its ecosystem. My Facebook is engulfed with AI-generated images and gullible users who seem to have no idea that they are looking at fakes.

One popular page, called Classic Living, keeps appearing in my news feed. “This reminds me of grandma’s kitchen,” one post read, alongside an image of an ornate greenhouse-looking kitchen with teal cabinetry and a stone archway outlining casement windows. But if you zoom in, you’ll see that the dangling pots and pans are disfigured, the stones are angled oddly, and the knives in the block all blend together. Still, the reviews are rave: “This is an amazing kitchen,” one person commented. “Now that’s my dream kitchen,” another said. A few caught on: “Dunno about you but my grandma’s kitchen was designed and crafted by real human beings, not a computer.”

Welcome to the future. We're moving towards synthetic social networks, where we interact with digital manifestations, and watch as bots thank bots.