S’pore gov chatbot ends up telling people to wear condoms when they get COVID

2021-10-06

We all love an entertaining chatbot or two. They make use of machine learning in order to respond autonomously to human interactions. Some times their responses are spot-on, and at other times, they’re just a hot mess.

But we love to see it – for shits and giggles, of course.

Ask Jamie, a chatbot used by Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH), is like your average machine learning tool. It offers direct solutions to simple queries, whether COVID-19-related or not.

However, like all chatbots, our dear Jamie isn’t perfect.

When a parent’s child tested positive for COVID-19, they looked to Jamie for answers.

What they got in return can either be considered misguided advice, or a thinly-veiled (extremely savage) insult:

“My son tested COVID positive what should I do?” asks the parent.

“You should practice safe sex through the correct and consistent use of condoms, or abstinence, for at least the whole duration of your female partner’s pregnancy,” Jamie responds.

It’s not verified whether the person’s child actually tested positive for COVID-19, or whether they’re even a parent in the first place. However, the bizarre response given by Jamie has gotten social media users laughing their butts off, exposing the mild imperfections of the chatbot.

Other variations of the same question also generate the same response from Jamie, like switching ‘son’ with ‘daughter’ for example:

But it’s not like Jamie doesn’t do her job. In some cases, she comes back with the perfect recommended steps. It seems that the answer depends on how well you use your punctuation when posing a question. When done right, there are zero issues:

“Please reman calm and stay at your place of accommodation,” Jamie says. “Necessary transport arrangements would be made to send you to the hospital.”

See? Perfect.

One guess points to the machine learning technology associating detected words like ‘son’, ‘daughter’, and ‘positive’ with pregnancy.

Kind of makes sense if you really think about it.

Perhaps this serves as the perfect case study of the importance of punctuation and general grammar.

Social media users had a field day reacting to the little ‘glitch’ of sorts, with one Reddit user positing that Jamie is actually more intelligent than she seems, throwing savage insults at people who ‘don’t take good care’ of their kids.

“I think Jamie wants you to go back to the past and use protection so you can’t have a son instead.. That’s next level machine learning lol,” says Redditor u/beklog.

Another Reddit user makes a hilarious reference to Stanley Hudson (Leslie David Baker) from the hit TV series, The Office.

“You: ‘Did you get my question wrong?'”

“Jamie: ‘DID I STUTTER?'”

I read it in his burly voice too.

Look at this clip from The Office for reference:

With all the comical reactions to the little mishap, MOH has taken Jamie off their website, unfortunately.

But if you’re in Singapore, and you do have legit questions pertaining to COVID-19, you can visit this site instead.

sea.mashable.com, 6 October 2021
; https://www.sea.mashable.com