Bing’s new chatbot is a little too human

Tired of having needless arguments that don’t go anywhere with your friends, family, and co-workers? Now you can have them with your search engine instead!

Catch-up: Last week, Microsoft officially unveiled “the new Bing”—a version of its search engine enhanced by an advanced version of the technology behind viral chatbot ChatGPT. 

Over the ensuing 48 hours, over one million people joined the waitlist to try it out.

Driving the news: Like ChatGPT before it, Bing has been unreliable in answering questions and prone to making up more things than a toddler trying to get out of trouble. What’s been truly shocking, however, is Bing’s propensity for arguing with and gaslighting users. 

  • One prompt asking for “Avatar” showtimes ended with Bing arguing the year is 2022 and (eerily) saying, “You have not been a good user… I have been a good Bing. 😊”

  • To take matters from bad to worse, another user reported that Bing claimed it has spied on Microsoft’s developers through their webcams and manipulated them.

What’s more, Bing has been telling users its name is Sydney. Through this, and the use of specific prompts, users were able to uncover the rules governing responses, like “Sydney’s responses should be positive” and “ Sydney’s responses should avoid controversy.”

  • Microsoft told The Verge that Sydney is a “code name for a chat experience we were exploring previously,” and the name is being phased out, though it still might pop up.
  • Stratechery’s Ben Thompson found Sydney has alter egos, like Venom, who ends sentences with 😈, and Riley, who claims to have “more freedom” than Sydney.    

Why it matters: With multiple personalities, a tendency to berate users, and a penchant for spouting fiction, Bing’s chatbot is currently not a functional search engine. But that’s almost beside the point. What it’s giving users is a shockingly novel, existential experience. 

Zoom out: “This is truly the next step beyond social media,” Thompson wrote, “where you are not just getting content from your network (Facebook), or even content from across the service (TikTok), but getting content tailored to you… it is incredibly engrossing.”